As I write this, responses to that question are arriving every minute from the Vietnam Veterans Only group on Facebook. It seems my question has hit a nerve. Take a look at a random sampling of the responses...
Can you imagine my surprise?
I was fortunate that when I completed my tour of duty in Vietnam, I was assigned to a post in Hawaii where there was little hostility between the military and civilian communities. Thus, I was spared the abuses that many Vietnam Veterans experienced on their return to CONUS (the Continental United States). I am appalled to learn that my comrades could not find sanctuary even among other veterans. It seems that “The Greatest Generation” wasn't as great as I once believed.
As I read Dr. Ben Carson's book, Gifted Hands, I discovered that he shared a problem with me in school. No one bothered to teach either of us how to study. Although Dr. Carson relates that he excelled in grade school in spite of the handicap, his lack of study skills almost caused him to flunk his first semester at Yale. Fortunately, as he believes, God extended a helping hand and got him over the hurdle. Afterward, he perfected his study skills and went on to great accomplishments.
Sadly, God never gave me a hand. However, inspired by Dr. Carson's example and believing that late is better than never, I set out to learn how to study. I turned, of course, to Google to show me the way.
I may be guilty of overthinking this, but I read a book that got me to thinking about verb tense in storytelling. That's tense as in past, present, or future. Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but it seems to me that most stories are told in the past tense. Consider this example from Charles Dickens: “Marley was dead: to begin with.”
That's the first sentence of Stave 1 in A Christmas Carol. What? Is he no longer dead? Was he not dead at the time of the story? Or should Dickens have written: “Marley is dead: to begin with”?
As I said: I'm overthinking this, or am I?
It's my son's fault. He gave me a book to read, Blood Meridian
by Cormac McCarthy, in which the author played with the present tense. I say played
because he wasn't consistent in its use. I wish he had been. It's the reason I read the book.
When I was a Buck Private in the Army, I earned $89 per month. Just beer and cigarette money we called it. Everything else was provided: Food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, etc. Obviously, we couldn't support a wife and family on such a pittance, but we were told that if the Army/Marine Corp/Air Force/Navy wanted us to have a wife, they would have issued one to us. That was in the days of conscription.
Please give generously
With the advent of the All-Volunteer Military, all service members were promised a living wage and many privates and corporals married and some have children. However, the promises haven't been kept. It's become so bad that many on welfare feed better at the government trough than those charged with protecting our nation and its Constitution and people.
There are a few quaint traditions that have faded from the culture but not from my memory. People wore poppies on Veterans Day. Everyone wore a carnation on Mothers Day, red if she was alive and white if not. Americans stood for the playing of the National Anthem, hands held over hearts. Sure, some still observe these traditions. Others do not. Many do not even know that they were common practices once upon a time.
I saw the disparity of memory and knowledge as I sat outside a neighborhood grocery store this weekend passing out Buddy Poppies for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and taking donations from those who cared. A few paused to talk. One offered to fetch me a cup of coffee for it was chilly this November 11th in Southern California. I could not help but wonder how many or how few understood the significance of the little red artificial flowers that I offered.
Movies were a popular escape
from the cares and woes of the Great Depression. Just five cents could buy a brief reprieve in a theater where audiences laughed in mutual appreciation of the antics of the Keystone Kops and Laurel and Hardy among others. Sadly, there is little escape today from the unrelenting assault of the liberal/progressives who dominate Hollywood and the television producers. Fortunately, one show on CBS, Blue Bloods
, provides a more rational approach to storytelling. The October 24th episode, Loose Lips
, was a silver-lined example. The granddaughter of the police commissioner is caught venting her frustrations on the Internet over a Fascist school teacher and is denied admission to Rutgers. The following minute-and-a-half clip contains the scene where she returns to the classroom with her mother to apologize to the teacher.
Sadly, the high school teacher portrayed in this scene is representative of many American teachers and college professors. In a later scene, she targets the police commissioner's granddaughter during a class extolling the virtues of progressivism and castigating the authorities like the girl's mother and grandfather. Her sanctimony is sweetened by the iconic portrait of Ernesto “Che” Guevara peering over her shoulder. No one ever abused authority more rapaciously than the hero of progressives and misguided children everywhere.
Have you attempted to help a child with their Common Core homework? Confusing isn't it? Common Core seems to complicate even the simplest of tasks just for the sake of complication. Is there another agenda? Are they trying to drive a wedge between us and our children?
Click to read Emancipation
: A short story about a boy luring his younger sibling into the world of emancipated youth.
Are you bored with roller coasters, pendulum rides and drop rides? Are their height and speed no longer thrilling? Are you becoming bored with amusement parks?
Click to read "Carousel"
Maybe, just maybe you're ready for a ride on the Carousel
...a new short story.
Many people in the United States are unhappy with its national anthem. Some complain that it's too war-like and mean. Others find it hard to sing. However, I believe that it has a redeeming value in the question that it asks: “Does that star-spangled banner yet wave?” I ask myself the same thing almost every morning now almost two hundred years after Francis Scott Key penned that question.
Key was a captive of the British while their fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor all day and night, until 3 am on the morning of September 14th. He wondered why the shelling had stopped. Had the fort fallen? That would seem the most likely outcome. The British had besieged the defenders since September 12th during which time not a shot had reached the British ships from the fort's guns. Thus, Key stood (popular myth has him standing atop the bulwarks, clinging to the ship's standing rigging to steady himself) as he strained to see which flag flew above the walls: The American stars and stripes or the British Union Jack. Alas, not a breath of air stirred and the flag hung limply from its standard, its nationality indistinguishable.
Why didn't Key ask one of his captors? Most likely, they couldn't have answered him. They were awaiting word from Robert Ross, the British general who led the troops that had disembarked at Sparrows Point, at the confluence of the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay, and were supposed to capture Baltimore. Ross's force had already captured and burned Washington. Surely they could brush aside the Maryland militia and recreate their victory in Baltimore. When Ross's courier arrived, they were stunned to learn that he was dead and that his forces had been defeated by Sam Smith.
Writers are readers, avid readers. Like you, we're always on the lookout for a good book. Come join us on a blog hop as we visit some of our favorite authors.
What's a “blog hop”? It's a trail of links from one author's website/weblog to another. This trail leads to articles about the characters populating books in progress, soon to be published, or recently released novels. Now meet mine: Nick Andrews, an American who joined the Army just in time for the Korean War.
Studies have shown that as many as 20 to 30 percent of soldiers never fire their weapons in combat. No, I'm not including those in the rear echelons. I'm talking about combat troops, under fire. In some skirmishes, it has been reported that fewer than a third fired their weapons. Unfortunately, the research does not include the reasons why they didn't return fire. Some may have been too frightened to emerge from their foxholes and fight back. Still others may have been unable to find a target. The ones I'm interested in are those who simply couldn't overcome the natural reticence to kill another human being, even one who is attempting to kill them.
I created a story set in Korea during the war there to explore this issue. I created a character, Nick Andrews, an ordinary person with whom readers can identify. He's been well-trained to fight as an Army Ranger, but never taught to kill. That's a skill that can only be learned on the battlefield.