21 Months, 24 Days ISBN# 9781499745542, by Richard Udden review for VVAW by Daniel C. Lavery

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 Months, 24 Days  ISBN# 9781499745542, by Richard Udden takes the reader from his enlistment hoping to avoid becoming a grunt as an inexperienced eighteen year-old kid, to an articulate curious soldier with unbounded energy learning on the run. Expecting an easy two years working in a trade, he was assigned infantry and sent to Vietnam to fight in a jungle he accurately describes in such detail the reader is with him experiencing the toughest life imaginable. Most every chapter contains photographs that show details he writes passionately about.

Because of his certificate in Machine Shop Technology, he hoped the Army would use that skill to assign him away from infantry, instead they made him a grunt.  After advanced Infantry in Alabama they sent him to NCO school in Anniston, Alabama delaying his entry to Vietnam by five months! From Oakland Army Base in California, he boarded an airplane for Vietnam where he landed a day later.  Assigned to A Company, First Cav Division, he looked around and felt he had “dropped down through a rabbit hole, to where there was no escape.” He would be stuck here for a year at nearby Bien Hoa Air Force Airbase.

Standing guard was grueling as he had to do seven days a week at night, where trip flares were in place in case VC approached. Once they tripped a wire connected to one, the whole sky would light up. If there were others approaching he could send up a parachute flare to illuminate a larger area. Barbed wire weaved through the area to prevent crawling or running through. Many weapons existed to handle any size of force including claymore mines, machine guns and calling in jet aircraft.

His loneliness grew as he kept sending letters home but had not received any in return though he knew they were writing.  Much later he was able to receive their mail and gifts. Soon he was transferred to Fire Support Base called “Buttons”, twenty miles from Cambodian Border, with A Company known as “Ace High” where he received his own M16 rifle, helmet, and joined his fighting group of many experienced veterans.  He was in awe of their appearance and proud to be a part of such a unit. Immediately he earned a nickname “Boston Bean” and became emotionally attached.

His first combat assault was when Ace High moved by helicopter into the jungle for about two weeks where they would resupply soldiers in the field. Flying over a jungle with six Hueys at two thousand feet at one-hundred-twenty knots they moved in, landed, and dug a large hole to sleep near and store their machine guns, ammo, and equipment. Leeches, bees, and termites attacked where they hadn’t sprayed insect repellent. This was living hell. In two weeks they were back having completed that mission.

March 1970 Udden states Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and extension of the war, was to not to allow North Vietnam to take over South Vietnam because that would make us “look helpless and lose face in the world.” Many contend though, by extending the war, Nixon’s solution cost three million more Vietnamese and more than 20, 000 Americans.

Soon Udden was transferred to Firebase Candy for guard duty seven miles from the Cambodian border. He was informed the VC used Cambodia for rest, food, ammunition, and relaxation just as our troops used the VIP center. But artillery constantly bombarded the area “to soften up the VC and NVA soldiers just over the Cambodian border.” The noise bothered him so much he wanted a transfer to door gunner on a Huey. Soon they moved out of Candy to find action near the Cambodian border.

Udden was selected for Combat Leadership Training and even spoke with his family using a ham radio link that picked up his sagging spirits like “standing on the moon.”  Rainy season was far more annoying than the heat of the sun.

Everyone liked Steve from California who was married just before Vietnam meaning he was not to do combat. Their Colonel was replaced by another whom the men despised for his annoying new orders that exposed them to more danger. Udden later saw a VC up close while foolishly reading a book on patrol. Both dropped to the ground. He felt vulnerable and angry at himself.

In his first real firefight a few days later while in the jungle in single file, VC machine gun fire hit the group. Dave was shot in the stomach and a Huey took him away. Udden changed that day. It hurt him personally and he felt the need for revenge of his military family. He recalled Biblical support for eye for an eye retaliation in the Old Testament. Three more men were killed shortly afterwards. When a howitzer sent a shell into their midst three more were hurt badly.  He received a promotion to Specialist 4 and made Fire Team leader. A few months later Udden was promoted to sergeant.

While walking on patrol someone tripped a wire tied to a grenade in an artillery shell throwing him in the air with shrapnel in a thigh while Steve went down. No Medivac could reach there nor could volunteers despite hours trying.  Steve’s death deeply affected Udden.

After his Army life he married, had two children, and is a retired Control Systems Engineer.  He attended a reunion with many of his war pals, visited Steve’s family, and honored the dead at the Vietnam Wall. His life stands as a tribute to many who served in our most controversial war.

BIO: Dan graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, was carrier qualified, and earned NAO wings in Florida, and then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, turned peace activist, joined VVAW, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU, and private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to a crusader for justice. http://www.danielclavery.com (Author website)

 

 

 

 

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STRINGS: A LOVE STORY by Megan Edwards Reviewed by Daniel C. Lavery

               

STRINGS: A LOVE STORY by Megan Edwards  Reviewed by Daniel C. Lavery

I devoured my pre-publication copy as a classical music lover, and one who had an immediate connection with my wife the moment we met some refer to as a soul-mate. Megan Edward’s creative writing shown by spectacular descriptions and themes followed by a phenomenal ending makes a powerful combination. This review is but a skeleton of a much greater whole spanning the lives of two lovers in high school through many years of professional life, marriage, an ugly divorce and many vibrant surprises. STRINGS combines these with a unique classic musical instrument: "The Violin of Angels." We are soon greeted with an unusual love that survived extreme hurdles. Ted Spencer, a rich boy fell for a cleaning lady’s daughter, Olivia de la Vega. They played Lancelot and Guenevere in Camelot at a private school called Haviland with interference from his family who thought he deserved better, and much fickle fate thereafter. His mastery of the violin admitted him to Julliard but separated them when his parents interfered making her doubt his love as one of the many “strings” that obstructed their romance.

Olivia, a stunning beauty, and talented actress, introduced Ted to a different world of Celtic harps, a music festival, and hippies instead of the upper crust of society in which his parents sheltered him. This helped free him from the rigid control his parents and Classical music teachers stressed. At his home his Dad produced a sparkling diamond he had cut for Ted when he married someone acceptable. Soon Ted announced he wanted to marry Olivia and was going to Julliard, not Yale as his father wanted. Taking two cigarettes to lite, he handed one to Ted and informed him if he did, that was the last thing he would receive from him! His parents ensured Olivia would leave the scene by lying that Ted had a girlfriend he planned to marry and had a diamond ring for her. Naturally, she failed to show at a time Ted asked for her to join him at their secret shelter and disappeared.

           

(Megan Edwards)

 

As fate would have it, Olivia found work in Television and soon became a talented actress in Los Angeles, married, and named her daughter, “Theodora.” Meanwhile, Ted developed his violin expertise at Julliard, played at Carnegie Hall, and became Concertmaster with the Vienna Philharmonic. Fast-forward nineteen years when Olivia met Ted at a concert where he played Paganini’s “Last Caprice in A major,” his audition piece for Julliard, “he consigned to his heart along with memories of Olivia too melancholy to open.” Later when she visited during a contentious divorce, he bought a tiny porcelain ballerina that pirouetted before a mirror to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” as a present for her seven year-old daughter, Teddy.

 

After another hiatus, Ted met Sophie Reinhardt who helped his career take off while they lived together noting her “pale blonde hair swirled in soft unruly curls to her shoulders” while “her confident grey-blue eyes met his gaze.” Divorced five years, she was free and helped his career blossom during their extended affair. So successful his career became from their liaison, he bought an eight bedroom three story home with four fireplaces at Westchester County in Sleepy Hollow next to his Rockefeller neighbor!

 

Soon Olivia’s letter from Malibu re-connected them. Her husband of ten years had died leaving her the entire contents of his study which contained an extraordinary violin: Joseph Guarnius…1742 HIS! She asked him to appraise this gift since he had become a violin expert and exclaimed, “It wasn’t the amazing Violin that made his head damp, but Olivia returning to his life!” When she arrived he set up his fiber optic camera. The remainder of the process unfolds like a Sherlock Holmes mystery revealing a violin, The Merino Rose, worth millions. Ted generously made a bequest of this gift to Teddy for her future. The spectacular ending on a beach at sunset, waves crashing, the sand turning gold, and the wind blowing in Olivia’s hair, left this reader in tears with Ted’s final words: “You and I have a symphony to finish.” Readers will want to order a copy to fill in the amazing details of this extraordinary and unforgettable fictional romance novel.

 

BIO: Dan graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, was carrier qualified, and earned NAO wings in Florida, and then a ship to Vietnam with 300 marines. He resigned, turned peace activist, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU, and private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to a crusader for justice. http://www.danielclavery.com (Author website)

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The Light Where Shadows End : A Book Review by Daniel C. Lavery for VVAW,

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The Light Where Shadows End :  A Book Review by Daniel C. Lavery for VVAW, A War Hero’s Inspirational Journey Through Death, Recovery, and a World Without Home by r.g.  cantalupo (He uses no capitals in his name on the cover: New World Publishers, paper, 2015, 171 pages) A member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the author took part in the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigations where he confessed to committing crimes and atrocities. A Radio-Telephone Operator (RTO) with the 25th Infantry Division in 1968-69, Cantalupo (a nickname, actually H. H. Gregory), served in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star with a Combat V and three Purple Hearts. He describes himself as a war criminal who fired white phosphorus mortars and called in napalm bombs on civilians using weapons banned by the Geneva Convention. He returns to the scene of his action in 2015 “to survive my looming suicide… to Trang Bang where Nick Ut photographed the ‘Napalm Girl’. That was also where he ordered villagers to lie down while they destroyed their village and where Lonny, Baby, San, Devil and I lay dying not for God, or flag, or country, but simply because we were “the chosen”, draftees offered up from poor black, brown, or white families by an upper-middle-class draft board that didn’t want to take sons from their own.

 

He describes his boot camp training droning into him like a mantra: “They are gooks, dinks, commies, savages, nothing resembling us, nothing close to human. And, it worked-when I was shooting at a cardboard man, when I was stabbing a dummy to death with a bayonet, when I was on the edge of terror--it was the only voice I heard. But four months in Vietnam had changed me. The kids along Highway 1 chanting “G. I. Numba One” as they begged chocolate bar or cokes looked no different than the kids from my tenement—Asian versus black, or Puerto Rican or Pollock or Jew—hungrier maybe, more desperation in their eyes, but under the grime and stink, they were no different than the kids I grew up with carrying hopes and fears and dream. And so I heard a different voice—my own… How long does it take to kill a man-- from inside? …How long before I was no longer a man but a rifle. A bullet, and I inside a soulless body?

 

After his good friend Lonny is killed when he makes eye contact with an enemy soldier who is badly wounded and groaning in the Elephant grass, Cantalpo raises his rifle: "I put his head in the crosshairs, held my breath, and put my finger on the trigger guard. I didn’t squeeze the trigger. I couldn’t. Not anymore. Lonny was dead. Nothing I could do would bring him back. Not killing this soldier. Not killing the whole fucking North Vietnamese Army. Lonny was dead. Shot in the throat and chest by his own men. Friendly fire. Friendly. As if killing was somehow friendlier if done by your own men. And who was to blame? The soldiers on the perimeter who opened fire from fear of being overrun? The C.O. who sent us out? General Westmoreland? Nixon? Kissinger? The Pentagon? The Army? The rich? The whole fucking US of A? My mother? My war-hero father? Yes, everyone was to blame. Everyone carried Lonny’s blood on their hands. I lowered my rifle. I was done. I was done with killing, done with death, done with war. For a long moment, the wounded soldier held my eyes, then he turned and slowly crawled away."

 

He recounts his horrendous injuries from a mortar exploding a few feet away that hurled his body into the dark sky and then crashed down leaving him covered in warm blood and a nurse nicknamed “Peaches” helped him through hours, days and weeks of care with whom he says he seriously fell in love. “And then I rose. Above my body. Above my life. Is this my soul parting from my flesh, my spirit rising toward eternity, flying through the tunnel of white light toward people I loved? I rose in darkness, in shadow, the body below me—my body—graying to a shade, the medic slowly dimming to a hazy silhouette. I rose, but my wounds did not fly away on angel’s wings, nor did I see my mortal life bleeding into light as if I were eternal. I merely slipped in and out of a world filled with fire and burning pain—“

 

A film crew from Vietnam TV International recorded his anguish following his journey toward reconciliation meeting with former members of The People’s Army against whom he fought. They share the truth of where the People’s Army hid in tunnels awaiting to attack and use a map to describe each of their locations in battles. After awkward embraces and they shake hands and say goodbye through the pain such a meeting engendered. The war’s legacy in Vietnam, Cantalupo says, includes “leaving hundreds of thousands of unexploded bombs to kill more children,” as well as “fourth generation birth defects and genetic mutations caused by our massive spraying of Agent Orange.” That situation “will not allow for my reconciliation. This was the most profoundly moving memoir I have read on Vietnam showing how a man changed from a war criminal to a sensitive human being aware he was lucky to have survived and gained an inspiration and an awakening that changed his life.

 

BIO: Daniel C. Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, turned peace activist and became a civil rights attorney for Cesar Chavez's UFW and the ACLU. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn to an advocate crusading for justice. HTTP://www.danielclavery.com(Author website)

           

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The Universal Force of Love: Einstein

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    In the late 1980s, Lieserl, the daughter of the famous genius, donated 1,400 letters, written by Einstein, to the Hebrew University, with orders not to publish their contents until two decades after his death. This is one of them, for Lieserl Einstein.

     

    (Albert Einstein and his daughter, Lieserl)

     

    "When I proposed the theory of relativity, very few understood me, and what I will reveal now to transmit to mankind will also collide with the misunderstanding and prejudice in the world.

    I ask you to guard the letters as long as necessary, years, decades until society is advanced enough to accept what I will explain below.

    There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe and has not yet been identified by us. This universal force is LOVE.

     
     

    When scientists looked for a unified theory of the universe they forgot the most powerful unseen force. Love is Light, that enlightens those who give and receive it. Love is gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others. Love is power, because it multiplies the best we have, and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness. Love unfolds and reveals. For love we live and die. Love is God and God is Love.

    This force explains everything and gives meaning to life. This is the variable that we have ignored for too long, maybe because we are afraid of love because it is the only energy in the universe that man has not learned to drive at will.

    To give visibility to love, I made a simple substitution in my most famous equation. If instead of E = mc2, we accept that the energy to heal the world can be obtained through love multiplied by the speed of light squared, we arrive at the conclusion that love is the most powerful force there is, because it has no limits.

     

    After the failure of humanity in the use and control of the other forces of the universe that have turned against us, it is urgent that we nourish ourselves with another kind of energy…

    If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer.

    Perhaps we are not yet ready to make a bomb of love, a device powerful enough to entirely destroy the hate, selfishness and greed that devastate the planet.

    (Einstein with first wife, Mileva Maric)

    However, each individual carries within them a small but powerful generator of love whose energy is waiting to be released.

    When we learn to give and receive this universal energy, dear Lieserl, we will have affirmed that love conquers all, is able to transcend everything and anything, because love is the quintessence of life.

    I deeply regret not having been able to express what is in my heart, which has quietly beaten for you all my life. Maybe it's too late to apologize, but as time is relative, I need to tell you that I love you and thanks to you I have reached the ultimate answer! ".

    Your father,

    Albert Einstein

    (Article in part from Robert Vancina quoting Einstein's letter with all but one photo added)

     

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Advice on Creative Writing from Daniel C. Lavery

My professors in creative writing classes and forums stressed writing every day for at least an hour at a place where you are comfortable and will have hopefully no interruptions. Some like to write at night, others early. Everyone is different so you should find your time. For me it is 10 am to noon. Some people like to go to a Starbucks to see the faces of people, the bustle of the crowd, and the coffee for inspiration. I prefer my desk overlooking my front yard. Another suggestion is to always use your favorite writing pen (preferably not a ball point-and not typing). The connection of your hand to the pen and what you write is a stimulating one for most writers.

List the most compelling words you can think of in a notebook. I always keep a writing notebook for inspiration. When you have that dream that you won't remember in the morning, get up and write it as you recall it right after you have experienced it. Waiting later will lose it usually.

 

Don't be afraid to copy a writer's style. This is especially true of a poet. Find a poem you like, and take out your thesaurus, change the words, move around inserting your similar experiences and use the format. Amazingly simple way to create a new poem by just following someone's road map. Always read a great author for at least 30 minutes before writing. This is warming up your creative thinking. Your brain needs this. You will see a difference in your attitude, and willingness to explore language and its beauty.

Revise: All creative writing requires once you have written your piece, to go back and revise with an eye to use of heightened language (metaphor/simile, evocative vocabulary, sense driven language, action verbs and brilliant nouns) and remove any boring adverbs and adjectives. Check spelling by starting at the end of the piece and work backwards so you aren't lulled into accepting a misspelling you may make frequently. Read it aloud and see if there are awkward words when spoken that should be changed. If it doesn't sound right, it won't read effectively. Make sure each of the five senses appear somewhere. See if you can't make your descriptions luminescent.

One of the secrets of nonfiction storytelling is the use of description. Much as a novelist would, these nonfiction storytellers set a scene and describe their story's action. Above all, they have an eye for detail and employ these carefully observed facts to bring scenes alive for readers.

Look for opportunities to put the reader into the action. Where are we? What's it look (smell, sound) like? Who are the characters? What do they look like? How do they act? Strive to be specific, not general: Name names, measure things, count so you can report exact numbers. Learn to identify trees and birds, car makes, and architectural styles.

So instead of writing, "A lot of birds perched on the ornate rooftop," do the homework and note taking necessary to report, "Thirteen purple martins perched on the Italianate rooftop." Rather than describing "a big pile of old cars," aim for "a 20-foot pyramid of rusting, windowless Fords, Toyotas, and Chevrolets."

This kind of descriptive writing starts at the very beginning—at the note-taking stage. You can't just plop down at the keyboard and conjure this up; you have to be there, all eyes and fully alert, and noting details. Don't forget the senses beyond sight. Are the bees buzzing, trucks rumbling, horns honking? Do cockleburs scrape your pant legs as you walk to your subject's front door? Is your interviewee's desktop smooth and new or pitted with age and use? Give detail and description a try, and you'll find that you can be every bit as "creative" a writer when you're not making things up.

Here are my social media:

djasb@aol.com (email) http://www.danielclavery.com (author website) https://www.facebook.com/danielclavery (Facebook) https://www.linkedin.com/danielclavery.com (Linkedin) https://twitter.com/Danielclavery

All the Difference, a memoir by Daniel C. Lavery, available at Amazon.com. for purchase or free look inside of the first 6 1/2 chapters at Dan's website: http://www.danielclavery.com, and on Amazon's Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BNXHV9Q, A paperback version is available at http://www.amazon.com/All-Difference-Daniel-C-Lavery/dp/1482676532/ book-cover-all-the-difference.jpg

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