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

51cjho0ikbl-_sx327_bo1204203200_

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.

91djh1vc9ml-_ux250_

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

 

 

 

From Nam to Normal by Richard A. Price

From Nam to Normal: Battle of the Demons (CreateSpace, 182 pp., $8.99, paper) by VVA member Richard A. Price is a passionate, practical, well-organized handbook for Vietnam veterans dealing with PTSD.

Price makes no claims to be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. But in 170 pages he describes a lifetime’s worth of suffering with PTSD. He also includes a variety of useful techniques to help veterans back to normal. But he warns the reader: “Don’t kid yourself; the journey isn’t easy. But what has ever been easy for the Vietnam veteran?”

Richard Price spent many years teaching secondary school and college-level courses at Ohio State and Kent State Universities. His true passion surfaced when he began dealing with his fellow Vietnam War veterans and their PTSD. He credits Vietnam Veterans of America with providing him much-needed support in his work with Vietnam veterans.

In his book Price uses an impressive style in setting out his experiences and journey to normalcy. Each of the twelve chapters compares an aspect of the battlefield with a similar situation back home. The chapter titles include “The Firefight: My Symptoms Surface,” “A Friend in the Foxhole: The Value of a Buddy,”  “Search and Destroy: Attacking PTSD.”

Price spent two tours in Vietnam as a Seabee. He arrived on the first day of the Tet Offensive in 1968 and led a machine gun squad defending the Gia Le perimeter. Following Tet, he began working on Seabee construction projects. At the end of his tour Price flew home on a cargo plane that turned out to be a full of caskets.

“No one can expect a veteran returning from combat to be the same person he was before,” he writes. “That was expected of us, and for that matter, we somehow had that expectation of ourselves.” Price compares his home-front reception to an ambush that destroyed his dreams, and also set the stage for his PTSD demons.

Price explains that veterans often are unaware that their personal reactions often stem from wartime experiences, and that damage can be done to familial relationships as well is to self and property. The results often lead to escape through alcohol and drugs. Self-awareness and wartime buddies can help a veteran navigate this minefield on the road to recovery.

“The majority of people think of intervention as a positive thing,” he writes. “They couldn’t be more wrong.” This statement can be confusing, but Price makes it clear that it is necessary to be very selective in using intervention methods. Interventions in his own life have helped him overcome depression, but Price says that he still deals with depression and is always on the lookout for the triggers that send him down that road.

The chapter titled “Operation Normal II: My Continued Quest for Normal” is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Price tells of his love and pride for his family, but he also writes about how his PTSD hurt his family. He admits that instead of working to repair and strengthen his relationship with his wife, he immersed himself in work, a common symptom of PTSD.

In “Cans on the Wire: Triggers and Depression” Price explains “triggers” and their role in PTSD. He notes that there are many kinds of triggers, and that can make the identification of PTSD difficult. To a Vietnam veteran, dreams, the comments of a friend, or even a path through a forest can be triggers that bring on the fight-or-flight syndrome.

Nam to Normal discusses the role of movies in creating the image of a returning soldier. World War II movies produced heroes on the screen, while Vietnam War movies typically created a very different kind of image.

Price says that in writing this book he often suffered writer’s block. Anyone who reads his book will appreciate that he worked through the blocks. His book will help many war veterans on the long march to normalcy for a long time.

—Joseph Reitz

The Trauma Tool Kit by Susan Pease Banitt

Scores of books have been written about post-traumatic stress disorder—what it is and how to deal with it. The latest is The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out (Quest Books, 305 pp., $18.95, paper) by Susan Pease Banitt, a psychotherapist who has been seeing patients for more than three decades and who also is a certified teacher of hatha yoga.

Banitt points out in her book that when she was in her forties she “was shaken to the core with an eruption of PTSD from the bowels of my being.” The author does not dwell on the details of her own case of PTSD in the book. But she now recommends spiritual and holistic modialities such as acupuncture and naturopathic treatment for her patients with PTSD.

Those and many other treatments are part of the “trauma tool kit” that Banitt explores in her book. The author does not directly address PTSD in veterans of the Vietnam War or any other conflict. However, veterans with PTSD should be able to use the ideas, information, and practices Banitt includes in her “tool kit.”

The author’s website is www.insightouthealing.com

Battle for Veterans’ Benefits by K. David Monahan and Alex Connolly

Battle for Veterans’ Benefits; Taking on the VA (Xlibris, 148 pp., $22.99, hardcover; $15.99, paper) by K. David Monahan and Alex Connolly is organized into four parts, each of which is divided into many short, clearly written sections with titles such as “Who’s Entitled to VA Benefits,” “What you need to File a VA Claim,” and “Who is Eligible for Death Pension.”

The authors are both Air Force veterans who receive disability compensation and who have personal experience with everything they write about. They also worked as veterans service reps at the VA adjudicating claims.

There is no index, so finding some subjects such as “widows” isn’t easy. Scanning the detailed table of contents helps, but it doesn’t contain the word “widows.” I did find the phrase “Agent Orange” in the table of contents, and because I have done a lot of research on that subject, I read that section with particular care.

The authors do a good job of delineating what veterans should do to file a claim for a disease they have that is presumptively related to AO. That section is detailed, extensive, and useful.

There is a lot of other useful information in this book, and mostly it is communicated in accessible language. The nature of the book dictates that some government jargon must be used, but there is no way around that. There are a lot of muddy little black and white photos in the book, which just seem to take up valuable space.

I recommend the book for those who wish to do battle with the VA for benefits they think they are due. For more info, go to the book’s website, http://battleforveteransbenefits.com/index.htm

—David Willson