By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Grady Myers lived it, a young soldier’s tour of duty that ended with an ambush, injuries and an exit from Vietnam to a stateside hospital. Julie Titone helped him write it, an illustrated memoir titled “Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War.”
“I was the instigator and the scribe,” said Titone, 61, communications and marketing manger for Sno-Isle Libraries.
More than a co-author, Titone was once Myers’ wife. They were married during the 1980s, and had a son. Although long divorced, they remained friends.
Before Myers died in 2011, they finished the book they started in the late 1970s. At the time, both worked at The Idaho Statesman newspaper in Boise. Myers was a graphic artist and Titone was a features editor.
At an office party with a 1960s costume theme, Titone dressed as a giant record album. Myers showed up in Army fatigues. For the first time, she heard fascinating stories of his 1968-69 Army tour in Vietnam.
Titone wanted to be a writer. Myers had war experiences and a gift for storytelling. At a kitchen table, over a few beers, Titone tape recorded Myers’ memories.
“Grady and I produced a manuscript that I typed on an electric Smith Corona, and he illustrated with drawings,” Titone wrote in the preface to the book, which wasn’t published until 2012.
Myers was a teenager, a struggling student at what’s now Boise State University, when he volunteered for the Army. In Vietnam, Spec. 4 Myers was an M-60 gunner in the 4th Infantry Division’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Brigade.
He was shot in an ambush March 5, 1969, and recovered at Fitzsimons Army Hospital near Denver. He was wounded in his left shoulder, neck and right leg, according to a 2002 newspaper article in Spokane’s Spokesman-Review.
Myers spent the final months of his life in nursing home care in Boise. He had many health problems, including diabetes, yet he pored over and meticulously polished the manuscript that had been stored in a box for years.
Titone will present a reading of “Boocoo Dinky Dow” at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Lynnwood Library. Navy veteran Charles Beck will participate in the reading. Since publishing Myers’ war story, Titone has done more than 20 book events.
Vietnam veterans have come to listen and share their stories. In 2013, Titone wrote an essay about the book published in The Spokesman-Review, where she worked after leaving Boise.
Those veterans’ stories could fill another book, she wrote. One man told Titone the war kept him out of the family business — which was organized crime. Another, who succeeded in staying out of Vietnam, said he later spent years wondering what he missed. Some have contacted her through a Facebook page related to the book.
The odd title, according to Titone, comes from an American pronunciation of a French-Vietnamese phrase, “beaucoup dien cai dau,” which she said means “very crazy.”
“It was a crazy, crazy world over there,” she said.
When Myers joined the Army, she said, “he was looking for adventure and to get out of Boise.”
Myers was 6-foot-5, and a squad leader had nicknamed him “Hoss.” In the book, he recalled laughing while on forest foot patrol, even while fearing certain death. He remembered the Colorado hospital as a place of pain, but also where young men who had escaped death had women and carousing on their minds.
The pages contain humor, but also death. “Imagine being 19 years old, and being put into a kill or be killed situation,” Titone said. “It was a time of intensive living, combined with Grady’s natural tendency to pay attention.”
Veterans have asked if Myers had post-traumatic stress disorder. Titone knows he suffered from depression, but might have avoided seeking help because he feared being seen as a troubled Vietnam veteran.
A talented artist, his Vietnam-related drawings not only illustrate the book but are in the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago, she said.
Myers didn’t live to see it, but Titone promised him their book would be published. In her preface, she said he told his stories without rancor or regret.
“The book is not anti-war, and it’s not pro-war. It’s just one young man’s story of what happened to him,” Titone said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
Julie Titone will read from a book she cowrote, “Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War,” at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Lynnwood Library, 19200 44th Ave. W., Lynnwood. Titone wrote the memoir with her former husband, Grady Myers, who served in Vietnam in 1968-69. Myers died in 2011.