Writing novel awakens vet’s Vietnam memories

A new coming-of-age Vietnam War-era romance novel stirred memories its author, Angelo Freda, who goes by AA Freda, said he had not thought about for decades.

Freda lives in Easton, but he lived in Milford, near Wildermere Beach, for several years until 2005.

A Police Action, published by Dorrance Publishing, is a story about two lost and confused young adults. It is love at first sight when 19-year-old Samantha Powers meets James Coppi at the Country Honky Tonk in Colorado Springs.

There are just two problems to a storybook ending for Samantha’s passion: She is pregnant with someone else’s child, and James, a young soldier, is heading to war in Vietnam.

A Police Action is Freda’s second novel. His first, Goodbye, Rudy Kazoody, is also a coming-of-age story of teenagers growing up during the tumultuous 1960s. This second book is also a work of fiction, but the setting and characters are based on actual people and places from a Vietnam tour of duty, taken from July 25, 1968, to Jan. 25, 1969.

Freda served with the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry during the time covered in the book and trained at Fort Carson, Colo., with the brigade between April and July 1968. There he “met a young lady” — one of the inspirations for the book, he said.

Freda had it in his mind to write about the Vietnam War “for a long time,” he said. However, it wasn’t until he had a conversation with his son — the book’s other inspiration — a few years ago, that he started the novel’s manuscript.

“He came up to me and said, ‘You know, Dad, you never spoke about Vietnam. What’s the story here?’ I told him, ‘I’ll tell you what. At some time, I’ll write a book and you can read it,’” Freda said.

“Much like the character in the book, I spent time at Wunder Beach, waiting for the equipment. [I] left with the advance party on Aug. 12 to a place near Con Thien, on what was called the McNamara line, about a mile south of the DMZ. The areas covered in the story were, for the most part, areas that I had personally spent time during my tour,” he added.

Freda, a former adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, said writing has always been a hobby for him.

“It took me a year to write the book, with editing. I picked it up as I went along. I wrote the first book’s manuscript and threw it down 15 years ago,” he said.

Writing a fictional account about his seven-month tour was always the plan, Freda continued.

“I did not want to write about people that I actually served with,” he said. “I felt I could do it in the fictional form. The names were definitely not actual names, though they are based on actual people.”

And though Freda’s war experience was 50 years ago, his challenge was not in remembering the events but in facing the memories, he said.

The memories surprised him a bit, he said.

“I thought it was going to be easy, but it was hard. I read an account (another book) about the same period that I was there. It was biographical and had all the events of all the units. That began to bother me. All of a sudden it brought back memories,” said Freda.

In the other book, he read about an advance party that left on Aug. 12. “Well, I was (in) the advance party. It talked about the first skirmish. I was (in) the first skirmish where people died. At those points I put down my pen for a while,” Freda said.

“Memories that have been suppressed were coming back. I have a feeling most of us that came back had some form of PTSD, and I think I did. I know [this] from talking to veterans. One day you’re in the demilitarized zone, south of the McNamara line. You’re fully armed with enough to wipe out an entire village, and the next day you’re in the middle of society,” he continued.

Born in Italy, Freda came to the United States in 1955 and grew up in the Morris Park section of the Bronx. He has been living in Connecticut since 2001 and moved to Easton in 2014.

His book is self-published, available online and in hard and soft cover. With his business background, Freda said, he knows how to market a book.

Both his books have been “well received by reviewers, which is gratifying to me,” Freda said.

“I didn’t want to make too much of a political statement. There were so many of us who went to Vietnam, who had no idea of why we were going, who weren’t anti-war or pro-war — just young men. You totally don’t think about your future, and all of a sudden you get caught up in one of the most controversial events in history,” he noted.

Freda is a graduate of Baruch College, the City University of New York.

He recalled his first writing lesson in the eighth grade.

“I was writing a novel in class. My English teacher said, ‘Give me what you’re writing.’ I had about 15 pages and she took it. I asked her if she was taking all of it. Three days later she said, ‘You know, you’re pretty good. You should keep going.’”