Grand Lake soldiers commemorated in book to benefit Rotary Club
August 15, 2008
A new book by Avis Gray for the Rotary Club of Grand Lake has captured the essence of war, recording the personal narratives of several Grand Lake veterans.
From World War II to Vietnam, each soldier’s chapter paints the profound pilgrimage of boyhood to battle ” and beyond.
Interviewer Gray captures stories in the own words of those who lived them.
Their common link is exposure to war and the decision to settle in Grand Lake post-war.
“In war, I think so much is going on that it keeps the fear from showing up because you’re trying to survive,” David Arnold, a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps who fought in Vietnam, says in the book. “Afterward, back in the safety of home, you have time to reflect that another two inches to the left you could have been hurt, and another four inches to the right, you could have been killed. Grand Lake in some way helps us to forget. It’s such a healing place ” a peaceful place to more than survive.”
The project began more than four years ago after NBC’s Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation” appeared on shelves, cataloging the lives of those who fought in WW II.
It occurred to Gray, a Grand Lake Rotarian, that, “We have our own heroes,” she said.
“I looked around and thought, ‘We have the greatest generation right here.'”
Gray began to interview those she knew.
“There were these wonderful sagas of quiet heroism,” she said.
As thoughts unraveled, Gray noticed “they began to be more introspective about what happened; there was a healing.”
The book features: Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, the late Hary C. Strawn; Charles Illsley of the Co. G, 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment; Robert Seaton of the U.S. Navy; Joe Recktenwald of the Seabees; Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy D. DeLoach of the Signal Corps, U.S. Army Aviation Test Board; and David Arnold, infantry of the U.S. Marine Corp. All of whom, according to Gray, encapsulate Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self.” They hold medals and badges of valor.
Readers hear the first-hand account of the WW II veteran whose plane was shot down on two different occasions, another who was chased by submarines, led 11 prisoners of war single-handedly and who later worked to produce atomic bombs.
Another soldier narrowly avoided death when his ship was hit by a Japanese Kamikaze, and one soldier helped map the United States and the world. A Korean War and Vietnam veteran saved a pilot from a burning plane, and the book chronicles how one soldier survived battles on Vietnam’s front lines.
Alongside the action are the oddities of war, such as DeLoach’s experience delivering cows by air to Special Forces camps in Vietnam.
“We blind-folded the cows, fastened parachute harnesses on them, led them onto the aircraft and tied them to the aircraft,” he recalls in the book. “We would fly over the camp at about 300 feet…The static line attached to the parachute would open the chute and the cow would swing a couple of times and hit the ground. It’s hard to imagine anything more foreign to a placid cow than parachuting.”
Or, the perspectives, such as Seaton’s regard for Navy food: “There were just no camouflage techniques for the mutton, but we always ended up with the 8-pound ration anyway.”
Gray also included a chapter on the 10th Mountain Division Ski Troopers, in which three Grand Lake veterans Dick McLaren, Doug McLaren and Mac Ruske served in the famed 87th Infantry that trained at Camp Hale near Leadville.
Gray edited 500 pages of notes into the 130-page book. Book sale proceeds support Rotary programs and projects.
And the culmination of “Our Men of the Mountains” ” “the grand chapter,” as Gray put it ” is the upcoming chance for four of Grand Lake’s veterans to travel to Washington D.C. to visit the WW II Memorial, through the nonprofit Honor Flight Network (www.honorflight.org). The Network aims to transport 12,000 veterans in 2008 alone.
“Due to the senior age of our heroes coupled with the prediction that we are losing 1,200 of them daily, we are committed to do all within our power to make their dream a reality,” Honor Flight’s Web site reads.
The book, “Men of the Mountains,” serves to capture the personal stories of service, before they too, are lost forever.
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.