GARNER, NORTH CAROLINA — A former Miami County resident is coming out with a book that will focus on the experiences of a group of Vietnam War veterans, along with a Vietnam War protestor, from two small towns in Massachusetts.
Dennis Pregent, formerly of Piqua and currently of Garner, N.C., penned the book “The Boys of St. Joe’s ’65 in the Vietnam War” about a number of his classmates from St. Joseph’s School in North Adams, Massachusetts. McFarland & Company, Inc., will publish the book in the fall.
Pregent is a retired vice president of human resources for Spalding, Evenflo, and ConAgra. He joined the Marines in his senior year of high school and served over the next six and a half years in a number of stateside posts as well as 17 months in Vietnam during the years of 1967-68 and 1970-71.
The book focuses on eleven classmates, including Pregent, who went on to serve during the Vietnam War, including seven soldiers, three Marines and one Navy man. According to a press release about the book, “One classmate was killed-in-action, another paralyzed and several more catastrophically wounded. All were decorated, and most, now in their seventies, suffer from disabilities.” The book will cover their backgrounds in their hometowns of North Adams and Adams, Massachusetts, as well as their experiences during the Vietnam War, their return home, and the lasting effects that their service had on them.
“It’s 16 chapters. It focuses on 11 of us who were in the Class of 1965,” Pregent said.
Pregent said that he had not been in connection with his former classmates for over 50 years, and when he went to a class reunion in 2015, his interest piqued on writing about some of his classmates’ experiences from life before the Vietnam War, to during, and to where they are today.
“There’s over 100 pictures in the book,” Pregent said.
Pregent, a first-time author, said that he had been interested in writing, so after he retired, his wife Carol encouraged him to blog.
“Three hundred pages later, I’ve got a book,” Pregent said.
Pregent said that each of the subjects come from a similar background, as they came from patriotic families and their fathers were World War II veterans who worked at one of three places in the area. They all grew up playing outside in the “Tom Sawyer days.”
He also wrote about a protestor, who was their class historian, at the suggestion of his editor.
“She knew everybody in the book,” Pregent said. “She had connections to everybody.”
Pregent said that he felt like readers could relate to the small town atmosphere of their hometown, saying that their experience probably “repeated itself hundreds of times.”
“I think they’ll like the small home town,” Pregent said. “It happened in many, many different little towns, and people were horribly impacted.”
He added that a number of his classmates served “because their country needed them to do it.”
“Most of them did it from a spirit of patriotism,” as well for the excitement and challenge of it, he said.
“From this group of 11 boys … none of them were slouches,” Pregent said. “They all were decorated.” Pregent said he thought readers would “be surprised at the amount of sacrifice.”
During the chapters about their experiences in the Vietnam War, Pregent wrote in-depth descriptions about what their time there was like, from describing the environment and the “relentless mosquitoes” to the casaulties that some of them suffered.
Pregent served with the Marine Corps. during the Vietnam War in 1967, and parts of 1968, 1970, 1971, doing different jobs from supply positions to being a helicopter machine gunner.
Pregent said that, like himself, their experiences during the Vietnam War are still affecting them. Pregent was not diagnosed with PTSD until recently in the past two years. Prior to his retirement, he said that he worked a lot of hours at his different jobs and helped raise six kids. After his retirement when life was not so busy for him, he said that he became more anxious about things.
”Some of the people I interviewed encouraged me to talk to the VA,” Pregent said.
He said that writing and researching this book was thereapeautic for him.
“I think it helped all of us,” Pregent said.
Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole wrote an endorsement for the book, which said, “A compelling true story of high school classmates, the Vietnam War, and the complexities of life thereafter, The Boys of St. Joe’s ’65 in the Vietnam War recounts the valor of these brave American heroes who, having worn our nation’s uniform with honor and dignity overseas, returned to a country mired by protests, mistreatment, and something far less than a hero’s welcome. If you haven’t thanked a Vietnam veteran for his or her service, you’ll want to do so after reading this book.”
The book will be released in the fall. It is available for pre-order by searching for “The Boys of St. Joe’s ’65 in the Vietnam War” on mcfarlandbooks.com.