When We Walked Above the Clouds by H. Lee Barnes
A Memoir of Vietnam

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There is the mythology of the Green Berets, of their clandestine, special operations as celebrated in story and song. And then there is the reality of one soldier’s experience, the day-to-day loss and drudgery of a Green Beret such as H. Lee Barnes, whose story conveys the daily grind and quiet desperation behind polished-for-public-consumption accounts of military heroics. In When We Walked Above the Clouds, Barnes tells what it was like to be a Green Beret, first in the Dominican Republic during the civil war of 1965, and then at A-107, Tra Bong, Vietnam. There, he eventually came to serve as the advisor to a Combat Recon Platoon, which consisted chiefly of Montagnard irregulars. Though “nothing extraordinary,” as Barnes saw it, his months of simply doing what the mission demanded make for sobering reading: the mundane business of killing rats, cleaning guns, and building bunkers renders the intensity of patrols and attacks all the more harrowing.
More than anything, Barnes’s story is one of loss—of morale lost to alcoholism, teammates lost to friendly fire, missions aborted, and missions endlessly and futilely repeated. As the story advances, so does the attrition—teammates transferred, innocence cast off, confidence in leadership whittled away. And yet, against this dark background, Barnes still manages to honor the quiet professionals whose service, overshadowed by the outsized story of Vietnam, nonetheless carried the day.

About H. Lee Barnes

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H. Lee Barnes is a former Green Beret and Vietnam War veteran who has worked as a deputy sheriff, private investigator, and casino dealer. He currently teaches English and creative writing at the Community College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. He is the author of three short story collections, another novel, a memoir, and a nonfiction book about casino workers. His short fiction has received the Willamette Fiction Award and the Arizona Authors Association Fiction Award, and in 2009, he was elected to the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. 
Published September 1, 2011 by University of Nebraska Press. 320 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War. Non-fiction

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Stationed at Tra Bong, a remote Army outpost surrounded on three sides by forested mountains, Barnes’ life was at first boring and routine, and he captures expertly the humdrum nature of war: beer and bad coffee, rats and diarrhea, darts and cards, heat and insects, dumb officers and flawed but b...

Jul 05 2011 | Read Full Review of When We Walked Above the Clou...

BC Books

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Barnes relates his experience as an Army Green Beret — first during the 1965 civil war in the Dominican Republic and later in Tra Bong, Vietnam – in a haunting first person voice that makes the reader feel every bit of the action.

Dec 05 2011 | Read Full Review of When We Walked Above the Clou...

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