War stories: Author details his Vietnam experience

Hoffman taught himself to create book
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Leader Photo by Carol Ryczek Ronald Hoffman discusses the role of Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 13th Marines, in Vietnam at a presentation at the Shawano County Library.

When Ronald Hoffman first applied to join the U.S. Marine Corps, he was told his eyesight was not good enough.

“Then there was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution,” Hoffman said, “and anybody with a pulse was in.”

That’s how Hoffman described both his entry into the Marines and the Vietnam war in a presentation at the Shawano County Library on Thursday. He served in Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 13th Marines.

Hoffman’s presentation, sponsored by the Friends of Shawano County Libraries, Inc., focused on his book, “To Hear Silence, A True Vietnam Experience.” Hoffman, a Green Bay resident, self-published “To Hear Silence” and is also the author of “Truth in Lies” and “After United States.”

The Gulf of Tonkin resolution is a response to a confrontation between the U.S. and North Vietnam, and is often cited as the incident that brought the U.S. into the Vietnam War.

In his presentation, Hoffman used maps, graphs and personal anecdotes to describe his war experiences. He said later that he felt the presentation was well-received and he “sold a couple of books.”

Hoffman is a self-taught author who admitted that he failed one year of high school English. He said that while he was experiencing the Vietnam War, he never expected to be writing about it.

“English was never my forte. I learned to write by going through documents, trying words, showing them to people. People who tell me to ‘say it like this’ or “do it this way.’”

They also told him to keep writing, he added.

Hoffman said his own feelings about the Vietnam War have changed over time, and continue to change.

“When I got home — or went the first time — I simply felt that’s where our country wanted us to be,” he said. “We were there to preserve their freedom. When I got home, that’s when the college demonstrations were going on, and I was extremely bitter about them. Then, I felt that maybe they helped end this mess. Then, I thought that they (college demonstrators) weren’t any better than those who went to Canada. Now, with how much the government lies, I think maybe they knew something we didn’t. It swings both ways.”

Instead of something to avoid, these different attitudes are part of what keeps him writing, he said.

“You have to keep reading, getting new information,” he said. “Today, people get one feeling about something and just keep it. You have to keep finding out about it.”