Pennies from Vietnam

A Sister at Home, a Brother at War

Not Yet Published


New 2024 Pre-Order

Available for pre-order / backorder

About the Book

In this collection of 70+ letters from Vietnam, the raw honesty of one homesick teenage boy speaks for every lonely soldier at war. Huey crew chief Larry Smith grew into a hardened man in his First Cavalry helicopter while his little sister Tracy started kindergarten back in New Jersey and memorized the sounds of combat from the black and white television. This dual perspective unveils the war’s invasion on the whole family as they revered every envelope and suffered alongside their hero. In December 1967, Larry turned 19 as battles intensified and his letters darkened, making his promise to return home harder to keep, or even believe.
Decades after the war, as he lay in a coma, Tracy rediscovered her brother’s letters and vowed to find Army friends he lost to uncover the whole truth of his war. She found a boy she never knew, innocent, fearful, and fearless, full of many words, then silenced. These truths offer a two-fold lesson and make the case for generational trauma in the mental health realm: children do not belong in war, nor should they watch one unfold on television.

About the Author(s)

After a career in commercial real estate development, Tracy Smith completed broadcasting school, won a Telly Award with Naka Productions for associate producing “Moving America’s Lighthouse” with Walter Cronkite and became a freelance author and public speaker. She lives outside Charlotte, North Carolina, where she spent 12 years as a newspaper columnist with the Concord/Kannapolis Independent Tribune and continues to share her experience with the lasting effects of war and PTSD on military stages.
Larry Ray Smith is a co-author in memoriam, sharing his private words in over 70 letters.

Bibliographic Details

Tracy Smith with Larry Ray Smith
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Bibliographic Info: ca. 40 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9463-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5255-9
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

• “As the crowned Miss America, I had the privilege of connecting with the brave souls of the First Cavalry Division on my visit to the Vietnam War. Their unwavering protection and camaraderie became the cornerstone of an unforgettable chapter in my life. Yet, amidst the melodies of song and dance shared in gratitude with the soldiers, I bore witness to the harsh reality awaiting these heroes when they returned home. Pennies from Vietnam and stories like it shed light on the profound impact of war on our young people and the aftermath of trauma left in its wake.”—Jane Jayroe Gamble, Miss America 1967

• “Pennies from Vietnam is an immersive account of the author’s brother’s service in the U.S. Army’s First Cavalry Division during the Vietnam War. Many veterans and military families will resonate with this story. In this moving book by Tracy Smith, Larry’s revealing words help us all understand why our fathers and brothers who served in the war were challenged to discuss anything about it. Through personal letters home, the reader takes a front seat to the bravery, camaraderie, and harsh realities of war. The portrayal of combat’s boredom, danger, and utter brutality, offers a raw and honest look at the soldiers’ internal struggles and effects on the family. While the author doesn’t shy away from the controversial aspects of the war, she pays tribute to the sacrifices of these heroes who did what their country asked of them, and the families who prayed for them.”—Amy Peacock, coauthor of Old Breed General

• “I don’t have the words to articulate how this story has affected me. As an active military sailor, I feel akin to Larry, unable to articulate the complexity of emotions that swirl inside. They demand expression while being denied the tools or words to do so. Know that Larry’s story of silent pain is echoed in service members today and stories like his need to be told. Thank you, Tracy, for telling your brother’s story so eloquently.”—CTR1 Russ Sampson, U.S. Navy Active Duty

• “As a Vietnam Veteran, Pennies from Vietnam touched me on several levels. Larry’s story is emblematic of the over 2 million young men and women who served our country in Vietnam. Nearly 60,000 young Americans died in that unpopular war; tens of thousands more like Larry bore the traumatic scars that eventually contributed to their untimely deaths. Although their deaths are tragic, we should give praise and thanks for their examples of selfless service which Larry exemplified. We must strive to prove ourselves worthy of their sacrifice.”—Colonel Russ Olson, Citadel graduate, veteran and historian