Remember by Roger Raepple

Remember (Brilliant Press, 76 pp. $45) by the photographer Roger Raepple is a vivid collection of photography and verse honoring those who paid the ultimate price while serving in our nation’s military. It’s a beautifully produced coffee-table book with 32 photo plates, some on extended fold-out pages. Most are accompanied by a few lines of prose or poetry. Most of the images are of grave markers, war monuments, and statuary. Raepple served in the U.S. Army in the mid-1960s.

On one page there’s the line from Frederic Weatherly’s “Danny Boy” that reads, “I shall sleep in peace.” It begs to be compared to Mary Elizabeth Frye’s poem a few pages before, “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,” with its famous lines:

I am not there I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle Autumn rain.

Accompanying a photograph of the Faces of War Memorial in Roswell, Georgia, are these lines from a poem by Michael O’Donnell:

I kicked up the stones

Along the alley way behind the house

And tapped a stick I found

To no familiar rhyme …

I was not going to think about you …

You were all I thought about. …

Alongside a truly stunning photo of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., Raepple writes, “If one place can evoke every emotion, this place can: anguish, contempt, remorse, bitterness, hatred, love, betrayal, fondness, warmth, forgiveness.”

A nice surprise for me was the inclusion of the complete lyrics of the song “Boxes” by my good friend, the Texas singer-songwriter Sam Baker. In “Boxes” Baker writes that among the keepsakes a woman has held onto for many years—photographs, trophies, and drawings—is a letter informing her, “Your first lieutenant is not coming back.” The book also contains poems by Raepple, Morgan Ray, Josephine Pino, and others.

Among the photographs are Raepple’s images of the “Three Servicemen” statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. (below), the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial (aka the Iwo Jima Memorial) in Arlington, Virginia, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in D.C.

Facing the page with a photograph of the “Follow Me” statue at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Fort Benning is the famed World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon’s “Suicide in the Trenches,” with its blistering final stanza:

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march by,

Sneak home and pray you’ll never know

The hell where youth and laughter go.

A second poem by Michael O’Donnell, written a few months before he was killed in action in Vietnam, includes the following lines:

And in that time

When men decide and feel safe

To call the war insane,

Take one moment to embrace

Those gentle heroes

You left behind …

This book encourages—indeed, insists—on such remembrances. Remember would make a great gift. I hope this book gets picked up by libraries, and believe it would also fit well in waiting-room areas of offices dedicated to helping veterans and their families.

The book’s website is remember-vets.com

–Bill McCloud

Fallen: Never Forgotten by Ronny Ymbras and Matt Ymbras

Fallen Never Forgotten: Vietnam Memorials in the USA is an extensive compendium of information on state and local Vietnam Veterans memorials. First published in 2016 by Vietnam War veteran Ronny Ymbras and his son Matthew, the book is out in a new, autographed second edition (RY Airborne, 268 pp., $39.95).

For more info, including how to order a copy, go to the book’s website, fallenneverforgotten.com

 

Fallen, Never Forgotten by Ronny Ymbras, Matt Ymbras, and Eric Revelto

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Fallen: Never Forgotten: Vietnam Memorials in the USA (RU Airborne, 268 pp., $34.95) is a large-format book put together by Ronny Ymbras, Matt Ymbras, and Eric Rovelto that devotes one chapter to a Vietnam veterans memorial in each state.

“We sought to choose the state memorial, a memorial closer to people’s hearts, or a new memorial,” Ronny Ymbras, who served with the 101st Airborne Division in the Vietnam War, writes in the book’s Foreword.

Each state’s page contains photos of a memorial or monument, along with a brief history, and an alphabetical listing of the names of those from that state who died in the Vietnam War.

The authors include iconic state memorials such as the unique and powerful Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Frankfort, which contains a sundial that places a shadow on the name of each that state’s Vietnam War KIA on the anniversary of the death.  There’s also the eight-acre Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Oregon, also known as the “Garden of Solace,” located in an arboretum in Portland, which includes a 1,200-foot walking path surrounded by pine trees.

Not to mention the iconic Angel Fire memorial in Northern New Mexico and the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial and its Vietnam Era Museum & Educational Center in Holmdel.

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The “Garden of Solace” Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial

There also are lesser-known memorials, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Lasdon Park in Westchester County, New York. Using that memorial in the book, Ronny Ymbras says, “is personal for me. I was there for its dedication, carried the 101st chapter flag in the parade and honored three guys I went to school and played ball with. May they rest in peace, Pete Mitchell, Peter Bushey, and Jeff Dodge.

Altogether, this coffee-table book is a top-quality tribute to American service personnel –living and dead—who served in the Vietnam War.

For more info and to order, go to fallenneverforgotten.com

—Marc Leepson

More Than Names On A Wall by James McComb

Walking back from a visit to the Bucks County Vietnam War Memorial wall in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, which contains the names of the 136 county residents who died in Vietnam, James McComb felt unfulfilled. While he was proud that his county’s largest war memorial was dedicated to those who died in the Vietnam War, McComb felt that more than a wall containing faceless names was needed to honor the sacrifice of those veterans.

Acting on this belief, McComb–a member of VVA Chapter 210 in Doylestown—began work on a book that serves as both an individual and a collective memorial to all 136 individuals listed on the wall. More Than Names On A Wall: Remembering Bucks County’s Veterans Who Lost Their lives Serving our Country during the Vietnam War (CreateSpace, 258 pp., $12.95, paper) is McComb’s end product.

After a brief preface explaining his inspiration for the book, McComb, who served in Vietnam as a radio operator assigned to the 1st Marine Air Wing west of Khe Sanh, dedicates one to two personal pages to each fallen serviceman, organized alphabetically according to the year in which he died. Using mostly information he obtained from the Internet, McComb provides a photo and biographical information, including rank, circumstances of death, and location of service. He also includes a brief (one- or two-paragraph) biography of each individual.

Thanks to McComb’s dedicated work, Bucks County’s Vietnam War dead are no longer just names on a wall. Rather, they are real people with faces, families, lives, and individual stories. As McComb points out in his preface, the fallen veterans “deserve to be known as more than inscriptions on a wall.”

—Dale Sprusansky