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My Books

This is the post excerpt.

I have been writing since I was six years old. I now have five novels and seventeen stories in print. Adelaide Books in New York published my latest novel, Secretocracy, in March 2020. It will bring out my newest collection of short stories, Coming to Terms, in July 2020

My first published book, Friendly Casualties, was a novel in short stories derived from experiences in the thirteen years I trundled between the U.S. and Vietnam to provide signals intelligence support to U.S. Army and Marine combat units fighting in South Vietnam. The first half of the book is a series of short stories in which characters from one story reappear in another. The second half is a novella that draws together all the preceding tales.

No-Accounts came from my years of caring for AIDS patients. It tells the story of a straight man caring for a gay man dying of AIDS. I got into helping men with AIDS to help me cope with the horrors of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. When I was with my patients, men suffering more than I was, my unbearable memories went dormant.

Next came The Trion Syndrome. It begins with the Greek Trion legend about a demigod so brutal to the vanquished that the gods sent the Eucharides, three female monsters, to drown him. The protagonist, Dave Bell, is haunted by half-remembered visions of the war in Vietnam. At his lowest point, he recalls that he killed a child. Dave considers suicide, but a young man appears and helps him. It is his illegitimate son, a child he had tried to kill through abortion, who now helps him find his way home.

Last of the Annamese was published in March 2017. I used this novel to confront my memories of the fall of Saigon from which I escaped under fire. Once again, the image of the boy-child recurs, as the protagonist, Chuck Griffin, a retired Marine, grieves over the loss of his son, killed in combat in Vietnam. He returns to Vietnam as a civilian intelligence analyst after the withdrawal of U.S. troops and encounters Vietnamese boys whom he tries to save during the conflagration.

Secretocracy, published in March 2020, tells the story of an federal intelligence budgeteer persecuted by the Trump administration because he refuses to approve finds for an illegal operation. Coming to Terms, due out in July 2020, is a new collection of short stories about people trying to work through the downturns in their lives.

 

Conversation

A couple of days ago, a man who follows my blog asked to come to my home for a conversation. I was impressed that a someone who reads what I write day to day wanted to meet me face to face.

When he arrived, I greeted him masked. He was masked, too. For the next two hours we talked, sitting six feet from one another.

Several aspects of our interchange impressed me. He is a well-educated, well-read man who has followed my blog posts. He had researched my history. As a result, he knew a great deal about me. I knew nothing about him until he informed me. I learned that he is young enough to be my son, old enough to have adult children. He is fascinated by history and recalls facts and figures far beyond my ken.

Because he knew so much about me, I listened more than I talked. Among other things, he expressed confidence that younger folks—the age of his adult children—are savvy enough to defeat Trump in November. Neither of us know whether the election will be close or a landslide in favor of Biden, but we’re both sure Trump will be defeated. He’s more confident than I am that Trump will be removed by force if need be.

What impressed me the most about our conversation was that I learned from listening to him. He is a man wise beyond his years. And I am the beneficiary.

A New Wave

Reports in the media indicate that a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic is about to hit us. With the weather cooling and more people gathering indoors, conditions favoring more and more transmissions are growing. In the U.S., we’re approaching nine million infections, and we’ll soon have suffered 230,000 deaths.

And the Trump administration still has done nothing to mitigate the pandemic. Trump dismissed it early, then said it would disappear, and now—as the figures grow worse daily—says things are getting better. Trump continues to hold rallies with people jammed together, mostly not wearing masks, as if taunting the virus and daring it to attack.

One of my associates died from covid-19. Another is sick with it. For seven months, I have isolated myself from all human contact because, as an older man with a history of lung cancer, I’m a prime target for the disease, and it would likely prove fatal to me. Now it looks like my isolation will last until next summer, thanks to the failure of the Trump administration to take even one step to combat the disease.

I fault the Trump administration for many crimes against the American people, but this is the worst: failure to address a pandemic that has sickened over eight million of us and killed almost 230,000.

Can we correct this national failure by voting against Trump in November?

Leadership

I’ve written several times in this blog about the need for leadership versus management in just about any endeavor you can think of. I was lucky to have learned early in my career that, in terms of results or outcomes, leadership works and management mostly doesn’t. Leadership encourages followers to be the best that they can be, to achieve beyond expectations. Management strives to keep them under control and avoid rebellious behavior. Management is for things; leadership is for people.

While fulfilling my military obligation right out of college, I was fortunate to work under commanders who led, challenging me to use all my capabilities to accomplish goals far beyond the norm. As soon as I had subordinates, I followed suit and urged my people to outdo themselves. I was so successful that I was promoted rapidly and moved up the chain of command until I reached the upper executive ranks.

Over the years, I came to appreciate that the U.S. military, especially the Marines, understood very well that leadership works and management doesn’t. I worked constantly with the military all during the Vietnam years and relied on leadership to accomplish my goals. It never failed me.

So why, I have to ask, do we Americans so often fail to lead and try instead to manage?

I don’t know the answer to my question, but I have some indications. We Americans pride ourselves on our rugged individualism. We celebrate our one-by-one personal achievements rather than what we accomplish as a team or group. That makes us unlike foreign cultures I have known which emphasize teamwork and goals reached only by everyone working together.

It’s long since time that we matured as a nation learned to value leadership and teamwork and put aside our emphasis on controlling people. Let’s learn to be the best that we can be.

Hair. Again.

Some weeks ago, I wrote here about my hair and how long it’s getting. Now it’s worse. I haven’t been to a barber since February. I’m able to trim my beard, mustache, and sideburns, but the hair on the back of my head just keeps getting longer. It’s long enough now that I could, if I wanted to, gather it into an unbraided pigtail and secure it with a rubber band—a topknot but on the back of my head. Or maybe a male ponytail.

I am being more careful than most during the pandemic because I would be so vulnerable if I were infected with covid-19—an older man with a history of lung cancer. So, since March, I’ve avoided contact with other human beings and animals. It hasn’t been too bad because I’m a loner by nature, like many writers. That said, I feel a hankering for company, especially women. Meanwhile, my hair keeps growing. And growing. And growing.

I’ve not had a haircut for the better part of a year and won’t until it’s safe to congregate. That could be next summer or even longer. By then, I suppose, my hair will be down to my shoulders.

I wonder if I ought to see about giving myself a permanent.

Time to Vote

I call upon all readers of this blog to vote in this year’s national election. It is the most crucial election in our lifetime. The fate of our nation is literally at stake.

As Americans, we are privileged to be expected to govern ourselves. We are given the gift of self-determination. We are blessed with the right to choose.

But with privilege comes obligation. It is our duty to vote and choose our leaders. If we fail to fulfill our calling and don’t act to select our government, we invite authoritarians to exploit us.

So I urgently call upon all my readers: vote. Don’t fail. Your country depends on you.

My Correspondent

As I have reported before in this blog, I communicate regularly with a man in prison. We’ve been exchanging letters for over three years. We got started when he read one of my books and wrote to me. We’ve been corresponding regularly ever since.

What this man and I have in common is Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). We both survived combat in Vietnam. We both marvel at how few Americans have any notion at all of what combat is and what damage it can inflict on the human psyche.

Living through combat darkens the soul. The unfading memories of fellow combatants killed in unspeakable ways leave their mark forever. We are damaged men.

But we have each other. Each of us knows that there is at least one other man alive in the world today who knows what it’s like to face death on the battlefield.

We are not alone.

Trump Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

Shocked by the news that someone had proposed to give the Nobel Peace Prize to Donald Trump, I researched the story. It turns out that Trump has been nominated not once but three times. His first nomination came from a Norwegian Parliament member for his role in the United Arab Emirates-Israel peace deal. Next, a Swedish Parliament member nominated Trump again after he helped secure a deal for normalized economic relations between Serbia and Kosovo. The third nomination came in September from a group of Australian law professors—I couldn’t determine for what.

 I was relieved to learn that no Americans, not even the Republicans, had been involved in any of the nominations. Surely no sane American would believe that Trump, clearly the worst president in our history, would be deserving of a prize for the performance of his duty. The American press is reporting, instead, that Trump will be indicted for multiple crimes once he is no longer protected by the mantle of the presidency.

Things may get worse if Trump becomes more desperate as his forthcoming defeat in the November election appears inevitable. He continues to encourage white supremacist groups to intimidate voters and may refuse to depart the White House. We could be facing the first attempted coup d’etat in American history.

Trumpery

While I was preparing today’s post on the Donald J. Trump State Park in New York, one of my favorite online features, called Word-a-Day, issued an item on the word “trumpery.” Merriam-Webster defines the word as meaning “worthless nonsense.” The online text didn’t mention President Trump. It didn’t need to. Trump’s public statements of the past few days attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci and playing down the danger of covid-19 fit the definition of “trumpery” so well that no comment was needed.

Rename the Donald J. Trump State Park

According to Wikipedia, “Donald J. Trump State Park is a 436-acre state park located within the towns of Yorktown and Putnam Valley in Westchester County and Putnam County, New York. The park consists of undeveloped property that was donated to New York State in 2006 by developer and future President Donald J. Trump.”

A movement is underway to rename the park for deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I’ve signed several petitions to that effect. Then I decided to learn more about the park. Here’s what I uncovered:

In 2006, Trump donated the undeveloped land to New York state, claiming its worth was $100m. But in 2016, Trump’s campaign stated its value as $26.1m in his list of charitable contributions.

The newspaper The Guardian reports that the park is not a park at all. It’s “two tracts of muddy, overgrown land between New York’s Putnam and Westchester counties that Trump purchased in 1998 for $2.75m hoping to build a golf course. Neighborhood officials halted the plan, citing environmental concerns, and the land was abandoned.” The area’s “parking lot” is “an empty gravel patch with a noticeboard that warns visitors to beware of ticks. There are no restrooms, trash cans, or places to sit. The remainder is basically bramble bushes and an empty field with bits of trash.”

Efforts to rename the park have failed. Trump required in the donation contract awarding the land to New York state that the parklands would bear Trump’s name prominently displayed.

So chances are that Trump could successfully block efforts to rename the park after Ginsburg. That’s all well and good. Leave Trump’s name on the mud pit. Find a beautiful and stately park to name after one of the greatest justices ever to serve on the Supreme Court.

And maybe, after Trump is defeated in his bid for re-election next month, we can find a way to banish his name from our parks.

Marines Capitalized (2)

I first met Al in Vietnam in the early 1960s when he was a captain. Over the years I kept running into him on the battlefields of Vietnam. He became something of a myth among the Marines for excellence in combat, his devotion to the corps, and his determination to accomplish his mission and look out for the wellbeing of the troops under his command. He was known for never asking his subordinates to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.

And it was Al and his Marines who saved my life as Saigon fell in April 1975. By that time, Al was a colonel. He and his troops were aboard ships of the 7th Fleet cruising out of sight of land in the South China Sea. I had succeeded in evacuating all but a handful of my 43 guys and their families, but to do that, I had to stay in Saigon until the end. Al and his Marines rescued the last of my men as the North Vietnamese laid siege to Saigon. Then, on the night of 29 April, after all my people were safely out and the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of Saigon, Al got me aboard a Marine helicopter which took me to the Oklahoma City, the flagship of the 7th Fleet. I flew out of Saigon under fire.

Al continued to stay in touch with me after he became a general. Over the years following the fall of Vietnam, he and I appeared together to tell our story at conferences and gatherings.

I don’t call him Al anymore. That stopped the day he was named Commandant of the Marine Corps. Now I call him “sir.” I have never met a Marine who doesn’t know who Al Gray is. He is one their heroes.

So I have a long history working with Marines. I had great admiration for them on the battlefield. And thanks to the Marines, I am alive today. Out of respect for the corps, its members, and General Al Gray, I always capitalize “Marine.”