Dear Allyanna by Michael Lee Lanning

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After receiving a diagnosis of terminal kidney cancer, Michael Lee Lanning decided he still had a mind full of knowledge that he wanted to share. At the time, he had written twenty-five non-fiction books on the Vietnam War, other aspects of military history, sports, and health. Many were big sellers.

As a result of his response to the diagnosis, Lee Lanning has written Dear Allyanna: An Old Soldier’s Last Letter to His Granddaughter (Hardy Publishing, 238 pp., $18.95, paper).

The book relates ideas and experiences he had yet to share with his offspring. Granddaughter Allyanna became the vehicle for transmitting information that alphabetically ranges from “Abortion” to “Zen.”

The length of each discussion stretches from one sentence to fourteen pages. Lanning has fun with lists such as “Things That I Like” followed by “Things That Irritate Me,” and “Things I Am Pretty Sure Of,” followed by “Things I Still Have Questions About.”

Growing up on an isolated West Texas ranch and serving in the U.S. Army provide background for much of his advice. During 1969-70, he led a 199th Light Infantry Brigade platoon and then a company in the Vietnam War, eventually retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1988. He blends first-hand accounts of the fury of firefights and of 2008 Hurricane Ike with topics such as “Books I Didn’t Write,” “Psychotherapy,” and “Race Relations.”

He favors liberal-leaning values and dismisses undeserved recognition of authority such as a bow or curtsy to royalty based only on birthright. At the same time, he scatters tidbits of conservative guidance. At heart, Lee Lanning is a self-made realist who evaluates his seventy-year-plus journey through life to cull the pros and cons for lessons that simplify entry into adulthood.

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Col. Lanning

His target audience is teenagers. Occasionally his advice makes me recall Amy Vanderbilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette, which is a good thing because Dear Allyanna sets a standard of behavior higher than normally expected of young adults.

It does so, however, without mentioning finger bowls or silver place settings. Lanning’s book might provide the exact guidance that our grand-kids need.

Practicing a regimen of “meds and treatments that nearly killed [him] before the disease could do so,” and fortified by a diet that defies imagination, he beat cancer and is alive today.

Dear Allyanna nicely wraps up Lee Lanning’s 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.

Lanning’s website is michaelleelanning.com

—Henry Zeybel

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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

Tours of Duty Edited by Michael Lee Lanning

Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Michael Lee Lanning is one of the most prolific Vietnam veteran writers. Many of his twenty-one military-themed nonfiction books deal with the Vietnam War.

That includes the well-received memoirs he wrote about his tour of duty in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, The Only War We Had: A Platoon Leader’s Journal of Vietnam (1987) and Vietnam 1969-1970: A Company Commander’s Journal (1988), as well as Inside the LRRPs: Rangers in Vietnam (1988), Inside the VC and NVA: The Real Story of North Vietnam’s Armed Forces (1992), and Inside the Crosshairs: Snipers in Vietnam (1998). He also wrote a comprehensive guide to Vietnam War films called Vietnam at the Movies (1994).

 

Lee Lanning

Lanning’s latest book is Tours of Duty: Vietnam War Stories (Stackpole, 288 pp., $18.95, paper), a collection of tales from some forty other Vietnam War veterans that Lanning collected and edited.

Virtually all are told by men who served combat-heavy tours of duty. Don’t therefore look between these covers for the voices of cooks, clerks, truck drivers, or other support personnel. Many of the tale tellers—like Lanning—served with the 199th.

Lanning chose not to put names with these first-person stories. But, he says, he can “personally testify to the veracity of some because ‘I was there.’ Others were related to me over the years by soldiers whom I hold in high regard. Names have been left out to protect both the guilty and innocent.”

The author’s website is www.michaelleelanning.com

—Marc Leepson