UNC graduate speaks about war book
They were on the combat base in Khe Sanh and a helicopter of photojournalists had just been shot down. When Putzel heard that Newman saw the shooting, he approached Newman to see if anyone had survived.
“He kind of smiled at me, and said, ‘You want to see?’”
Newman flew Putzel to the spot of the shooting. After seeing what Putzel said was a “burn mark in the grass,” he knew there were no survivors.
Putzel and Newman kept in touch for years after this first meeting, and Putzel’s new book ,“The Price They Paid: Enduring Wounds of War,” which he will discuss this afternoon at Bull’s Head Bookshop, was originally about Major Newman’s honored military career. But as Putzel continued researching Newman’s life, his story took a major turn.
“(Newman) was known as a man that never left anyone behind, but he had an entire family from his prewar life that he kept as a secret,” Putzel said.
By telling the story of Major Newman and the Vietnam flight crews that experienced the most intensive helicopter warfare to date, Putzel’s book explores the true costs of war, like the emotional problems and mental illnesses that veterans and their loved ones face.
His first story for The Daily Tar Heel covered the integration of University of Mississippi in October 1962, when James Meredith enrolled as the university’s first African-American student.
“I was lying in the grass trying to prevent the tear gas from getting in my eyes, and I thought, ‘You know, I think I want to do this,’” Putzel said.
He has covered the Watergate scandal and the White House under former President Jimmy Carter. He was also a few feet away from former President Ronald Reagan when he was shot.
“It was the golden age of journalism,” Putzel said.
Now, Putzel is a full-time author. He said he hopes his reading at Bull’s Head will inspire a conversation surrounding the true costs of war.
Junior Dionna Graves, an advocate for mental health reform, said there is a need for public discussion about postwar mental health.
“When you don’t talk about mental health in a public forum, people tend to feel shame, and they tend to feel silenced and alone,” she said.
Kyle McKay, marketing and events manager at Bull’s Head Bookshop, said students can benefit from Putzel’s perspective.
“It seems like this generation of students, which includes me when I was in school ten years ago, doesn’t have as much first-hand contact with people who were in wars,” he said.
“Maybe hearing someone share those details will help share perspective.”
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