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The War You’ve Always Wanted

by Mike McLaughlin

Pat Dolan’s father has a box. In it are treasures from Jimmy Dolan’s service in World War II—his photos, his medals, his memories. But ten-year-old Pat can’t understand why his father refuses to look in the box. After all, the war was a grand adventure, wasn’t it? Determined to serve in the Army like his father, Pat enlists nine years later—but it’s 1972, and the American military is withdrawing from Vietnam after seven years of futile combat. As an Army combat correspondent surrounded by people growing more desperate by the day, young Dolan quickly learns how bleak the South’s prospects are. He is forced to witness the slow, steady death of a nation. When Pat is wounded in action, he wonders if he will live long enough to fill a box of his own. Are there any treasures to be found in a country as fragile as this?

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