Lake Oswego resident publishes third book about Vietnam War
Lake Oswego resident Jack Estes recently published his third book on the Vietnam War — a conflict known in part for the poor treatment many soldiers experienced upon returning home.
Estes, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1968-69 as an infantryman, published "Searching for Gurney" Nov. 10 after working on this novel for about 20 years. The book follows the life of four soldiers and how they cope with the effects of the Vietnam War.
Estes previously published two books: "A Soldier's Son" — which initially was written as a screenplay before he decided to turn it into a novel — and "A Field of Innocence," which was a memoir about his experience in Vietnam.
Prior to enlisting at age 18, Estes was on a baseball scholarship and flunking out of college.
"I didn't have a job," Estes said. "I didn't have any money, and I didn't have anybody to turn to. I came from a broken family."
Estes' girlfriend at the time was pregnant, so he decided to enlist.
"I was on the ground, and the first six months I lived in the jungle and the only Vietnamese we saw were the ones we killed," Estes recalled of his experience in the war. "After that, I got transferred into a Combined Action Platoon. It's called a CAP, which consists of 10 Marines, a Navy corpsman and 10 to 15 villagers that are being trained as popular force soldiers — so they actually lived in the villages that we lived in, that we helped to defend. It was very effective, relative to winning hearts and minds, but it was also extremely dangerous. We had a very high attrition rate."
Estes said he writes about American veterans to honor them and help heal the pain associated with war.
"I just decided I liked writing fiction, and I'll probably continue to do that, although my next book is not fiction," Estes said. "You can imagine a different world and you can actually provide great depth and understanding ... so you have a little more flexibility with fiction. A lot more flexibility in my opinion."
Estes also has published essays and articles, and won numerous awards for his work. The screenplay of "A Soldier's Son" received first place in the 2006 Filmmakers International Screen Writing Contest, first place at the Willamette Writers Conference and made the Top 10 at Script Shark.
Estes said he takes pride in a review author Tim O'Brien — who also writes about the Vietnam War — gave his book: "'Searching for Gurney' is a tender, convincing, sometimes harrowing, and wonderfully written novel that explores the psychological aftershocks of the American war in Vietnam. For veterans and their families this is a must read."
"It means I must be doing something right," Estes said.
Estes, who retired as a regional manager for a national commercial real estate firm, is working on two more books. One is a children's book for his grandchild and the other is a collection of his essays.
"They're all, for the most part, relative to Vietnam and war and the impact it has on soldiers and their families in the community," Estes said.
Estes' books can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Annie Bloom's. For more information, visit his website.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.