Tag: Marines

Just Stories, Part 1

Are your books just stories?

One friend recently asked, “Are your books just stories?” She went on to comment that I think you put your finger on a difference when recently you mentioned that redemption would be an ongoing theme in your new book.

She went on to say that my stories are brutal and that she squirmed through both of them … and that she usually quits reading a book when she’s “not having fun” with it. But she found in this last one, in the midst of all of Montagnard’s mayhem, a redemptive thread that wound through the story. This friend did like the way I handled that thread.

My short answer is … no, they are not just stories.

But the complete answer is not that simple. I will attempt to explain by way of an example.

I enlisted in the U.S. Army in July of 1979. The Vietnam War ended in April of 1975. So I missed it by several years, and I count that as a good thing. But I was old enough to later have several really close friends who were Vietnam veterans. And several of my Drill Instructors in Basic and AIT were Vietnam vets. I also served with a good number of Vietnam veterans during my four years of service. And frankly, I was aghast at how these veterans were treated when they came home from doing what their country sent them to do. These veterans were not “for” or “against” the war in Vietnam. A distinction like that only works for civilians and politicians. These soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors were just doing their job. I quickly became fascinated with the Vietnam War.

A war the soldiers won, and the politicians lost!

As I mention in the prologue to Montagnard, the truth is that the U.S. military defeated the North Vietnamese Army. The Tet Offensive was their last gasp. Later interviews with high ranking NVA officers revealed that they were stunned when the United States pulled out. The U.S. had won the war, but somehow the country didn’t know it. The American media had been feeding the American people a very different story, and far too many bought into it. Public support had dwindled. The American military won the war, but the media and politicians gave the victory away.

Sounds eerily familiar to me …

The Fake News is nothing new

Now there’s a controversial statement for you. But it is a fact. The Vietnam War is the first war where “journalists” were embedded with the troops. Some of them did a great job and honestly reported the facts. But, there were some with an agenda.

We all remember the village of My Lai and Lt. William Calley. The My Lai Massacre was pounded into our heads by the media. And I am certainly not defending that action. However, U.S. soldiers were not prepared for the kind of war we fought in Vietnam, and neither were the American people. This was a war where the smiling young lady selling you an RC and a Moon Pie that day would be trying to slit your throat while you slept that night.

The fact is that mini “My Lai massacres” occurred nearly every day in Vietnam, and atrocities were, sadly, committed by both sides. However, the vast majority of U.S. military personnel served honorably and professionally in a war that they were totally unprepared for and was unlike any war we had ever fought before.

The North Vietnamese Army and their allies, the Viet Cong, subjected the South Vietnamese and Montagnard peoples, and any U.S. service member they got their hands on, to savage brutality that makes the My Lai Massacre pale in comparison. But you would never know that from listening to the news media. I mean, after all, we had Jane Fonda over there being photographed with an NVA anti-aircraft battery and giving a secret message pressed into her hand by an American POW at the Hanoi Hilton to the prison’s commandant!

So what does that have to do with my books?

As I mentioned before, I had several good friends who were Vietnam veterans. I don’t know if it was my personality, my role as a martial arts instructor, or what, but people have always opened up to me. I guess I am just a good listener. Over the years, I learned about some of the things my friends experienced in Vietnam and how they felt about it afterward. And I saw, first hand, how much the betrayal by their own country when they returned home, hurt them.

So, when I read or hear a comment about Serpents Underfoot, by a Vietnam veteran saying something like, “It was so nice to read something that actually portrayed the brutally of the Viet Cong for a change, instead of simply hating on U.S. soldiers,” I feel really good about that.

I don’t feel like I embellish the violence or that it is gratuitous. But, on the other hand, I do not shy away from presenting violence in its “naked” state. I guess you could say I am not very politically correct. If so, I wear that proudly.

Real stories from real people …

One Vietnam veteran in particular, became a really close friend and fellow martial artist. He died a few years ago, succumbing to health issues stemming from several tours in Vietnam. I still stay in contact with his daughter and her family.

Scenes in both Serpents Underfoot and Montagnard are based on stories he told me of his time in Vietnam, where he served as a medic on Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP) along the borders with Laos and Cambodia. Another of his stories will be a basis for part of the next installment in the JD Cordell Action Series I am calling Reciprocity.

While I am sure the stories have truth at their core, I do allow for a little literary license on his part to make the stories more entertaining for the telling.

But this is just a piece of my story’s puzzles …

I will share more in a couple of upcoming posts. In the meantime, if you love reading a great action-adventure story, check out Serpents Underfoot, or its award-winning sequel, Montagnard.

Oh yeah!

In celebration of Labor Day, the Kindle version of Montagnard will be on sale for only .99, so if you are interested in reading it, it would be a great time to buy it! And, should you enjoy the book, please take a moment to leave an honest review on Amazon.

Thank in advance!

U.S Army 2017 Best Sapper Competition

2017_Sapper_1

The 2017 Best Sapper Competition just finished up a few days ago.  The Best Sapper Competition was started in 2005 as a means for military members in the Combat Engineer skill areas to show off their training and skills. This three-day competition is open to Soldiers and Marines, E-4 and above. At least one competitor on each team must have earned the  Sapper tab.

Organized into 50 two-person teams, the competitors compete in a 50 hour, fifty mile course, completing grueling physical requirements and many technical skill events. The competition is designed to not only determine the next “Best Sapper” team, but to also challenge and test the competitors’ knowledge, skills, physical prowess and mental fortitude. By the final day, the competition has been whittled down to the top 20 teams. My nephew, Staff Sgt Brendan Gilbert, and his fellow team member, Staff Sgt Jacob Brittian, made it to the top 20 … beating out 30 other teams. They finished in 11th place, which is quite a great accomplishment.  We are all very proud of them … all of them.

To wear the Sapper Tab, a Soldier must graduate from the Sapper Leader Course operated by the U.S. Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The Sapper Leader Course is a 28-day course designed to train joint-service leaders in small unit tactics, leadership skills, and tactics required to perform as part of a combined arms team. The course is open to enlisted Soldiers in the grades of E-4 (in the Army, specialist) and above, cadets, and officers O-3 (Army, captain) and below. As students can come from any combat or combat support branch of the service, female soldiers are permitted to attend, but priority is given to engineering, cavalry, and infantry soldiers.  The course is divided into two Phases

PHASE I
The first 14 days cover general subjects including medical, land navigation, demolitions, air and water operations, mountaineering,  landmines and weapons used by enemy forces

PHASE II
The remaining 14 days cover basic patrolling techniques and battle drills that emphasize leadership. The subjects include urban operations, breaching, patrol organization and movement, and reconnaissance, raid and ambush tactics. It concludes with a three-day situation training exercise, and five-day field training exercise. These missions are a 60/40 mix of engineer and infantry missions. Each training event is graded and scored. To graduate, a sapper must earn 700 out of 1000 points in order to wear the sapper tab.

All of our military service members deserve our respect and gratitude. Events such as this demonstrate just how well-trained and dedicated they really are.