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Non Semper Fidelis    by Sam Foster order for
Non Semper Fidelis
by Sam Foster
Order:  USA  Can
Daniel & Daniel, 2016 (2016)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Non Semper Fidelis is a novel about the military experience of Private Jack Kendrick, who was stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia during the Vietnam War. There is a short chapter at the beginning about the heartache for wives of learning about their husband's death in Vietnam, followed by Kendrick's account, which skips from one experience to another in chapters which read like a series of short stories.

In Jack's first chapter his platoon is ordered by their Drill Instructor to run a trail while 'in hard hat and boots and with full kits and rifles' in the middle of a hot, humid Virginia day. Most of those in his platoon are supportive of their fellow officer candidates, which sometimes involves helping those who aren't as strong. However, during this run, Jack hurts himself while trying to help the weakest member of the platoon and lands in traction in the base ward. The second chapter tells us about what happens while he recovers in the ward.

Kendrick is friends with a black marine, Corporal William Buck, who goes to Memphis on leave to visit his mother. During his short time there, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot and killed and there is a huge riot. Jack becomes extremely upset with what happens to Buck as a result of this event and attempts to help his friend.

The novel is short and engrossing and ends when Jack is finished with his Marine Corps service, which takes place entirely at Quantico. There are several other important characters, some of whom are Jack's friends and others who are significant because of their interactions with him or his friends. Most are marines. However, because Jack lives in Washington D.C., some are civilians whom he encounters on his days off. During this period of American history those in the military were frequently treated with hostility because of the unpopular nature of the Vietnam War. Jack's interaction with these other characters (both marines and civilians) is always interesting and frequently surprising.

Giving too much information about this book would, I believe, take away some of its impact. Some of the action is disturbing, though subsequent changes in American society seem to have corrected some problems. All of these changes have not worked out the way many people hoped they would, but they began a process that continues into the present time. Jack comes to accept the discipline under which he has to live, even though he rebels against the racism his friend experiences. We also learn something of the nature of the military mind and what motivates people to become marines.

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