Service with a smile at the JBLM Library
It's an adventure sharing "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam" with the world. One of the best ways to do that is to get the memoir into libraries, which is why I love it when readers ask their local library to order it. That can be done online by looking for the "contact us" information on the library website. But I highly recommend strolling in to the building and asking a librarian face-to-face. They're the nicest, most helpful people in the world. Among them is Jane Cherney, acting chief librarian at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, pictured here.
Because Grady went through training at Fort Lewis, I stopped by the base library to donate a copy of his memoir this fall. Jane was delighted to add it to the collection. She invited me to come back and give a book reading. And she spread out a map to show me how to get to the old barracks that show up in Grady's tales and to newly remodeled base museum, which I added to the must-see list for my next trip to Western Washington.
Another reason to visit libraries in person or on-line is to see what kind of books about Vietnam are available. With the 50-year commemoration of the war under way, there's extra incentive for the library to provide the community with stories about this important episode of our country's history.
I'm heading out to book signings today in Pullman, Spokane and Moscow (Idaho!). I know I'll hear some good stories as people stop to tell me what they did during the Vietnam era. "We were in the dorm when we got our draft numbers ... went running down the halls because we were so happy ... but other guys weren't." Or: "I when I was in the 'Nam, the guys in my squad called me Chief, because I'm Indian. Nobody else got to do that. But with them, it was OK." Or, often: "Sign one for my uncle. He served, but he never talks about it."
Sometimes I visit with people who've already read "Boocoo Dinky Dow." Two couples told me they read it to each other in bed. Wow ... for a writer, it doesn't get any better than hearing that the stories you sent out to the world are part of people's most intimate lives for awhile.
In "Boocoo Dinky Dow," Grady -- known in Vietnam as Hoss -- tells lots of passed-along stories. One has to do with platoon mate Teddy Fisher holding a microphone to record sounds of a battle at a previous firebase and being wounded as a result. Here's a version of that 1968 story from Patrick Flanagan, who was there when it happened. Patrick was assistant machine gunner to Andy Day, the fellow whose M-60 Hoss inherited. After reading Grady's memoir, he wrote to say:
"On page 78, the account where Fisher was holding a microphone was actually me. I was outside taping and pretending to be Walter Cronkite as the jets were dropping bombs and we were getting hit by mortars. Fisher might have been outside with me; I can't remember. All I remember is the sound of an incoming mortar and jumped into the bunker. I got grazed slightly. Fisher might have gotten a bit more. You could hear on the tape "I got hit." We put in for Purple Hearts but were rejected as word got out that we were taping outside and endangering government property, us. Court martial offense so we gave up on the Purple Heart. This was way before the major battle on FSB29. Wish today I had that tape. It was great."
Patrick sent the photo here, showing In the back, left to right: Andy Day, Brent Longest and Steve Stotka; he doesn't know the soldier in front.
Here's Patrick in front of that bunker at Fire Support Base 29; it was later blown away. He writes: "After the battle on FSB29, we escaped and built FB25. I left the unit then to start the first mobile PX and pretty much stayed at Dak To or Blackhawk where most of the survivors of the ambushes ended up. There weren't very many left at that time."
Patrick, who lives in Virginia City, Nev., shares stories of his own on the Charlie Company website.
Julie Titone is co-author of the Grady Myers memoir "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War." Grady was an M-60 machine gunner in The U.S. Army's Company C’s 2nd Platoon, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in late 1968 and early 1969. His Charlie Company comrades knew him as Hoss. Thoughts, comments? Send Julie an email.