The Unopened Letter: A Dose of Reality Changes a Young Man’s Life Forever by RW Herman


Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Richard William Herman was dealing with challenging life situations, which led him to drop out of college and reevaluate his life. Not long afterward, he received a draft notice. The year was 1965 during the Vietnam War Era. Rather than serve his time in the Army, he enlisted in the Navy for a four-year stint. The Unopened Letter is about the experiences that RW Herman went through as a young man who made a commitment to the United States Military at the age of nineteen. Herman attended boot camp in San Diego, California, where he demonstrated an aptitude for leadership. He volunteered to be the company yeoman and excelled at the job. After successfully graduating from basic training, Herman received his orders and found out he would be going to school for training as a radioman. At the end of training, Herman attained the rank of Radioman Seaman (RMSN) and was ordered to report for duty on the naval vessel USS Cambria stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. While serving his tour of duty, Herman became a tremendous asset in the communications division and got quick promotions. Although Herman never saw combat, he not only participated in a number of training exercises that prepared Marines for deployment to Vietnam, but he also experienced historical moments and life-changing events.

Readers will relish this first-rate story about a young man who was at a crossroads in his life when he received a draft notice and how much of an indelible impact the Navy had on him. Herman does not sugar coat anything about his time spent in the military. Anyone who reads this book will gain insight and an appreciation for how much work and dedication and sacrifice is required of the people who are serving a stint in the military. Herman shows the camaraderie and personal relationships that can develop between officers and enlisted members and how this affects their work ethic, with men doing their duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain. Racial bias between whites and blacks was an issue that Herman saw firsthand on the ship, and he employed an instrumental approach in dealing with the racial tension.

The Unopened Letter is written in the style of a fiction novel that includes letters written by Herman to his parents throughout the time that he spent in the Navy. Readers get to see how much of a morale booster it can be for individuals to be able to communicate with family and friends and stay connected with them while spending time away from home. Readers are also given a glimpse into the behavior that was expected to be adhered to by the men on shore leave, and the consequences they faced when protocol was not followed. The commitment and hard work by Herman and the men who served with him is inspiring, and some gnarly situations that Herman finds himself in are not glossed over. The Unopened Letter is an exceptional story of a young man’s military journey from enlistment to honorable discharge.