Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel

2nd Edition

In 1970, John Kowalski is one of many young, naive teenage soldiers sent to Vietnam to fight in an unpopular war. Dubbed “Cherries” by their more seasoned peers, these newbies suddenly found themselves thrust into the middle of a terrible nightmare - literally forced to become men overnight. On-the-job-training is intense, however, most of these teenagers were hardly ready to absorb the harsh mental, emotional, and physical stress of war. When coming under enemy fire for the first time and witnessing death first-hand, a life changing transition that can't be reversed.

The author is an excellent story teller, readers testify that they are right there with the characters, joining them in their quest for survival, sharing the fear, awe, drama and sorrow, witnessing bravery and sometimes, even laughing at their humor. It's a story that is hard to put down.

When soldiers return home from war, all are different - changed for life. "Cherries" tells it like it is and when finished, readers will better understand what these young men have to endure, and why change is imminent. All of these veterans should be embraced, welcomed home and thanked for their service. Vietnam vets and anyone who has been a young soldier in any war will appreciate the sentiments here.


What others are saying about Cherries:

“With striking detail and brutal honesty, Cherries is nothing if not compelling.  Every bit as gritty and shocking as can be imagined, Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel is a refreshingly honest account of a life few of us would ever choose to live - and, thus, should feel fortunate that we don't have to.  A highly recommended read.”

- Karynda Lewis, Apex Review

“As an avid reader of many historical memoirs, both fiction and autobiographical, rarely have I found one as in depth and revealing as Mr. Podlaski's work...undoubtedly this scene is occurring today with veterans returning from the Middle East.  By reading Cherries, you will get the knowledge and feel of what it was like in Vietnam, stories that many memoirs of this war collectively failed to mention!  Cherries is a highly recommended read!”

-Bernie Weisz, Vietnam War historian

“The author is a terrific storyteller.  This book flows so well, you will not be able to go to sleep without reading the next chapter.  Podlaski has you in the palm of his hand.”

-William E. Peterson, Missions of Fire and Mercy

“Once I started reading John's Cherries, I could not put it down - intense, provocative, mesmerizing, emotional, and heartfelt.  You will feel as if you are right there in the platoon with the grunts as they live through the terrors, the dangers, the trials and tribulations, and sometimes the joys and humor of being at and in war.  One `read' will not be enough.  You will want to pass through the pages of `Cherries' more than once just to savor the up close and personal story again.”

-Jerry Kunnath, author

“I could never have written this amazing book.  When I told my story, I had to fill it full of the emotion I felt but never expressed in Vietnam.  Podlaski, on the other hand, managed to stay true to the original experience by telling his story with little or no emotion.  The effect is that Cherries is an excellent primer for students of the Vietnam War that are interested in the grunt experience.  The last chapter alone is well worth the price of this book.”

-Terry P. Rizzuti, The Second Tour

“Podlaski takes readers on a gritty, visceral tour of 'Nam through the eyes and lives of the men who fought the war and who, at any given moment could be thrust into harm’s way.  We are right there with his characters on patrol, setting up claymores, walking point, and above all trying to stay alive.  This is the day-to-day life story of the men who started out as "cherries" and tried to stay alive.”

-Jeffrey Miller, War Remains

“I am not a person who generally reads war novels, but I really could not put this book down.  I read it twice!  The author takes you along on the journey where you get to watch the main character grow from a scared young kid just out of high school into a savvy, skilled leader in the span of a year, and he helps you to understand how it happens.”

-Janet Shupe

“I just finished reading Cherries.  I could so relate to many things in this well written novel.  I know what it is like to see so many lose their life.  I helped carry them out onto the choppers.  My 3rd week over in the "Nam" we were choppered in on helicopters to be a blocking force.  Four hours later, we went from 250 or so to only 79.  The rest were killed or wounded.  It was hard for me to get through this book due to the tears that brought back so many similar episodes.”

-Joel Lee Russell, Escaping Death’s Sting

Profile Photo John Podlaski

About John Podlaski

John Podlaski served in Vietnam during 1970 and 1971 as an infantryman with both the Wolfhounds of the 25th Division and the 501st Infantry Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.  He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, two Air Medals, and a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.  He spent the years since Vietnam working in management positions within the automotive industry and recently received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.  John is a member of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154 and lives with his wife of 43 years, Janice, in Sterling Heights, Michigan.  Both retired in 2013 and spend their days pursuing interests they enj0y.  John published his second book in June, 2016

All books by John Podlaski

Our Partners