Outskirts Press (2015)
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (7/17)
“Reluctant Soldier” by Marnie Mellblom is a love/history story about Neil Mellblom who is a reporter for the Pacific Stars and Stripes during the Korean war. The stories in this book all come from love letters that were written between Neil and then fiancée/wife Marnie over the course of the war which describe in detail what he has experienced “the good, the bad, and ugly.”
Marnie, his fiancée and later his wife, is an Army brat and is used to the military lifestyle and the hurry up and wait attitude, but still finds it hard to imagine experiencing war in real life. Technically Neil is what they call a “combat journalist” meaning he is really not supposed to be in any danger or action. He leaves his home in Montana to train and then heads to Korea.
Neil’s early letters describe his culture shock and travels (very slowly) to Korea, while Marnie shares with the readers her responses to Neil during the “forgotten war.”
Marnie met Neil when she was 20 years old working at the Players, a theater type atmosphere which she was using for therapeutic reasons due to the loss of her fiancé the year before.
Anyone who has served in the military will know that sometimes while waiting to get shipped out one receives all kinds of annoying jobs. Finally, after many of these jobs Neil gets shipped out to Japan where he is assigned to the General Headquarters in Tokyo. Having been used to a lot of privacy and his close friends at home, Neil finds the lack of privacy and varying personalities a bit daunting. For Marnie, this is one of those places where the military family the motto “home is where you hang your hat,” rings true. She tries to convey her military experience to Neil, but somehow it just doesn’t seem to be the same when one is in a war.
One of the things that Neil first learned is that the Pacific Stars and Stripes is a paper that connects all the soldiers to what is going on in the “outside” world, especially when some of them are away from home for the first time and feel isolated and homesick. Being a combat reporter means that sometimes you have to make up what others want to hear to keep up moral. For most reporters it is very boring and mundane since they really aren’t on the front lines.
Although the author provides great detail about Neil’s involvement in Korea and events that are happening, “Reluctant Soldier” by Marnie Mellblom is really more of a love story. One that shows compassion, great communication, respect and love. Readers can see the passion and great insight the author has while writing this book. It is detailed and has numerous pictures, but is not so historical that it bores you. Very well written, flows easily, easy to read, and readers will experience a lot of emotions while reading this story.