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Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Salutes the Military by Andrew Lubin, et. al.

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

A wealth of knowledge for America's favorite reading room. I don't know who Uncle John is, but he certainly pulled together some great writers and some wonderful pieces of military facts, fiction, and lore when he put this book together.  Completely enjoyable from beginning to end, you will learn something in every sitting.  Every service is mentioned repeatedly, and actions from the amazingly heroic to the ridiculously stupid are given equal time.  Everything is simply written, easily formatted, and continuously refreshing and entertaining.  From the somber (Arlington) to the comedic (Beetle Bailey, Bob Hope), every aspect of military life is covered, and in such a way that the reader is both educated and entertained.

I especially liked the way the authors divide up large topics into easily manageable chapters appearing in different places in the book.  That keeps the reader from getting too much of any one topic at one time, and keeps things moving.  I also really enjoyed the little factoids at the bottom of each page, completely unrelated to the story.  These were always short but very interesting; an added bonus on each page.

Full of facts and fun, this is a must for any military member's bathroom, and will be heartily enjoyed by anyone who either served or just has a passing interest in the military.

Reviewed by: Rob Ballister (2009)


Author's Synopsis

Uncle John takes aim at providing the heroic, historic, and entertaining stories of America’s five armed forces: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Read about:

* A history of the draft
* Dog tags then and now
* Medal of Honor winners
* MASH: the true story
* Doolittle's Raid
* What it takes to pass the tests to be in the Special Forces
* Cartoon soldiers—Sad Sack, Sergeant Rock, and Beetle Bailey
* Start of Semper Fi
* The original Flying Tiger
* War (TV) is hell
* The birth of camoflauge and khaki
* And much more!

You and Your Military Hero by Sara Jensen-Fritz, Paula Jones-Johnson, Thea L. Zitzow

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

A valuable resource for our military families! 

Hundreds of thousands of US military members have been continuously deployed overseas for the past several years.  A large number of them are serving, or will soon serve on their third, fourth, or even fifth deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.  As a result, many experts fear that our armed forces are being stretched to the breaking point.  Due to this vastly increased level of overseas operations, our military families are increasingly being left to fend for themselves while their loved ones spend long periods of time away from home.  While the military does a great job of getting its soldiers, airmen, and Marines ready to do their jobs while deployed; they do a less thorough job of preparing the family members they leave behind.  It has become clear that the children of our deployed military members are paying an especially heavy price for this fact.  Department of Defense statistics indicate that mental health visits by the children of military members has nearly doubled since the first Iraq War.

Sara Jensen-Fritz, Paula Jones-Johnson, Thea L. Zitzow--co-authors of "You and Your Military Hero"--have come up with an extremely valuable resource for those facing the absence of deployed loved ones.  The book provides a series of games, calendars, cutouts, discussion topics, and exercises designed to encourage awareness, understanding, and to develop coping mechanisms.  By following the book's activities and suggestions, the children of our "military heroes" will learn to come to grips with their feelings and develop ways to handle the stress of family separation.  Although the book is geared largely for children and is narrated by Flipp--a friendly dog, who makes this a fun and entertaining experience--"You and Your Military Hero" is not solely for the kids.  Adult family members will also be able to strengthen their coping skills.  The breathing and meditation techniques outlined--to give just one example--would certainly benefit readers of all ages.

Endorsed by the national Military Family Association, the Military Child Education Coalition, and the founder of the National Association of School Psychologist's Military Families Interest Group, "You and Your Military Hero" is truly a valuable resource for our military families

Reviewed by: John Cathcart (2009)


Author's Synopsis

You and Your Military Hero helps children learn positive coping skills during a loved one's deployment and empowers children and military families to maintain positive outlooks during this challenging time.  Through positive, solution focused, and instructive activities, this activity journal makes building positive skills fun and effective.  Family members as well as professionals who work with military children, will find this an invaluable resource.

Memories of Me by Lisa M. Romagnoli

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

A vividly illustrated rhyming book about a girl who keeps a journal during the year her Dad is overseas on a tour of duty in the military. Of course, only a few of the 365 days apart can be revealed, such as birthday parties, horseback rides, trips to the zoo and the like, however, it's a lightly told tale with a profound message: keeping your memories so you can share them when your loved-one gets home.

 While the subject and impact of an examined life is a tad heavy for kids, it's not for the adults who care for them. When this Mom gives her daughter a spiral notebook and a box of colored pens and tells her to write about what all she does while her Dad's away, she has set her child on the path to thinking about her life and her family.

 The genders could just as easily have been switched: a son with his Mom away on duty, and perhaps that will be this author's next book. A splendid idea and well done!

Reviewed by: Dave Brown (2009)


Author's Synopsis

With the help of her Mom, one child gifts her Dad with a glimpse into the year he's missed.

The Elementary Adventures of Jones, JEEP, Buck & Blue, Jones, Books 1-4 by Sandra Miller Linhart

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

"Jones, JEEP, Buck & Blue" is an enchanting collection of four elementary (pre-teen) level readers.  The title of each book reflects the name of the volume's main character. 
 
"Jones" is introduced in the first book in the series, and remains present throughout the remaining three books.  Suzanna Jones is the endearing young daughter of a U.S. Army Soldier.  Since it is typical practice for military personnel to refer to others by their last name, the doting father likes to call his little girl by her last name -- "Jones".   Jones is a precocious and endearing character.
 
Jessica Blumenthal (Blue) is Jones" best friend.  Blue is also an Army "brat" which means that both girls are accustomed to being relocated quite frequently by the military.  This time, Blue and Jones find themselves being transplanted from Georgia all the way out to Wyoming.  The strange new environment introduces them to very new and different people -- namely Buck and JEEP.
 
Buck is of Arapaho Indian descent, and is very wise in the ways of his people's practices and traditions, while JEEP (which is short for James Edward Eugene Parker) is intellectually wise beyond his years.  
 
Each character has his or her distinctive and sometimes quirky personality, and each installment has its own little mystery for the group of friends to solve.   
 
The dialogue and content are appropriate and entertaining for pre-teen readers.  The innocence of youth is a delightful reminder even for the 'older' reader.  The author's analogies are clever and sometimes hysterical.  For instance:  at one point, Jones feels as "invisible as a flu bug on a crumpled up tissue", or as "awkward as a whale in a soup bowl."  
 
I also admired the light in which the author painted the Soldiers and their families in these heart-warming stories.   For instance, Jones' maimed father is portrayed as brave, understanding, and charming -- especially with his young, little daughter.  My heart swelled with pride in that character, because I knew that the fictional Lieutenant Colonel Jones was typical of the real thing.  His persona was a prized addition to the first book. 
   
Pre-teens readers will enjoy this series of adventures.  Even as an adult, I found myself trying to solve the mysteries.  This reading experience brought back very pleasant memories of my "Nancy Drew" days.

Reviewed by: Claudia Pemberton (2009)


Author's Synopsis

It's already hard enough to be an Army brat, but when Jones' dad comes back from the war with parts missing, she has to come to terms with brand new challenges. And, to top it all off, her best friend, Blue has upsetting news about her own dad.

As the girls struggle to face life head-on, a mystery unfolds in the field. Bones. Are they baby bones? Can the girls' investigation reveal the secret? Will they have enough time to figure out the mystery before their lives are uprooted and forever changed?

If I had a Daddy by Mary M. Sullivan

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Mary M. Sullivan has written a charming and thought-provoking children's book which was inspired by her daughter.  She felt that what she learned from Autumn, could help other children that are in a single-parent situation, no matter how they got to that point.
Mary shares the thoughts of a little girl trying to figure out what her daddy would look and act like.  Mary Sullivan states, "This book, read along with a parent or guardian, can and will teach and help a young person describe their daddy and open up dialogue with certainty and truth."
 
As a teacher of young children, I believe that this book could be beneficial to many children who have a "missing someone" in their life.  It might not just be a parent, but could be another relative, such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle.  The basic premise is that children really need to "put a face" to the unknown person, and guardians should be aware that this book could be used to help have the conversation revolving a child's thoughts.  It may also be beneficial to other children to help explain what some of their friends may be experiencing by not having a two-parent family situation.
 
The book is in a large format and the artwork adds a lot to the storyline.  In the back of the book is a page for children to draw a picture of their daddy.  It is a "simple" book with a very thought-provoking message.  Written with a child in mind, the adult in the child's life should be involved in the reading of this book.  It is a valuable resource for the single-parent moms out there in our world.

Reviewed by: Joyce Gilmour (2009)


Author's Synopsis

This is a book inspired by my daughter Autumn, whom I love deeply. I listened carefully to her musings and thought other children could benefit from her thoughts on her absence of a father and what it means to her. As for all single parents, no matter how they got to that point, one thing remains clear: Children often think quietly about a missing parent. This book heals this young lady. She has, despite not having a daddy, thoughts on how a daddy would act and be loving. At a tender age, she knows what attributes to look for in a man. This book, read along with a parent or guardian, can and will teach and help a young person describe their daddy and open up dialogue with certainty and truth.

The Take-Us by John Raymond Takacs

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Vietnam vet John Christenson is fed up with the price of gasoline. He has invented an electric car that not only doesn't need to refuel, but generates more energy as it's driven.  Obviously, this isn't something that pleases our enemies in the oil producing countries.  John and FOX newswoman Leena Delaney drive the car, known as a "Take-Us," from New York City to San Francisco to show that the vehicle can do what Christenson claims.  Terrorist cells, hidden in plain sight for years, are sent to stop the Take-Us and its inventor from achieving their destinies.
 
This book is one of those little gems that pop up from time to time.  It's clever and entertaining and thought-provoking.  It's based on that time-honored writer's device -- "What if?"  What if there was a car that didn't need to be refueled -- ever?  What if it was so efficient that you could use it to provide electricity for your home?  What if it was available to everyone -- around the world?  What if there was a man so honorable and inventive that he could find a way to make all of that possible?  How would that change us?  Would we relate to each other differently if we weren't forced to compete for scarce resources?
 
The author never really explains the details of how the Take-Us works -- but he gives enough hints to make the device seem plausible.  He surrounds the protagonist with oodles of Americana goodness and evil but inept bad guys of the radical middle-eastern variety -- that's what makes this romp read like a geeky-batman adventure.  You just KNOW that things are going to turn out okay and you get a kick out of how the hero gets himself into and out of trouble along the way.  In the end, like a great Hitchcock flick, all the pieces come together like a jig-saw puzzle of the good old U.S of A.
 
After all of that fun stuff, it's important to point out that this book has a provocative philosophical underpinning.  On the one hand, Takacs explores the innate goodness of human beings -- working together to solve common problems, reaching out to each other for support and comfort. Christenson's name is no accident. The tale is a re-telling of an older truth -- talent brings with it responsibility, ability requires action on behalf of those without it.  One must love in order to know how to love.  On the other hand, the author replays the old battle between good and evil -- which of course, depends on the most primeval issues of all.   
 
This is a book that just about anyone would enjoy.  It's filled with enough BAM/POW/THWOP action to appeal to the teenage boy lingering in our souls.  It would take all the Scrabble pieces to name the government agencies involved.  There are spies and lies and secrets galore.  There's danger lurking and love not quite made.  It's got a moral perspective that is intriguing enough for a Sunday School sermon -- and for us nerds, there's enough technical machinations to channel our inner Ben Franklin.

Reviewed by: Joyce Faulkner (2009)


Author's Synopsis

Vietnam Veteran John Christenson modifies an automobile so that it can run without gasoline, instead it generates its own motive power as it travels down the highway. His invention could quickly and profoundly change the worlds power structure by ending America's enslavement to oil. 
Christenson's plan developed with the help of a beautiful female TV reporter, (who complicates things by falling in love with him) is to drive the car from New York City to San Francisco without using any gas and broadcast the road trip live on national television.
The plan is simple but difficult to finish in a world where the value of life is computed by the cost of a barrel of oil. With danger threating from all sides, including the ghosts buried deep within, they must fight every mile to survive. 

Child Finder by Michael Angley

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Mike Angley used his experience as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) to create a suspenseful page-turner in Child Finder.  Being a criminal investigator, as well as a counterintelligence and counterterrorism specialist, gave him plenty of opportunities to put together characters that keep us guessing as we read.  The intriguing aspect, to me, is just how the paranormal adventures came to be part of the plot.  What do you believe about people having psychic abilities that could help in investigations?
 
In Child Finder, the main character, Major Patrick O'Donnell, is also an Air Force Special Agent who is assigned to the Pentagon.  He discovers that he has a psychic gift that the government then wants to put to use, first to help find abducted children, but then they take it further, and Major O'Donnell discovers another side of the FBI, as he becomes part of a TOP SECRET black world.
 
Be sure to carve out a chunk of time when you pick up Child Finder because you are not going to want to put the book down.  The characters pull you into the story and the mystery keeps you guessing right up to the very end.  We all have experiences in our lives but how many of us can turn them into a fantastic read?  Mike Angley has done just that.  I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to see into the "intelligence world" and anyone that loves a great mystery thriller. The good news is... there are two more books to finish out the series and I can't wait to get my hands on them.  Mike Angley is a terrific writer and you'll find Child Finder a very well-written mystery. 

Reviewed by: Joyce Gilmour (2009)


Author's Synopsis

Child Finder, the first novel in the Child Finder trilogy, introduces a protagonist as tough as 24's Jack Bauer, but with the endearing, family-values heart of 7th Heaven's Eric Camden "Special Agent Patrick S. O'Donnell" an early-thirties Air Force Major assigned to the Pentagon when the 9/11 terrorist attacks take place.  His haunting dreams about murdered children reveal a hidden psychic gift which the government eagerly exploits, drawing him into a TOP SECRET program to find missing kids.  But to make matters complicated, Uncle Sam has other ideas in mind for his unique paranormal talents... after all, there is a War on Terror underway. One thing's for sure--ever since joining this new, secret community, he is surrounded by murder, and the very real threat of harm to his own family!

The Sandman by David Lucero

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Iran's newest and most up-to-date nuclear power plant is sabotaged. Before a meltdown occurs the staff must find a way to save it, identify the saboteur and report to their supervisors. The plot thickens as the reader discovers spies, soldiers, and political maneuverings.

This book takes its plot from current political and military tensions between Iran, Iraq, Israel and the US.  The countries respond with overt and covert action. The incident is fictional, but all readers will be aware it could easily become reality. 

Lucero develops the plot and characters well. The story moves along without losing the reader's understanding or interest. Although it's harder to make a book technical and at the same time understandable to the lay reader, he accomplishes this. I know little about nuclear power, but the story never lost me.
The same is true of the political climate in the book. Political intrigue is part of life. Most readers have some level of awareness of the tensions in the Middle East, the US involvement, and the tension that may at any time ignite into violence and war. The book assumes this awareness but doesn't assume intricate detailed knowledge of day-to-day unrest.

The multi-faceted characters create an emotional response in the reader. Lucero understands human emotions and motives, and develops them in his characters. He leaves the reader pondering the moral responsibilities of nations and individuals.

If you like political thrillers, you'll like this story. Lucero sustains the action and suspense throughout the story. Although both the genre and the world have changed since the days of the Cold War thrillers, the suspense in a good thriller is still the key.

Reviewed by: Pat McGrath Avery (2009)


Author's Synopsis

The countdown to nuclear disaster begins when the saboteur code name: SANDMAN strikes a devastating blow to Iran. He has infiltrated the Bushehr Nuclear Research Facility and created a fire that threatens a reactor core meltdown. All the Iranians have to do to save their reactor is to get the Emergency Core-Coolant System back online. But the situation turns from bad to worse when they learn the saboteur has barricaded himself in the alternate secondary control room that accesses the coolant. Now a high-ranking Iranian officer takes charge to battle the SANDMAN in what becomes a match of wits as each tries to outmaneuver the other in the dark corridors of the underground complex. While deadly gunfights between the SANDMAN and Iranian soldiers ensue the work crews desperately attempt to put out the fire in the electrical control room to regain access to the coolant. But with each passing second the temperature in the reactor core quickly rises...bringing them closer to nuclear disaster!

Honor Defended by D. H. Brown

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

HONOR DEFENDED picks up right where HONOR DUE, Brown's first award-winning book, left off. Barely settled in after avenging the death of his War Brother, Major Westfall is once again called upon for help when his neighbor's sister is missing. The Major, always ready to help a friend, rushes to her home to find it on fire, with her husband decapitated on the floor. He quickly finds out that this was no random act of violence, and that terrorists may literally be in his own backyard. What follows is a non-stop whirlwind of excitement as the Major dusts off his Special Forces skills, and along with some other operators, goes forth to pursue a type of justice that above the typical court system. 

D. H. Brown has a gift for story telling. His stories are written first person, enabling him to use his own experiences seamlessly through the action. This creates a character depth that most authors can't seem to find. Regardless of your feelings about warriors, war, or special operators in particular, you can't help but love the Major. His sometimes cold, been-there, done-that exterior parts every so often to show true emotion and humor that is the basis for the bond between warriors. Even more than his first book, I just couldn't wait to turn the page, and from page 3 on could not put this one down. I was honestly sorry when it ended! 

Exciting, gripping, and well-written, this one is a keeper for Vietnam vets, special forces operators, or those that love a good action narrative told in first person. Very highly recommended. 

Reviewed by: Rob Ballister (2009)


Author's Synopsis

Major Westfall is back, in another non-stop action adventure. On a freezing cold winter morning he is awakened before dawn by a frantic call from an old friend and War Brother. He is being called out to hunt for the killers who burned down a woman's house on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, abducted her, and left behind the beheaded body of her Marine Corps husband. On the beach behind the Holbech place, he finds signs that someone came ashore on the last high tide. Tracks lead to a pile of driftwood where Black Dog noses out the family's wounded dog. Putting his ear to the Hoko grapevine, he hears of a break-in at the local gravel quarry, where explosives and detonators were taken. A neighbor's grandchild mentions a missing school janitor, and the name her classmates gave him, Aladdin. When the Major takes a sneak and peek he unearths a terrorist sleeper. Calling in the troops, he prepares to do battle deep in the Olympic Peninsula wilderness where a cadre of evil souls have gathered, intent on creating havoc with the Washington State's ferries. HONOR DEFENDED occurs over one 24 hour period of heart-pounding action in which old friends are met, new ones made, the young must grow up fast as lives are broken, and the honor of a War Brother is defended.

True Colors by Erin Rainwater

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

TRUE COLORS follows the adventures of Cassie Golden, a nineteenth century Pennsylvania woman who volunteers to work as a nurse in a military hospital in Alexandria, VA. She falls in love and marries an intelligence officer in the Union Army. Before their marriage can be consummated, he is called away for a secret assignment. Cassie continues working with the wounded while she waits for her soldier to come home.  Then, without warning, she is kidnapped by Southern spies and taken to Richmond, the Capital of the Confederacy. There, she is shocked to see her new husband, now dressed in the gray uniform of a Confederate Colonel.
 
This isn't just a romance set against a Civil War backdrop.  It's historical fiction in the most intriguing sense of the term. Rainwater's characters interact with real people -- like Abraham Lincoln and Colonel Thomas Rose who escaped from the infamous Libby Prison in Richmond.  Cassie Golden and Michael Byron's stories are interwoven with the smaller, lesser-known human events of the era and the larger well-documented incidents like the Battle of Gettysburg.  This approach allows the reader to experience war viscerally rather than as an intellectual exercise.
 
Every piece of this novel works to create a single impression -- from the author's character naming technique to the clever way that she reveals information to the audience to the colorful cover and large font layout.  The research behind the book is solid. The plot is multi-faceted and the characters are believable.  For example, despite the deep philosophical divides, Cassie and Michael find much to admire in their complex Confederate adversaries.  However, for the sake of the drama there are pure heroes and pure villains too. There is the dastardly, all-powerful and artfully named Sergeant Powers who torments Cassie throughout her captivity.  Then there is President Abraham Lincoln who is raised to the level of sainthood when viewed through Cassie's idealistic eyes and the gratitude of freed slave Maudie.
 
Ms. Rainwater has created a book that plays in reader's head like a rainy-day movie.

Reviewed by: Joyce Faulkner (2009)


Author's Synopsis

Cassie Golden feels called to leave her safe but lonely Pennsylvania farm to tend the Union wounded in Alexandria, Virginia. Love and conspiratorial intrigue enter her life there, both arriving in the form of an intelligence officer, Major Michael Byron. When duty sends him away, Cassie becomes unwittingly enmeshed in a mosaic of espionage, kidnapping, imprisonment and murder. Their unanticipated reunion only creates a chasm between them as sweeping as the one dividing the nation. Only the truth can bridge such a chasm. And truth is in short supply.

The Final Salute by Kathleen M. Rodgers

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Author Kathleen Rodgers has created a novel that could be a slice from real life. Her well-written debut book about career Air Force pilots "THE FINAL SALUTE" is a story that real pilots and military families will fully understand and perhaps, even identify with. But it is the human emotions that this story brings out that will win over all readers, including those who have never worn any uniform, or flown an airplane. 

War, they say, is truly hell--and Rodgers captures that element as she unfolds her tale. It becomes both entertaining and at times, thought provoking. Her characters are sharp and multi-dimensional; which is the true strength of this novel. She artfully uses these people to unfold her dramatic storyline. 

This book deals with the dangers of warfare; but it is the inner and outward emotional battles of her lead characters that keep the reader turning pages. The book takes on huge chunks of real-life stuff: problems with teenage children, husband-wife issues, bad relations with people, friendship, flying war planes and death, to name just a few. 

The reader will find plenty of action and excitement to satisfy that need from an action novel; but it is the thought-provoking plot and comradeship of the fighter pilots that makes this a perfect military novel. It reminded me emotionally of books like "From Here To Eternity". This book is destined to generate lots of buzz among readers of military themed genre. It is truly a future war classic. 

Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2009)


Author's Synopsis

At a small air base in Louisiana, family man and seasoned fighter pilot, Tuck Westerfield's life could literally crash down around him.  In this business of flying fighter jets, the odds of staying alive are stacked against him.

Haunted by the memories of dead friends killed in air mishaps, this Vietnam vet and father of three must deal with a devious commander, an animal-crazed neighbor, whose husband hates pilots, a beautiful, but suspicious wife and a rebellious teenage daughter.  The last thing he needs is another war.

But when Iraq invades Kuwait in the middle of a muggy Louisiana summer, duty calls.  Tuck and the other pilots in his squadron head to the Middle East.

Back in Louisiana, Gina Westerfield and other military wives learn that war is hell on the home front, too.

Later, when tragedy strikes, everyone at Beauregard Air Force Base must pull together and live on or forever be consumed with grief.

Hollywood Buzz by Margit Liesche

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

WOW!  What a memorable character and fascinating storyline.  Margit Liesche's Hollywood Buzz is sure to create a buzz in the literary world.  
 
Within the first few pages, Liesche's lead character, Pucci Lewis, leaps from the pages and into the reader's mind as we accompany her on a brand new (slightly unorthodox) military assignment -- in Hollywood.  What a unique concept!  A brave, intelligent WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilot) assigned to duty in Tinseltown.  It seems that Pucci's expertise as a WASP is needed to complete a documentary film attempting to showcase this elite group of women and their efforts in the war.  The film is a combined effort of the government and Hollywood to create a movie aimed at inciting patriotism and support for the troops.
 
When ensues is a beautifully written tale of intrigue, sabotage, conspiracy, blackmail, and the search for truth.  Set against the backdrop of a major Hollywood production (complete with an introduction to some of the most influential motion picture stars of the day), it appears that someone will stop at nothing, including murder, to halt the production of the film.  But who and why?  Was Pucci's now comatose predecessor (Frankie) a victim of foul play?  Was her plane crash a result of pilot error, faulty equipment, or was she targeted for elimination?
 
The reader will find themselves enthralled as these questions (and more) are systematically answered by Ms. Liesche's engaging writing style.  This read is truly an adrenaline rush -- an entrancing story which will appeal to history buffs, WWII enthusiasts, military lovers, and those still captivated by the golden age of Hollywood.
 
I found the reading experience much like watching a classic movie.  Ms. Liesche's attention to detail was very much appreciated, as was her obvious extensive research into all aspects of her storyline, character, and setting.
 
I was particularly impressed with the author's masterful use of the first person point of view.  I found it refreshing, unique, and flawlessly executed.  
 
The cover is magnificently depictive of the storyline, and is reminiscent of a 1940's Hollywood movie poster.  Hollywood Buzz a classy tale about a classic era.

Reviewed by: Claudia Pemberton (2009)


Author's Synopsis

Pucci Lewis was used to ferrying fighter planes and undercover work. But it's the dark hours of WWII, and Hollywood's biggest stars, studio moguls, and Washington bureaucrats are working hand-in-glove to merge entertainment and propaganda. Pucci has been dispatched to the First Motion Picture Unit, where a make-or-break documentary on the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) is underway.

Pucci is stepping in for a sister-WASP, now hospitalized in critical condition after an all-too-deliberate plane crash. But who's the saboteur? Why the cover-up? Pucci is drawn into a high-profile homicide. A big-name director has been murdered, possibly by Nazi operatives. Military intelligence wants Pucci to learn what she can from her inside position.

Bela Lugosi is a frequent visitor to the Beverly Hills mansion where Pucci is temporarily billeted. His "niece," a rising starlet and also the housekeeper, has a history with the Hungarian resistance. But Pucci doesn't trust the girl.

Can Pucci steadfastly maneuver through movie land and its narcissistic denizens, finally unraveling the uncertainties to prove she has the right stuff? 

Delta 7 by John Cathcart

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

MWSA 2009 President's Award

Move over M. Night Shamalan, John Cathcart has arrived! Airline Captain and new widower John Carter casually mentions the name of an acquaintance at a bar in Grenada. This simple act throws him into the middle of an international plot filled with mad business men, beautiful and intelligent Latinas, governmental alphabet soup groups and bad guys of all persuasions. Like Cary Grant's character in Hitchcock's North by Northwest, everyone but John seems to know what's happening - but in the end, he must take the situation in hand and solve the puzzle that his life has become. 

DELTA 7 is a flashy new entrant into the crowded world of literary mystery and intrigue. Author John Cathcart's first chapter describing the attack on Libya by the USAF in 1986 is a breathtaking hook. The chapter ends with, "Captain John Carter was now a combat veteran." The parenthetical second chapter follows a young Columbian boy from the moment that he is kidnapped by revolutionaries through his introduction to battle and ending with, "Carlos Hernandez was now a combat veteran." With these first fourteen pages, the author establishes himself as a clever and intuitive novelist. 

Then he takes you on a wild ride through the complex and violent under-society of Columbia. The chapters are basic one or two scene presentations - a series of flipping perspectives, action sequences, and romantic interludes. This stylistic device gives the book a sense of movement and direction - like a spinning aircraft that generates excitement even though it's really controlled by the pilot. It also is an excellent technique for dropping clues that the reader picks up intuitively. When at last the tale unfolds and the good and bad are identified, the real surprise at the end is satisfying because the reader knew it all along but just didn't know she knew it. 

This book will appeal to those who enjoy Hitchcock movies, Ken Follett stories, cold beer, spicy food and hot women.

Reviewed by: Joyce Faulkner (2009)


Author's Synopsis

For 20 years, John Carter served as a USAF fighter pilot and attaché. Everything appeared to be on track for a comfortable retirement. Without warning, however, his world is turned upside-down after a casual conversation during a layover in the Caribbean island of Grenada sets into motion a series of events that threaten to inalterably change-or perhaps even end-his life. Out of the blue, an old friend turns up to impart a bizarre and almost unbelievable story... and a warning. Within a matter of hours, Carter discovers that his military friends and comrades are disappearing. With the help of a beautiful and enigmatic woman from his past, Carter returns to Colombia in a frantic attempt to unravel the truth in a world ruled by violence, illicit drugs and money. Unbeknownst to Carter, shadowy players are already caught up in this high-stakes and deadly poker game. Relying on his super-secret attaché training, Carter tries to stay alive in a frantic hunt for allies... and answers.

Virginia's War by Jack London

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Set in the spring of 1944, "Virginia's War" chronicles six months in the life of a small Texas town as its inhabitants struggle with everyday existence in the backdrop of WWII. 
 
Although war is raging a world away for Captain Will Hastings, life back home in Tierra, Texas goes on pretty much as usual with the exception of food rationings and other hardships brought on by the war.  Unbeknownst to Captain Hastings, the entire community is under the impression that he and hometown beauty, Miss Virginia Sullivan, have recently tied the knot--a deception perpetrated by the father of the shockingly unwed and pregnant, Virginia.
 
"Virginia's War is beautifully written and centers around the scandals, cover-ups, and politics of life in a small town where everybody knows everybody--or so they think.    
 
The front cover of "Virginia's War" has a lovely, nostalgic feel to it complete with an image of a winsome Virginia clasping handwritten letters from her soldier.  I enjoyed having the visual of the heroine in my mind as I read her story.  
 
The author offers a unique perspective of Virginia's "adult" dilemma as viewed through the eyes of an endearing adolescent boy named Sandy Clayton.  Mr. London captures the boy's infectious personality and unique viewpoint perfectly, giving the reader multiple chances to chuckle and reminisce about the innocence of childhood.
 
Author Jack London sets a marvelous stage with which to draw the reader into his story, beginning with a taste of scandal in the prologue that divulges just enough conflict to whet the reader's appetite for more.  He closes with an ending that leaves the reader satisfied but curious as to how the saga will unfold in the subsequent two volumes.  
 
"Virginia's War" is extremely well written, authentic to the time period, and very entertaining.

Reviewed by: Claudia Pemberton (2009)


Author's Synopsis

French Letters: Virginia's War is a poignant novel that earned uncommon critical acclaim, being named a finalist for "Best Novel of the South," an award given by the Anderson Foundation in honor of Willie Morris and a finalist for the Military Writers Society of America award for Best Historical Novel of the Year.

This first book of the French Letters trilogy is the tale of one woman's home front experience, set against the back drop of the story of a small town that has plenty going on behind the scenes. It was there one morning that an unexpectedly pregnant Virginia Sullivan read in her father's newspaper that she had supposedly eloped with a soldier. This is news to Virginia, not to mention her "husband" Will Hastings, who was already off at war and knows nothing of it.
Sullivan is the daughter of a small town's leading figure, a newspaper owner who, because of his knowledge of everyone's personal business, runs the local black market in ration coupons and hard-to-get tires and gasoline, and sister of Bart, a draft dodger who runs the post office while keeping her mail from going or coming and preventing Will Hastings, the lead figure in French Letters: Engaged in War, from knowing that Virginia is pregnant or that her father has published a phony story.

There may be a World War going on thousands of miles away, but there's plenty going on behind the scenes in Tierra, TX to keep Virginia preoccupied.

Cat Lo, A Memoir of Invincible Youth by Virgil Erwin

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

We have heard so much related to the swift boat war in Vietnam from political groups which only served to alienate at least half of America. But for me, it turned out to be a much different experience when I picked up a copy of "Cat Lo: A Memoir of Invincible Youth". It was an honest pleasure to read from those who really were in that phase of the war. While I was busy flying overhead in my Huey, these brave young warriors navigated some of the most dangerous brown waters of the world! Author and shift boat veteran, Virg Erwin, captures the spirit and the flavor of those experiences as it has never before been done. 

It is an exciting and emotional ride along the rivers and delta in search of the enemy who quite possibly lurked behind every bush or tree unseen. Having taken a small boat in 2002 up those same rivers when I went back to Vietnam, I could only image what went through their minds. Those narrow water passages were ever so close to shore - where an enemy could toss a grenade, or open fire with his automatic weapon seconds before you could react to it. Very scary stuff indeed! I got a real sense of what they went through there. What is interesting is how the author captures those feelings and emotions in his story telling. You really get to know the men and how they felt. It is a very well written accounting and feels as close to the real experience you can get without going off in those boats to some war. 

The book is gripping and entertaining and has some insightful passages and thoughts throughout the story telling. Written by an old sailor looking back and capturing his youthful experiences in war. Erwin is a talented writer and story teller. He is a man who has been there and done that and has lived to tell about it! I totally recommend his book.

Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2009)


Author's Synopsis

Cat Lo is a story of young men who volunteer for Swift Boats in Vietnam and about war's indelible lesson for those who survive: life is too precious to waste.
Thirty-six years after Vietnam, Virg Erwin sits with a disfigured marine convalescing from Iraq and asks, "Do you want to talk about it?" It is a question no one has ever asked Erwin. "It was hard to know who were civilians--who were bad guys," the marine says as he describes being caught in a violent ambush.
For Erwin, the marine's story resurrects memories of sailors patrolling narrow rivers and canals, their naive sense of invincibility shattered by Viet Cong patiently waiting in bunkers with rockets. Cat Lo is about conflict of compassion for the South Vietnamese who are caught in the middle of war without option of neutrality, and confusion by the question: Who is the enemy and who is not?

The Lady Gangster, a Sailor's Memoir by Del Staecker

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The Lady Gangster is a quick and fascinating read.  Del Staecker does an excellent job framing the story of his father's service aboard an armed transport ship during the Second World War.  Officially named the USS Fuller, the ship is better known by her apt nickname, Lady Gangster, a name christened by her crew, made up almost entirely of fellow Chicagoans.
 
In addition to being an accounting of his father's service, Lady Gangster is also a heartwarming story of a rapprochement between father and son.  A long road trip and a broken radio result in hours of conversation and an outpouring of memories.  For the first time, the young son listens to his father's vivid and detailed recounting of his harrowing experiences serving with the Navy in the Pacific Theater.  Through his writing, Staecker transports the reader from inside that car where he listens intently to his father's story, to the various locations were his father served.  Staecker intersperses his father's reminiscences with just the right amount of family background, comments, clarifications and explanations of wartime history to keep the reader up-to-speed with the historical setting and maritime terminology.
 
The book is well written and includes useful maps, which help orient the reader to the action and keep up with the unbelievably savage fighting and island-hopping through places with names like Guadalcanal, Tinian, "the Slot," Saipan, and Okinawa.  The book also includes several photographs that help personalize the story and make the action that much more realistic.
 
With dignity and grace, Staecker pays homage to both his father's unheralded service during the war and the equally unheralded service of a proud and effective ship, along with her officers and crew.  Well done!

Reviewed by: John Cathcart (2009)


Author's Synopsis

The true story of WWII's most amazing ship and her unique crew of 327 reservists from Chicago.

In a seamless blend of oral history, narrative, biography, autobiography, journal entries, ships logs, action reports, newspaper articles, illustrations, photos, and even two poems - the Lady Gangster's tale explains how the "Chicago Boys" transformed from raw naval recruits into veteran "Salts."
From the North Atlantic through nine invasions in the Pacific the crew of the USS Fuller heroically earned for their Lady the title of "Queen of Attack Transports." 

Sacred Ground by Tom Ruck

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

This beautifully presented coffee-table photo album of America's military cemeteries is dedicated to "every man and woman who has, who is currently, and who will proudly wear the uniform of our great country. Without them, so many freedoms we take for granted would not be possible."

Roaming across our beloved land in every season: The South, The Northeast, the Midwest and The West, SACRED GROUND respectfully escorts you into the serenity of the last resting places of our fellow citizens who gave their all in the duty of creating and defending our Union, within and beyond our borders. Accompanying these exquisite photographs are profound and simple essays by patriots and excerpts from presidential addresses.

This is a tome to be treasured for as you turn the pages of brilliant scene after brilliant scene of calm and color, you will read the thoughts and thanks of such citizens as Thomas Paine, Andrew Jackson, Mickey Rooney, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Oliver North, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ann Margret, Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope and Sean Hannity on sacrifice, honor and courage. Along the way you will also learn the history of that most poignant of bugle calls, Taps, the words to the familiar prayers of each branch of Service and to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

I thought to tell of my favorite photos such as the Vietnam Veteran kneeling in the grass in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri; or the Christmas wreathes and red bows set in snow-covered Togus National Cemetery, Maine; or the fawn nestled beside a tombstone in the Bath National Cemetery, New York; or the leis and flags in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii, or... until it dawned on me that every page becomes a favorite.

Sacred Ground is worthy of a special place in your library, to be lingered over when we remember those who fought and died so we might continue to live in freedom: our Fallen Heroes and our Veterans. Consider it also as a gift for the grieving families you know, for in its broad scope of our history and these sacred places in our Nation, it will surely bring some measure of dignity, peace and comfort.

All royalties from the sale of this book are donated to the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, for the children of fallen soldiers.

Reviewed by: Dave Brown (2009)


Author's Synopsis

Sacred Ground" is a sweeping tour of some of America's most beautiful and moving cemeteries, Sacred Ground features richly evocative photographs from military cemeteries across the country, enhanced by poignant quotes, powerful essays, and speeches from famous Americans throughout history. 

The Ether Zone, US Army Special Forces Detachment B-52 by Raymond Morris

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Be prepared for a wild ride as you descend into "the hole" with an elite Special Forces Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol deep behind enemy lines, in Raymond Morris' The Ether ZoneRaymond Morris' "The Ether Zone: US Army Special Forces Detachment B-52, Project Delta" brings to light the extraordinary story of this elite and highly-classified Special Forces unit operating from 1964 to 1970 during the Vietnam War.  The unit, a precursor to today's famed Delta Force, remained classified and little-known until its existence was declassified in 1996.  Even then, the former members of this unit did not fully support allowing their highly-decorated unit (the second most decorated of its size during the entire Vietnam conflict) to come out into the open.  These men had nothing to hide--quite the contrary--they had much of which they were justifiably proud.  Instead, these "Quiet Professionals" preferred to keep their small unit's exploits out of the public eye... to remain "below the radar" where they were most comfortable operating.
 
Overcoming this initial reluctance of Delta members to tell their story, Morris does a masterful job of combining his research of the organizational history and structure of Delta with the vivid reminiscences of its soldiers.  Drawing primarily from interviews, Morris weaves together a compelling story.  Broken down into short and highly-readable chapters, he provides a gripping series of stories from a close-knit group of warriors not inclined to highlight their personal exploits.  Instead, they relate the details of others' bravery and skill.  It is their fellow soldiers who are the heroes, not those being interviewed.  Morris deftly aggregates various harrowing stores of combat involving small recon teams dropped off deep in enemy territory and far removed from friendly support.  The reader will feel like he or she has been transported along with these brave men, trying to stay one step ahead of crack North Vietnamese and Vietcong units in hot pursuit.  The result: unlike some books that hit you, Morris' crashes into you.  
 
This book exudes authenticity.  Not only are combat scenes described in heart-pounding detail, the reader will also appreciate the special sense of humor of Delta's soldiers.  In addition to coping with extraordinarily demanding combat operations; they must also handle inclement weather, leeches and venomous snakes.  To deal with the incredible stress, Delta members rely on practical jokes, pranks and "serious partying" at the Delta Club during their short breaks between their assignments "in the hole."
 
Ether Zone will also appeal to the serious student of the military and particularly of the SpecOps community.  Morris provides detailed lists of personnel, units and important dates in the Delta Detachment's history.  Hence, Ether Zone is a veritable unit history and a valuable resource.
 
Morris, mirroring the veterans of Delta, also reserves special respect for the various units (US and Vietnamese) who were a part of, or who regularly participated in, Delta's combat operations.  The Nungs, Montagnards, and especially the 81st Vietnam Ranger Battalion are given a prominent place in the narrative.  Morris also points out the exceedingly close relationship between Delta Detachment's members and the aviation units upon whom they had to rely (even in the hottest of LZs) for insertion and extraction.
 
The Ether Zone is well-written and thoroughly enjoyable. 

Reviewed by: John Cathcart (2009)


Author's Synopsis

Project Delta and its clandestine special reconnaissance operations proved to be one of the most successful Special Operation units of the Vietnam War, yet few Americans have ever heard of them, or know that this unit's operational model was precursor for the renowned Delta Force. This small unit of less than 100 U.S. Army Special Forces amassed a record for bravery that rivals few. For the first time, the Project Delta "Quiet Professionals" finally share their amazing story.Highly trained as experts in special reconnaissance techniques and procedures, the covert Project Delta missions were accomplished through recon team insertions into enemy territory. As the primary sources of intelligence collection for Project Delta, these tough and tenacious recon men recount hair-raising adventures from personal recollections."The Ether Zone" is certain to appeal to those with an interest in Special Operations Group, the Vietnam War, special operations and military history in general.

Fire in the Night: Creative Essays from an Iraq War Vet by Lee Kelley

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Fire in the Night is, like many other books, a soldier's record of the big adventure of his life -- his military service during war.  If viewed as such, author Lee Kelley's piece works.  However, Kelley's natural talent as a writer elevates his simple war stories to art.  The man's very soul infuses each essay with humanity that moves even the stay at home, uninitiated reader.  He reaches across generations, politics, and culture to create empathy in alien hearts.
 
Lesser writers might say, "While I was deployed, I was homesick."  Kelley's thoughts of home are more delicate and he presents them as water-colored prose poems.  "When my tour is over," he says, "just drop me off on any Arizona or Utah highway, where the Buttes and the Red Rock Canyons create optical illusions in the distance and across the horizon -- I'll walk home."   Later in the book, he writes a whimsical letter to a Cryogenic Firm about freezing his body and then awakening him in the midst of some extraordinary circumstance.  For  example, "Push a button. I'm standing on the highest point on the Planet, Mt. Everest, stretching my arms upwards to the sky, filled with wonder at the richness of life."  Such images, coming from a soldier serving in the harsh climes of war-torn Iraq, fills the reader with hope.
 
For all the loveliness of Kelley's writing, the cover is a simple collage. A medal fills the left top corner, draped dramatically over the silhouette of a soldier prepares the reader for something warlike and unusual -- but nothing really prepares the casual browser for the creativity inside.  
 
Fire in the Night is the kind of book that can be read in one sitting. Kelley's Iraqi interlude lasted 544 days.  During that time, he experienced the country viscerally.  It can't be described in a review, only the authors" own words will do.  "The dust there is instant chocolate pudding ' just add water.'  "These men see the night through thermal imaging scopes -- and night vision goggles.  Electric green and red are the colors they become familiar with.  They can see a mouse running in a field at 100 meters.  "The next morning, the sun looked just like a song."  
 
At the end of one of the last essays "Squint", the author issues a challenge to the reader, "My time in Iraq changed me in countless ways.  And perspective is such a fleeting and mutable thing.  For example, I've tried to give you some kind of glimpse here, but sight and thoughts can shift so quickly, like right now and you sit reading these words. Just squint. See it?"
 
A MUST READ!

Reviewed by: Joyce Faulkner (2009)


Author's Synopsis

Already a freelance writer, Lee started a blog when he was sent to Iraq in 2005. His family and friends expected to read of his experiences, and a blog was the perfect medium. A hometown reporter visited his unit in Iraq, and Lee ended up on the front page of the Salt Lake Tribune. That's how it all began. Since then, he's been in the top 10 military blogs on milblogging.com for years, featured in TIME magazine, read some of his essays on radio shows, and even been on the local news in Salt Lake City, Utah. Through it all, readers have been very supportive of Lee's writing and he has received thousands of queries about when he might publish a book. Here are 53 of the most popular essays. They have been adapted from the blog, and writing that he's done in other forums, such as The New York Times and Doonesbury.com. All of the work in this book was either written while he was still in Iraq or as a direct result of his experiences there.

A Vietnam Trilogy by Raymond Scurfield

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Dr. Raymond Monsour Scurfield is a professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast.  He is a Vietnam veteran and worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 25 years and has directed PTSD mental health programs in a number of locations.  He is recognized nationally and internationally for his expertise in PTSD in both combat veterans and disaster survivors.  This expertise comes from his many years of experience in working with others in the mental health profession and his own personal experience of being a veteran who experienced war as a psychiatric social work officer.  
 
By reading the synopsis of each book, one can discover how Dr. Raymond Monsour Scurfield takes readers on a journey from his first days in Vietnam until the very present, going back with him on several trips with other veterans, and then the questions need to be addressed in how the past has affected the way the veterans of today's wars are being treated.  Dr. Scurfield shares his personal journey as well as sharing quotes and experiences from many other veterans.  His personal sharing allows us to see deeply into his thoughts and how his strategies and innovative therapies for treating combat veterans can be used in the field of mental health.  These books can open doors for active duty military members and veterans, as well as offer guidance to their families and other community members.

Personally, I wondered what impact this series of books would have on me.  I am not a veteran, I have a son who served eight years in the Marines, but is a non-combat veteran.  So... should others like me take the time to read these books?  They are not what I would call an "easy read" whatsoever, but I would call them an "essential read," for all of us have been impacted by war and know people that are struggling with PTSD issues.  For me, having the input of "other voices" beyond Dr. Raymond Scurfiel'ds allowed me to hear the stories from more than one voice and helped me to "experience" through them, the impact that war had on each and every one of them.  Dr. Scurfield is an expert whose voice is being heard around the world. Anyone who is experiencing PTSD or knows someone struggling with PTSD would be wise in reading these books.  They would be a wonderful resource for mental health professionals. We may not have learned enough from Vietnam, but Dr. Scurfield brings us the hope that we need for moving into our future.

Reviewed by: Joyce Gilmour (2009)


Author's Synopsis

A Vietnam Trilogy is about a side of war that for decades pro-military and pro-defense advocates have systematically suppressed, minimized and denigrated as being falsely exaggerated the indelible human cost of war on its participants that can and does persist for decades. The 3.14 million Vietnam war-zone veterans and 800,000 Vietnam-theater veterans suffering full or partial post-traumatic stress syndrome, and their families will find it invaluable.
Volume 2, Healing Journeys, focuses on three Vietnam Vets making a return trip accompanying 16 students on a Study Abroad history course. Especially in the post 9/11, post-Iraq world, this trilogy is important reading for academics and mental health professionals including graduate and undergrad students in history, psychology, social work and religion, and professionals in psychiatry, clinical nursing, counseling, and religion, and academic specialists interested in study-abroad programs. 
Through the wrenching stories of veterans and the author s own understanding as a mental health professional, Scurfield describes his and his comrades experiences during the war; then he describes the healing process fostered by innovative return trips he has led to peace-time Vietnam in 1989 and, in conjunction with a university history program, in 2000, described in this volume. 
A Vietnam Trilogy offers veterans and their families a vicarious "healing journey" by relating the experiences of those who participated in these therapeutic efforts, and offers recommendations to veterans and those who wish to help them. 
The therapy breakthroughs for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are now the model for innovative programs across America; and they will be the foundation for programs to help today s veterans of the Iraq War.
Volume 1, A Vietnam Trilogy. Veterans and Post-Traumatic Stress, 1968, 1989 and 2000 (Algora 2004), described the healing processes of hundreds of veterans from Vietnam and earlier wars up until 1990, when the author co-led a group of veterans on a therapeutic trip back to Vietnam to face their demons. 
The current volume continues from 1990 to 2000 (including a discussion of the impact of the first Gulf War on veterans of earlier wars) and a second return trip to Vietnam in 2000, as part of a university Study Abroad program, to help veterans in their healing process. Volume 3, From Vietnam to Iraq (Algora, fall 2006), will complete the Trilogy with a consideration of the experience of prior wars to help people who are now in the military or in the healing professions, and their families and communities, to deal with today s realities of combat and its aftermath