“It's been forty-six years since I left Vietnam.”
—Mark W. Olver, 2014
Framed as a novel, 46 Years introduces Mark W. Olver, one smart, funny, young man and how he endured during the harrowing years of 1966–1969 while a foot soldier in the Vietnam War. As a member of Delta Company, First Battalion, 26th Infantry, First Infantry Division, nineteen-year-old Mark—from rural Pennsylvania—provides the bulk of the novel through descriptive, sometimes humorous, but often shocking letters written to his mom after being drafted. A fact-based narrative created from interviews with an older Mark and his mom, frames the letters, providing a rich, candid experience of one young soldier. During his time in country, Mark finds himself in a culture foreign to him and unknowingly begins a steady stream of information-filled letters so moving that his mom is carried along with him each step of the way, a trail of his long journey, of living in dugout holes, of cutting trails through the jungle mire, and the relentless monotony of military life. Often simply a note, this steadfast retelling of the day's or week's events serve as that tether or bond to the real world of family and friends for Mark, a documented story of how our young infantrymen must have endured. Mark writes home more letters than anyone he knows, that is, until the unthinkable occurs on April 23, 1968, when an enemy mortar attack changes his life once again, this time forever. All this time, Mark has no idea that while away his mom saves every letter, every scrap. Now a Purple Heart recipient and disabled veteran, Mark looks back at the letters and speaks out about the effects on one human life—his own. From long ago and far away, this story reaches out to today's readers through the innocent letters of an American boy forty-six years ago.