A Soldier Reports

The book is the memoir of one of America’s most controversial military leaders. I found it refreshing to read of his background and upbringing. He briefly covers his days as a cadet at West Point where he graduated in 1936, the horse dawn artillery days, and his role in World War II where he fought with distinction in North Africa and Europe with the Ninth Division. We see his fast rise to a Brigadier General before thirty years of age and later (1952–53) in role in the Korean War. He served as superintendent of West Point (1960–64), attained (1964) the rank of general and commanded (1964–68) U.S. military forces in Vietnam. He then assumed the position of army chief of staff, which he held until his retirement in 1972.

I was saddened as I read Westmoreland’s comments on one of the early killed in action lists that crossed his desk. It included 2LT John J. Pershing III, grandson of World War I supreme commanding general “Blackjack” Pershing. The book looks at the Viet-Nam war from Westmoreland’s point of view. It explains his decision-making process. It is more than an after action report. It is worth reading if you are a political or military history junkie. His relationship with Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara are not covered in the detail I would have liked. This is the story of a decent man, giving his best to his country in difficult times.

Poem: New Year’s Eve

New Years Eve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve was originally published: Kepler, Jimmie A. “New Year’s Eve,” Poetry & Prose Magazine, January 2012. Volume 3, Issue 15, Moonchild Designs, page 20. http://en.calameo.com/read/000339139f8d88e795466 (January 2012).

A Life in a Year: The American Infantryman in Vietnam, 1965-1972

Wisconsin high school teacher James R. Ebert does a masterful job as he combines interviews and printed primary sources in this remarkable telling of the infantryman’s experience during the Vietnam War. Ebert tells the story of the US Army and a few US Marine infantrymen during the Vietnam War. He takes their story from induction into the service through basic and advanced individual training, arrival in Vietnam, their first combat experiences, the first killed in action they experience, in some cases the soldier’s death, and the freedom birds that take them back to the world. Ebert points out while infantryman accounted for less than 10% of the American troops in Vietnam, the infantry suffered more than 80% of the losses.

Ebert uses an interesting technique starting every chapter with a letter by Leonard Dutcher to his parents. Dutcher just wanted to do his part for God and country and go home at the end of his 12-month tour (13 for Marines). In the last chapter, we find out that Dutcher was killed. It caught me off guard and really added to the impact of the book. Ebert takes many of the soldiers and Marines experiences word for word from the individual himself through interviews or letters. It is a collective look at similarities of the many infantry soldiers and Marines in the war. It is a very personal account from many points of view.

This is an important book in Vietnam War literature. This is what the grunts really went through. I was left with somewhat of feeling of guilt from reading the book. Why? I graduated high school in 1971. Some of my high classmates went to Vietnam and fought. Everett Maxwell was killed in action. I went to college and was ultimately commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry, went through airborne school and served three years active duty. My becoming an officer deferred my entry on active duty from 1971 to 1975. This is the reason for my reflective thoughts.

Book review of: A Life in a Year: The American Infantryman in Vietnam, 1965-1972 by James R. Ebert

Poem: The Muse

The Muse

There was not a promise
when brought together
for anything but encouragement
and their love of verse.

When brought together
their passion for poetry
rekindled the creative embers in their hearts.

For anything but encouragement
would complicate life
as the words would tell.

And their love of verse
was a powerful bond
as each shared with the world their soul.

Jimmie A. Kepler
© April 2011

Reflections of Christmas Present and Past

It’s Wednesday, December 25, 2013, Christmas Day. It’s a beautiful, sunny day in north Texas. The temperature is 52.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The time is 1:48 PM. I have a load of laundry going.

I’m sitting in my home office listening to “Carpenter’s Gold: Greatest Hits”. The current song playing is “Superstar”. I’m listening to it play on a ten-year old Hewitt-Packard Pentium III Personal Computer. The computer’s operating system is Linux Mint 16 “Petra” Cinnamon. It is a complete Open Source computer.

I feel very at peace today. My wife Benita is in her bedroom resting in the recliner. She had major surgery for an intestinal malroation on December 19. We brought her home last night late. The surgery went well. They found a tumor during the surgery. They were no able to remove all of it. We do not know the pathology yet.

It is just the two of us here. We have three grown children. Our oldest son will turn 37 years old in less than a month. He is single, never married. He lives about ten miles from us. He is at home sick with a fever and bronchitis like symptoms. Our second son is 33 years old. He lives with us. Today he has gone to my parents to celebrate Christmas. Both of my parents are living. Dad was born in 1927. Mother was born in 1933. She had a kidney transplant in 2011. Our 29 years old daughter Sara and her family have also gone to my parents to celebrate Christmas.

Sunday, December 15th, we celebrate Christmas with our daughter’s family and oldest son. This morning we exchanged gifts with our second son and each other. I got Miss Benita an upgrade on our cable television service for Christmas. She’ll be home for at least six weeks recovering from surgery. Better television options will help her pass the time.

I received wonderful gifts. First was a gift of five pairs of black socks. Second was a DVD of the six season of “The Big Bang Theory” television show. Third was a gift set of Old Spice deodorant and after shave.

This is Miss Benita and my thirty-eighth Christmas as husband and wife. We’ve celebrated every Christmas together since 1972.

Benita and her family helped make wonderful Christmas memories. Her family would have a big dinner on Christmas Eve. Her extended family would attend. The house would be full of cousins. After dining we would retire to the living room and spend hours exchanging gifts. We would go from the youngest to the oldest. I remember the joy Miss Benita had buying the gifts, wrapping the gifts and seeing the excitement on the recipients face.

Christmas 1974 was only three days before our wedding. The wedding over shadowed Christmas.

Christmas 1975 was exciting and melancholy. I had just graduated from college. Three days after Christmas we departed for active duty in the United States Army. Our little car was loaded and we headed to Fort Benning, Georgia.

Christmas 1976 found Benita 8 months pregnant. She flew from Seattle, Washington to Dallas for celebrate Christmas. I joined her a few weeks later and departed a week early returning home.

Christmas 1977 was one of my favorite and I think Benita’s least favorite. We celebrated it in Washington State. It was the first time she ever had no been with her family for Christmas. She was so sad and depressed it quenched my excitement of establishing our own traditions. It was the first with our son Kris.

Christmas 1978 had us back in Texas. I had come off US Army active duty. It was celebrated with family. 1979 and 1980 were also celebrated with family as I was in seminary with us living near our folks. I would graduate and we would move just a few weeks later to Atlanta, Georgia as we went to serve our first church congregation.

Christmas 1981 had us in Georgia. I was overwhelmed by all the Christmas parties and celebrations at church. We attended over 30 Christmas parties. During the next 16 yeas our Christmas schedule would be as full. We drove two miles north on Christmas Day to Johnson City, Tennessee to see friends from US Army days. They had snow. The trip only served to make Miss Benita miss her family.

Christmas 1982 had us on the move. We moved from Georgia to Bogalusa, Louisiana. We moved just before Christmas and came to Texas for the holidays.

Christmas 1983 had us vacationing in frigid north Texas. It was another extend family Christmas.

Christmas 1984 was the third one where we had it in our own home. Our daughter had been born 6 weeks earlier.

Christmas 1985 – 1994 were spent with Benita’s family. I often had to work, but she would pack up the kids and go to Dallas area for the holidays. Most of the time I would join them for a least Christmas Day.

Christmas 1995 was different, somber. It was my last in ministry. The Wednesday before Christmas I was told the new incoming preacher did not want me as his education minister. I was forced to make a change. It was the first Christmas after Benita’s dad had died.

Christmas 1996 was the darkest economically in our marriage. I was failing to earn enough money for expenses.

Christmas 1997 – 1998 had me working Christmas Day. Traditions changed as we still did Christmas a Benita’s mom’s, but it was different. Less of the cousins attended.

Christmas 1999 – 2003 were still with the extend family. 2003 was the last at Benita’s childhood home.

Christmas 2004 had Benita’s mother celebrating it out-of-state with her youngest daughter. Our daughter Sara and her future hubby drove her to Tennessee.

Christmas 2005 found Benita’s mom near death from a stroke. She would pass away a few weeks later. We did more and more with my parents at Christmas.

Christmas 2006 – 2012 had us doing Christmas with my parents.

Christmas 2013 is the fourth we have celebrated at our home is 39 years.

The Most Dangerous Enemy: An Illustrated History of the Battle of Britain by Stephen Bungay

“The Most Dangerous Enemy: An Illustrated History of the Battle of Britain” is spectacular. It merits a five-star rating. It is in a large-format of 11.9 x 9.8 x 1.1 inches. The quality of the book is immaculate. If you are a history buff with an interest in the Battle of Britain this is the book for you. The book is divided into three sections: Part 1: Build-up, Part 2: Battle, and Part 3: Aftermath. It takes you on a journey of understanding. You learn of the organization of the air forces. You learn about the various types of aircraft. You learn of the radar and air defenses as well as air craft production. The detail of the information is astounding.
The book has over 150 photographs. This includes a large number of rare color photos. The book is a treasure full of color maps and diagrams. There are a number of excellent “sidebar” features as well. Using numerous first-hand experience stories Mr. Bungay brings this critical story from history alive in an exciting way. The quality and quantity of the photographs alone is reason enough to purchase the book. He has many never before published pictures of planes, aircraft pilots, and pivotal military leaders. The diagrams of aerial fights add clarity to the story they illustrate.
Well done Stephen Bungay. The book will be an excellent addition to any history buff’s library. Any World War II European Theater veteran will enjoy seeing and owning the book. It would make a great addition to school and community libraries.
Reviewers note: I did not compare Stephen Bungay’s “The Most Dangerous Enemy: An Illustrated History of the Battle of Britain” with the original release by Stephen Bungay of “The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain”. That is not the purpose of this review. The non-illustrated “original” book is the definitive reference work that stands. It is the classic on the subject. “The Most Dangerous Enemy: An Illustrated History of the Battle of Britain” is spectacular and deserves to join its predecessor as the illustrated definitive work on the Battle of Britain. Well done Mr. Stephen Bungay!