Welcome to the jungle

Vietnam photoVeterans Day book release and film premier at Main Street Landing Film House

By Alex Bunten | The Charlotte News

Private Loring M. Bailey Jr. was killed on March 15, 1970 in Quang Ngai fighting in the Vietnam War. He was from Stonington, Connecticut, and was only 24 years old. In the “Remembrances” section below his name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website, John Wilson, his platoon leader, recalls the exact time it happened: “I was standing there with him discussing our defensive options. We stood in the same area while discussing the options. . . and as I walked away, there was a booby-trap explosion that killed Loring but just threw me to the ground. To this day I don’t know how or why I survived and he did not.”

Although Ring, as he was called, didn’t make it home, his words live on in a soon-to-be-released book, Calm Frenzy: One Man’s Vietnam War. The book will be released on Veterans Day, November 11, at the Main Street Landing Film House, Burlington, alongside a new award-winning documentary film from Soren Sorensen called My Father’s Vietnam, which is in part about Loring and his relationship with Soren’s father during Vietnam. 

Calm Frenzy is a series of edited letters to Loring’s wife, Maris Bailey, his parents, Loring Sr. and Dorothy, his brother-in-law, Rik Carlson, who works at the Little Garden Market in Charlotte and a close friend—the same people who helped compile the book.

The letters, mostly given without dates or addressee, paint a disjointed but candid picture of Vietnam, from basic training to a “360 degree front,” through the eyes of a curious mind and a gifted writer.  Vietnam photo1

Loring writes at the start of the book, “Am I hyper-critical or does it just seem that everyone here would give his back teeth to get to New York City (without having to give up the Chivalay Impala and its stars and bars front license plate). What a sad state to preserve its rights so well and laugh so long at hair half as lengthy.”

Loring’s letters are full of wit, dry humor and sharp commentaries on everything from the subjective experience of organized religion to a detailed analysis of the aerodynamic tendencies of an M16 bullet.

He adopts a duckling named “Duckly” in one letter and questions the frequency of civilian mutilation in the next. As the commanding officer’s radiotelephone operator, Loring was often in charge of calling in the helicopter strikes that led to the latter. He struggles with this and many other facets of war but somehow maintains an even-keeled voice for his readers—drenched from 100 percent humidity or monsoon rain, he wrote whenever he could.

Although positive through many of his letters, the mental hurdles of war hit hard with Loring, especially when he attempts to call his wife for the first time: “Only an eccentric would run around screaming with a light machine gun under his arm. Granted. Only an eccentric could enjoy it, let it roll off his back, not react to it, relax and carry on a normal conversation with his fiancé a matter of hours later. There is no single definition of normalcy—it’s a statistically derived momentary constant which encompasses the infinitude of behavior.”

An articulate writer and deeply humane soul trapped in an inhumane place emerges from the pages this book. Just as the medical profession is occasionally blessed with a writer who has a keen eye for a story amongst daily suffering, such as William Carlos Williams or Anton Chekhov, so is the military for the experience of living as a soldier. For obvious reasons, however, solider writers are often more limited in their working time frame. Writing to his wife, Loring considers this, “We never said much about the hard possibility of my not returning from Vietnam, mostly because I plan to return, and under my own power; but each of the military vignettes in a letter makes that possibility more real for you.”

Loring would have been 70 years old on October 24, 2015.

To purchase Calm Frenzy: One Man’s Vietnam War or for further information about My Father’s Vietnam, visit
calmfrenzy.com. Screenings of the film on Nov. 11 will be at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The director will attend the 11 a.m. performance and be available for questions. For tickets to the Veterans Day at the Main Street Landing Film House, go to flynntix.org. Blocks of tickets are available for veterans and their families through the support of Pomerleau Real Estate and J&A Pump and Motor Service.

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