The Veterans Cemeteries of Texas by Michael Lee Lanning

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In a crisp and clear style Michael Lee Lanning uses  his new book, The Veterans Cemeteries of Texas (Texas A&M University, 178 pp.; $29.95, hardcover), to spread the word about what you need to know about those facilities. What applies to Texas’s  state and national veterans cemeteries applies to the those in the rest of the states—or it should. The book itself is a compact, user-friendly piece of perfect design and printing.

The introduction explains how burial grounds for veterans are chosen and developed. Lanning goes on to set out the official procedures for interment and practices for continued honoring of the deceased.

The book’s core devotes far more space to six VA-run National cemeteries in Texas than it gives to the four Texas State veterans cemeteries. In Texas, National cemeteries are in the heart of the vast state at distances inconvenient to reach for many of its citizens.

“Over the years,” Lanning says, “the VA has sought to provide sufficient cemeteries across the United States so that there is one within seventy-five miles of every American veteran.”

In 2001, in response to the VA’s goal to provide “special resting places, close to home, where friends, family and fellow Texans can honor Texas veterans,” a statewide election approved a bond for construction of state cemeteries at Killeen, Mission, Abilene, and Corpus Christi. They opened between 2006 and 2010.

National facilities in Texas date back to 1867. They are located in Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio (which has two), Houston, and Kerrville.

In a cemetery-by-cemetery breakdown, Lanning explains the origins, history, and present condition of each one. With short accounts of their lives, he cites notable people buried at each site, emphasizing Medal of Honor recipients. Many of them are native Texans. These accounts include unusual tales about rioters, prisoners of war, and other seemingly undeserving men buried in the cemeteries.

Each cemetery has its own character. San Antonio National Cemetery, for example, has no more space for burials because the city surrounded it. Consequently, it accepts only cremated remains. Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery is the only one in Texas with access to a horse-drawn caisson for funerals of sergeants major and officers. I have walked through that cemetery and attest to the dignity of the facility and its caretakers. Kerrville National Cemetery, the smallest in Texas, operated only from 1923-57 and now is closed for future interments.

Appendices provide rules governing eligibility for burial in National and State cemeteries; emblems of belief for headstones; and floral arrangements. A directory of Texas sites is also included.

Lanning snapped a wealth of photographs for the book. Printed on glossy paper, most of the images reflect the serenity and beauty of the landscapes.

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Michael Lee Lanning

Even for non-Texans, The Veterans Cemeteries of Texas should teach need-to-know knowledge not found elsewhere.

Lee Lanning has written more than twenty military history books, including his two Vietnam War memoirs, The Only War We Had: A Platoon Leader’s Journal of Vietnam, and Vietnam 1969-1970: A Company Commander’s Journal.

A retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, he served as a 199th Light Infantry Brigade platoon leader and company commander in the Vietnam War.

His website is michaelleelanning.com

—Henry Zeybel

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A Different look at the Business World by Dennis Machala

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The title—A Different Look at the Business World—describes well what Dennis Machala focuses on in this book—the world of business that differs from what is shown in college business management books.  Dennis Machala enlisted in the Army after high school and served in the Vietnam War. After his service, Machala worked for a variety of companies before retiring at age 62.

The book (Page Publishing, 225 pp., $14.95, paper) is presented in an easy-to-read format and gives advice, states opinions, and tells stories based on Machala’s business experiences. I agreed with Machala’s comments about several topics, including:

Performance Appraisals: “Not many bosses like to prepare performance appraisals, and most employees do not enjoy getting them, two strikes against the process from the get-go.”

Mass Emails: “If numerous people are on the send list, ask yourself if you would be better off arranging a conference call or a meeting, more stuff gets done.”

Employee Suggestions: “The bigger the company, the more employees you have that may have a possible solution to an issue, if you ask them.”

Meetings: “The more individuals you have, they will last a lot longer.”

A great deal of the book offers obvious comments that are neither new nor revolutionary.  Some examples: “Keep it Simple,” “Value System (the Golden Rule),” “bosses versus leaders,” and “team player.” The author also offers many opinions regarding minimum wage, tax codes, and government regulations, which shows an obvious pro-business bias.

Overall, I would recommend this as a quick read if you are interested in the business world.

The author’s website is dennismachala.com

—Mark S. Miller

Associate Professor of Management and Marketing, Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin

The Miracle Workers of South Boulder Road by Bob Fischer and Grady Birdsong

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“It looks a lot like a textbook,” my wife Jan said while thumbing through The Miracle Workers of South Boulder Road: Healing the Signature Wounds of War (Bird Quill, 199 pp. $19.95, paper; $4.99, Kindle) by Bob Fischer and Grady Birdsong.

“Maybe,” I told her, “but it’s filled with information that touches your heart.”

The book pays tribute to a treatment program run by the Rocky Mountain Hyperbaric Institute in Boulder, Colorado. The book’s most significant picture is of a gray brain with a Purple Heart medal affixed to it because hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) helps war veterans with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

As my wife noted, the book contains charts and photographs, almost like a textbook. It also has “Exhibits” that illustrate the need for—and effectiveness of—HBOT.

Fischer and Birdsong, Marine Corps Vietnam War veterans, bring the text alive by describing the people who run the program and those who have benefited from using it their own words. The miracle-working heroes of the story are Ryan Fullmer, Eddie Gomez, Dr. Julie Stapleton, Pepe Ramirez, and their team.

Both Fullmer and Gomez suffered physical problems that HBOT cured, which motivated them to join forces and establish a clinic to perform feats similar to those that saved their lives. The authors helped find funding for starting a non-profit clinic. The clinic has treated hundreds of veterans.

Stapleton, a Certified Hyperbaric Physician, joined the group in 2007 to fulfill government regulations. She champions the use of HBOT to treat those with PTSD, although neither the Department of Defense nor the FDA endorses the concept. The VA recently announced that it would offer HBOT for PTSD patients.

Ramirez, a retired Marine Sergeant Major, specializes in EMDR (Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing) psychotherapy and physical exercise that complements HBOT. He served three tours in Iraq.

Fundamentally, HBOT replaces the unsatisfactory array of drugs (and even career-ending brain surgery) routinely provided by VA hospitals as treatment for TBI and PTSD. Autobiographies of veterans who found renewed life through HBOT testify to its success.

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As treatment for combat injuries, HBOT is a relatively new form of medicine. I knew nothing about it prior to reading The Miracle Workers of South Boulder Road. As I said earlier, the book touches a reader’s heart. It is written by and about people who possess faith and perseverance in their cause.

The authors walk the reader through HBOT from start to finish and explain every step along the way. I doubt that you can find a better source to begin your education in this area.

Grady Birdsong’s web site is gradytbirdsong.com

—Henry Zeybel

Arlington by James Gindlesperger

James Gindlespperger’s Arlington: A Color Guide to America’s Most Famous Cemetery (John F. Bair, 242 pp., $24.95, paper) is a handsomely produced book built around gravestone photos and information on 250 veterans buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The book includes info on otherwise unsung veterans–as well as many who achieved renown for their military or civilian exploits.

The latter group includes Joe Louis, Francis Gary Powers of U-2 fame, Audie Murphy, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, the actor Lee Marvin, and Ira Hayes, the Marine who is immortalized on the Iwo Jima statue.

The relatively few Vietnam veterans include Medal of Honor recipients Michael Novosel and John Levitow, former POW James “Nick” Rowe, and Dieter Dengler.

The book also contains a brief history of the cemetery and imaps and navigating instructions, including grave sites’ GPS coordinates.

—Marc Leepson

The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street by Ken Marlin

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The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street: 11 Key Principles from Battlefield to Boardroom (St. Martin’s Press, 256 pp, $26.99) is a meticulously interweaving of basic Marine Corps strategies with business activities on Wall Street. The introduction, which at first seemed a bit lengthy, provided evidence of the merits of author Ken Marlin’s concepts. In fact, the Preface and Introduction alone could arguably be worth the price of the book.

Marlin, an investment banker, will never be accused of not being a proud Marine. His admiration and respect for the Corps come charging through loudly and clearly. His belief that “once a Marine always a Marine” is the foundation upon which he has built his business career.

Unlike many books based on Vietnam War experiences, in this one Marlin—who served as a Marine from 1970-81—jumps right into the business world on Wall Street. In a unique manner, he describes succeeding in the corporate world by incorporating the basic principles he learned in the Marine Corps.

This reviewer claims no great knowledge of the workings of Wall Street, but after reading the book, I felt like I had gained a better understanding of the complexity of daily activities at the high levels of business. I began to understand how some of Marlin’s Marine principles were used and why they were effective.

The validity of the old saying “It’s hard to argue with success” is well substantiated chapter after chapter. I found that the chapter titles themselves clarified Marlin’s application of the military into business. “Take the Long View,” “Know the Enemy,” “Know Yourself,” “Negotiate from the High Ground.”

Marlin also uses events to show how the principles have worked—or not—in  other wars, including in the Civil War and the Korean War. He served as a senior Marine officer on the USS Tripoli in the early 1970s, and uses every opportunity to describe how problems were solved through Marine ingenuity.

Quick fixes of problems often lead to additional problems in the future. In his chapter “Take the Long View” Marlin uses the battle of Khe Sahn to illustrate what can happen when long-term objectives are unclear and winning is all that matters.

“There has to be more to justifying the cost of a battle or a war than whether or not we won,” he writes.

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Ken Marlin

In the “Negotiate from the High Ground” chapter Marlin deals with business and corporate relationships on Wall Street, as well as international diplomacy, politics, and personal relationships. I found this chapter to be a kind of spiritual reading in which Marlin extrapolates the rules of conduct for the success of any group endeavor.

The author closes his book with these words: “I have seen that those that do apply these principles with honor, courage, competence, commitment and loyalty have a much higher likelihood of successfully achieving their long-term strategic objectives – and along the way they have less drama and feel good about how they got there too. I like that. It’s the Marine Corps Way.”

The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street is a powerful book for the business world and for anyone who desires to better his or her life and relationships.

—Joseph Reitz

Retreat from Cao Bang by Richard Baker

Richard Baker’s Retreat From Cao Bang: A Short History and Guide for Tourists (Ink and Lens, 92. pp., $8.50, paper; $2.99, Kindle) is just what the title and subtitle claim: a short—pithy, even—guidebook. Baker, who served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Band, packs a lot of information into fewer than a hundred pages. There are many photographs in this small book, and they give a good sense of the history of Cao Bang in far northern Vietnam, where the Viet Minh defeated the French in a large battle in 1950.

Baker’s information is detailed and helpful. For instance, when he tells the reader about a war memorial worth visiting, he says, “Do not arrive between noon and 2 pm. Like everything in Viet Nam, the entire country shuts down at this time causing great frustration to tourists who are most active during these hours. Not even a bottle of water can be bought.”

If you are a collector of hand-woven fish traps, this book tells you where such an item can be obtained. Baker also offers details on a park where you can see twenty species of bats and forty species of reptiles. I pictured those beasts peeking out of my boots.

Baker cautions the reader that few relics of the French and Viet Minh era remain visible along any route. This materiel has long since been melted down “for more useful purposes even as the bomb craters from the American war have been ploughed under.”

The point is made more than once to not drink the water. One of the reasons the French lost their war in Indochina, he says, was due to thirst that drove them to drink the water, which caused dysentery and other stomach and intestinal ailments. “Viet Nam is flooded with water, none of it potable,” Baker tells us.

The racism of the French that helped lead to their defeat is discussed; it reminded me of my time in Vietnam. “They never imagined the Viet Minh were capable of hauling guns through the jungle and into the hills,” he writes of the French, “so they had not prepared for such an attack.”  We did not learn from the failures of the French.

NVA Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap (pointing) following the Battle of Cao  Bang in 1950

The French wanted “set-piece battles” from the Viet Minh, who failed to oblige them, preferring to fight using hit-and-run tactics. Many memoirs and novels I’ve read by Americans complain bitterly that the enemy would not stand and fight like men. But, as Baker shows, the Vietnamese communists knew that fighting a European-type war would result in disaster. So they avoided it.

There is lots to appreciate in this little book.  I highly recommend reading it before you embark on a tourist journey of battlefields in Vietnam.

The author’s website is www.asiaoncall.com

—David Willson

Tears of a Warrior by Janet J. Seahorn and E. Anthony Seahorn

Tears of a Warrior: A Family’s Story of Combat and Living with PTSD by Janet J. Seahorne and E. Anthony Seahorn (Team Pursuits, 225 pp., $20, paper) is an excellent book. Janet and Tony Seahorn are well qualified to speak on the subjects of combat and PTSD. Janet Seahorn holds a PhD in Human Development and Organizational Systems. Her husband received two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts for his service in the Vietnam War with the Army’s First Infantry Division.

One unique feature of this book is the number of poignant quotations about war and its high human cost.  Words from Wendell Berry, Elie Wiesel, and Erich (All Quiet on the Western Front) Remarque remind us that war has been horribly devastating through the ages.

Tony Seahorn makes the chilling statement that no one who has not been in actual combat can imagine its horror. His war experience began in Lai Khe, an abandoned rubber plantation on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. During his third night in this dangerous area, a 122 MM missile exploded above his tent.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” he writes. “A single fragment of shrapnel pierced my leg. Others were not as lucky. I will never forget the screams of horror in the night from my bunk mates. One lost an arm and both legs. The third one died. Welcome to Vietnam.”  The rest of his war story retains this intensity.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the photographs in the book tell their own story. The smoke, dust, and elephant grass are almost tangible. Beginning midway through the book, nature scenes are used as symbols of healing.

The Seahorns

The authors explain what PTSD is and how it manifests in a veteran’s daily life. This part of the book is easy to follow, and offers hope for veterans and families affected by PTSD.  As a follow-up to these valuable chapters, the authors include a diagnostic self-evaluation tool. While not intended to replace professional mental health care, the assessment is a great starting point.

Another evaluation instrument measures the effects of PTSD on relationships. Once again, the clear wording here provides a good starting point for saving or improving personal relationships. Anyone who reads through the evaluations will quickly realize that combat is not the only cause of PTSD. This reader would suggest that the authors publish the evaluations in pamphlet form to be placed in doctors’ offices, places of worship, and the like.

Janet and Tony Seahorne provide hope as only those who are working through pain can do. At the end of the book listings of VA and PTSD treatment centers throughout the United States.

Tears of a Warrior is a heart-mending book for veterans and others with PTSD—and their loved ones.

The authors’ website is www.tearsofawarrior.com

—Joseph Reitz