Did you ever wonder, ‘How did I get here?’ It’s a question most people have asked themselves and usually ask when they wish they weren’t there.
Life led Michael Secli to the Battle of Khe Sanh in Viet Nam, 1968. History tells us a small band of Marines, seven miles from the Laotian border, along Route 9, the northern most road across Vietnam between the north and the south were outmanned yet were responsible for preventing the enemy from advancing.
Did anybody really want to be there? The question was moot. It was their duty, and they would do whatever they could to keep the enemy from advancing. It was David against Goliath, and we know how that turned out. How did Michael get there? Well, that’s an important part of the story.
Limone presents a brief biography of a man who grew up on the tough streets of Hell’s Kitchen in the 1950s and 1960s before fighting in the Vietnam War.
Michael Secli was born in 1946 in Hell’s Kitchen, a hardscrabble neighborhood of New York City notorious at that time for its mix of squalor and crime. He was tough and resourceful by nature but also shiftless—a high school dropout, he drove a truck for a living with a fake driver’s license and was arrested for his participation in a scheme that moved stolen goods. The presiding judge saw some promise in him and gave him an ultimatum: He could spend four years in prison or enlist in the U.S. Marines for a four-year hitch. Secli choose the Marines and quickly moved up the ranks; his challenging youth had endowed him with “curiosity, personality, organizational skills,” attributes that were noticed by his superior officers. These skills would be put to the test when he deployed to Vietnam in 1967 and was stationed at the Khe Sanh base, a strategically important location that suffered withering attacks from the North Vietnamese for 77 consecutive days. Secli was only 19 years old at the time. His life was an eventful and dramatic one, and the author lucidly captures the power of his personality and the depth of his courage. Limone also provides a fascinating peek into Hell’s Kitchen in the 1950s and ’60s, a tableau that he illuminates without romanticization.