The Unmarked Road

Written by George Cadwalader
Review by John Kachuba

Sgt. John “K-Bar” Caleb is one tough Marine. But after suffering serious wounds in Vietnam, the highly decorated vet winds up in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, about to begin a long and painful recovery process. As though his physical wounds were not enough to deal with, Caleb is plagued by recurring nightmares so violent that he needs to be restrained in bed at night. Captain Williamson, the orthopedic surgeon trying to save Caleb’s arm, is frustrated by the sergeant’s violent attacks, which tear apart his careful handiwork; Caleb could lose the arm if they continue.

Williamson reluctantly enlists the aid of Commander Throttlemeyer, a psychiatrist, to help put an end to Caleb’s nightmares so that his wounds will heal. Throttlemeyer – The Vulture, as Caleb calls him – recognizes that the Marine is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and slowly begins walking Caleb back through his tours in Vietnam.

It is in the gradual unfolding of his actions in Vietnam that the questions of morality in warfare arise: do the means always justify the ends? Who is the enemy? By what moral code does a combat soldier live? Is there ever a “righteous” war? These are questions that will be asked as long as there are wars to be fought and soldiers to fight them. Written by a Marine veteran who was seriously wounded in Vietnam, this novel is a riveting study of PTSD and a frank look at the morality of war. It is highly recommended.