5 Questions with Richard Botkin

By: Megan Wood The Press Tribune
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Former Marine tells Vietnam stories in debut book Everyone remembers an iconic image of the Vietnam War. A young girl runs down the street in obvious pain, napalm burns covering her body. But how many people know the untold stories of Vietnam? Former marine and Granite Bay resident, Richard Botkin makes his debut as an author with “Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam War story of Honor and Triumph.” 1. What is “Ride the Thunder” about? “I had originally wanted to write a book about the 442nd Regiment in WWII when I realized there wasn’t a new story to tell. I had already written for a year on the 442 when I scrapped that project after meeting five men who fought in the Vietnam War and had really incredible stories to tell. I wanted to adequately tell their stories and celebrate the bravery and courage of these men who had sacrificed everything to fight for freedom. It tells the stories of three American Marine officers and two South Vietnamese Marine officers with an overlay of the events surrounding the Vietnam War. I also focused on the last three years, why the war was lost and why it did not have to end the way it did.” 2. Why did you decide to write about the Vietnam War? “Many of the stories about the Vietnam War are not adequately told. The war itself was and still is somewhat controversial, but it doesn’t need to be. And yet Americans don’t know the truth. Vietnam doesn’t receive the same scrutiny as WWII because we won so convincingly whereas in Vietnam, we were portrayed as the bad guys. In reality, after the war more than 3 million Vietnamese left the country after the war because they refused to live under communism. That culture venerates their elders. They live in the same place for generations out of respect for their heritage so for that many to leave is huge. It tells us that we were the good guys in Vietnam, but that’s not the view that was portrayed in the media.” 3. How is this book different from other Vietnam War books? “This is the history people have never learned because it tells the stories of both sides. These are the stories of true heroism most of what America remembers doesn’t center on heroism but inaccuracies and a misunderstanding of events. President Nixon said that Vietnam was the most misunderstood war in American history. It was misrepresented then and misremembered now. It’s different in that it portrays Americans in a different light and sets the record straight about the South Vietnamese, people that fought hard and with bravery.” 4. How long did it take you to write this book? “The book took me five years to write, one year to edit and four trips Vietnam to research. I traveled with one of the main characters in the book and learned the most amazing stuff. I never really considered myself a writer, I’d had some stuff published online but this I really just fell into. It was a God-inspired endeavor, I was a former marine and wanted to pay the Marine Corps back for everything they did for me in my life. I see myself doing more with Vietnam and am open to writing more on the Vietnamese. I only scratched the surface with this book and I believe there are so many stories of greatness yet to be chronicled.” 5. What did writing this book teach you? “I learned that it’s important to learn lessons of history and not repeat the same mistakes. Americans are under the impression that freedom is an American ideal, but it’s important to view the world and other countries and know that they hold the same ideals. Freedom is a human condition. Everybody wants better for his or her children, a better education a better way of life. We questioned communism and we were right to oppose it.” Botkin’s book is available online at