A Huey helicopter prepares to land on a riverboat in the Mekong Delta. Walla Walla Valley native Ed Eaton was one of the members of the “brown water navy,” which patroled waterways in Vietnam and is described in his new book Mekong Mud Dogs.
Photo courtesy of Ed Eaton
WALLA WALLA — Although his name has gained recognition, Ed Eaton wants to bring the story of the many others he served with in the jungles of Vietnam to the light.
Eaton, a Walla Walla Valley native, has been featured in film and print for his role in defending injured comrades after a helicopter crash in the Mekong Delta.
Ed Eaton’s book “Mekong Mud Dogs” is available on Amazon.com as well as through his website.
But his recently-published book, “Mekong Mud Dogs” is the larger story of his journey from his home to Southeast Asia and back.
“I really wanted my story to be about my unit and my men,” he said. “I fully understand my name is the most registered, (but) I want this to be about the men I served with.”
Now a resident of Bay City, Ore., Eaton was fresh from graduating high school — he attended Walla Walla High School and McLoughlin High School in Milton-Freewater — when he joined the U.S. Army. His book details his going from pointman to platoon sergeant and sniper with the River Raiders of the Mekong Delta.
It also includes the story of April 3, 1969, in which he defended wounded comrades after a helicopter crash, an action that garnered him a recommendation for a Medal of Honor, as well as the difficulties of returning home.
“I address that at the end of the book,” Eaton said about coming back to the U.S. after Vietnam, a time when returning soldiers were met with indifference and even hostility in a nation polarized over the war.
“I didn’t get spit on or called a baby killer, but I had friends who did,” he said.
However, Eaton said that between then and now, “things have gotten much better. People understand now what soldiers go through. I really think it’s really just more about the attitude of the public” toward men and women in uniform.
Although the book is his first solo effort at talking about his experiences, Eaton has been in the spotlight before, most notably on the History Channel’s 2011 production “Snipers: Dangerous Missions,” and the NRA’s Life of Duty film, “Choosing Honor.”
Accounts of the April 1969 firefight have also been written about by authors Michael Takiff, Col. David H. Hackworth and Col. Michael Lee Lanning.
Eaton said writing “Mekong Mud Dogs” didn’t prove to be that difficult.
“I had written down different stories after getting out of Vietnam and I’ve gone to reunions and kept notes when I saw something that reminded me of then,” he said. “And I just decided to tackle it on my own.
“And I found out it only takes money to get it edited,” he added with a laugh.
But there was also one other thing that “scared the hell out of me,” he said of writing the book. “It’s because it’s about the men I served with and I was worried how they might see it.”
But according to initial reviews, “Mekong Mud Dogs” has been well received by those he served with in Vietnam.
“They’ve embraced it very well,” Eaton said. “The really cool thing is when they say ‘I’m buying four or five books so my family can understand what the hell I went through.’”
Andy Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8318.