Jim Ross served his country with honor while risking his life every day on a foreign battlefield and in a war that seemed senseless to many Americans.
A veteran of the Vietnam War, the Arcadia resident is author of a new memoir, Outside the Wire: Riding with the ‘Triple Deuce’ in Vietnam 1970, which tells his personal journey during a year-long tour of duty. It
chronicles his experiences from the time he spent with the armored
personnel carriers of the Second Battalion of the 22nd Infantry
Regiment, otherwise known as the Triple Deuce, and later with the
legendary First Cavalry Division.
“I purposely avoided imposing a maturity or sphere of knowledge that didn’t yet exist,” he said.
“As kids trained for war and concerned primarily with staying alive, we didn’t think a lot about [politics] or the impact that combat was having on us at the time. The resilience of youth allowed us to persevere.”
It took Ross nearly 30 years to complete his book.
“It had been hanging around like a skeleton in a closet all that time,” he said. “I would drag it out of the drawer on occasions.”
Ross said he was unsure if the book would be accepted considering it’s been 38 years since the end of that unpopular war.
“A lot of these books have been done,” he said. “It’s been a long time, and it’s another soldier’s story, among many.”
But Outside the Wire isn’t an analysis of the war. It doesn’t reflect on the peace movement or the politics of the time.
“Three million Americans served in the Vietnam theater, and 500,000 had combat specialties. Every one of those can tell stories,” Ross said, who is a professional photographer as well as writer.
He arrived in Vietnam in February of 1970, less than fully prepared for the war he was about to enter. His battlefield education came outside the wire of his unit’s base camp, during ambush patrols, reconnaissance-in-force missions and full-auto firefights. At one point, his unit was part of the Cambodia incursion, which was designed to disrupt the supply chain into North Vietnam.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. We were in there for 38 days. It was hot and heavy,” he recalled. “We got into some pretty good scuffles. I was extremely fortunate. When bullets are flying, you don’t know why this guy gets hit and you don’t.”
Ross said he has received positive feedback about the book from Vietnam veterans and their families.
“For years, it was just me and this narrative,” he said. “I was reluctant to capitalize on the fact I survived to write the book. I felt guilt about that. But after having read books by other vets, I didn’t feel that way, so maybe it was OK.”