Capturing the pulse of a nation at the end of an unjust war

•February 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

While reading Last Plane Out of Saigon, an opinionated but accurate memoir by Richard Pena and John Hagan, I did a lot of reflection and here are some of my thoughts.

During a war, the U.S. government has the power to draft—against their will—recruits who might end up fighting in a just or unjust war. Then there are those Americans who join voluntarily to serve in the military. It’s been 49 years since I served as a volunteer in the U.S. Marine and fought in Vietnam, and for the last several decades, after a lot of research to understand what happened and why the U.S. started that war, I have concluded that the war in Vietnam was wrong and it was based on lies. I think the same about the Iraq War.

There is a big difference between volunteering versus being drafted and forced to serve, and two-thirds of the U.S. troops who served in Vietnam were volunteers and about 70% of those who were killed were also volunteers and 62% of the troops killed were age 21 or younger.

For me, a few weeks before I graduated from High school, I voluntarily surrendered the freedom most Americans take for granted and joined the U.S. Marines on a delayed deferment. In fact, once you join any of the branches of the U.S. military, you leave your free choice behind, and you don’t get it back until after you are honorably discharged. The military is another world with its own courts, hospitals and prisons, and the troops are trained to serve and obey without question. Disobey and a recruit might end up in prison or even executed for the crime of treason.

In the summer of 1965, I was in boot camp at MCRD in San Diego when we heard that the U.S. war in Vietnam was escalating and once we left boot camp every recruit was going to be on his way to fight. That scuttlebutt turned out to be true, and I arrived in Chu Lai, Vietnam, about 90 miles south of Da Nang on March 28, 1966.

About halfway through my combat tour, the first draftees started to arrive, and one was assigned to the communications platoon where I was a field radio operator. To me, and the other Marines in that platoon, it was considered wrong that anyone should be forced to serve in the U.S. Marines and fight in one of America’s wars, and we went out of our way to shelter that draftee.

In Richard Pena and John Hagan’s “Last Plane out of Saigon,” on page 100, Pena wrote something that I agree with: “I submit that the true American patriots are those who see the faults of our country and do not hide from them but instead attempt to rectify them.”

I didn’t always think that way. As a child, I grew up in a totally non-political family, and at the same time I was also being brainwashed by patriotic films disguised as adventures, thrillers and suspense out of Hollywood—for instance, most John Wayne movies. My parents never voted and the one time I asked my father why, he said all politicians were crooks, and it was a waste of time to vote because it wasn’t going to change anything. When I was in college on the GI Bill 1968 – 1973, I would become more aware and today I disagree with my father, because I think that when we don’t vote, the criminals in the White House and Congress get away with their crimes, but active, knowledgeable voters can change that.

To understand the dramatic attitude shift of the Vietnam War in the United States, in August 1965, when I reported to boot camp at MCRD, 62% of Americans agreed with the war. By the time I flew home from Vietnam near the end of December 1966, that number was down to about 52% and dropping. In 1968 when I was honorably discharged from active duty, support for the war was down to 37%, and by 1971, during my third year of college on the GI Bill, support was down to 28%.

“Last Plane Out of Saigon” is Richard Pena’s story, and it roughly captures the nation’s mood at the end of the war. Pena was drafted—forced to fight in a war that was clearly wrong. His book is a journal of what he felt, thought and did in Vietnam where he witnessed the horrors of war working in the operating room of Vietnam’s largest military hospital in Saigon.

I served in Vietnam in 1966 during the buildup. Soon after I left, U.S. troop strength reached about a half-million. But by the time Richard Pena arrived near the end of the war as a draftee in the fall of 1972, U.S. troop strength in Vietnam was down to about 100,000 and dropping.

I think many of American’s troops—both volunteers and draftees—served honorably for mostly honorable reasons, but many of the leaders of the United States who supported the war and sent the troops to fight justified their criminal actions based on lies and deceit.

That leads to a question I have no answer for. How does one serve honorably in a dishonorable war? As for the 5-stars I gave this book, how can I justify loving a book about a dishonorable war? I awarded the 5-stars based on the honesty of the book that revealed the reason why more than 70% of Americans were not allowing themselves to be fooled by the liars who started the war.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

 Low Def Cover 8 on January 20

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

A Book Cover Must Make a Promise, and the story must Deliver it

•January 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Lloyd Lofthouse:

The drawing for the winner will be held on February 1, 2015.

The reason this post about book covers has been Reblogged to this Blog about the Vietnam War, PTSD and combat veterans is because I’m redesigning the cover of “Running with the Enemy”. The main character of this thriller—that is also a love story—is a U.S. Marine and the story that takes place during the Vietnam War where I fought as a U.S. Marine in 1966.

These were the first four covers that I asked  readers to vote/comment on.

Low Res Four Covers for Voting on January 15 2015

After comments came in (mostly on my other Blog, Lloyd Lofthouse.org), those four covers were revised down to two choices (see below).

http://lloydlofthouse.org/2015/01/15/a-book-cover-must-make-a-promise-and-the-story-must-deliver-it/

Low Res January 22 - two choices

One of these covers will probably replace the current second e-book cover of “Running with the Enemy” (the paperback still has the original cover), and anyone who leaves a comment/suggestion and helps me select the best cover will be entered in a drawing for a free e-book copy of this novel (or a paperback with the original cover if the winner prefers one and lives in the United States).

If the winner has already read “Running with the Enemy”, that’s okay. I’ll send the winner of the drawing a copy of my next novel when it comes out in a few months, “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”, a murder thriller and a lusty love story  that has been with the copy editor with a cover that is pretty much a done deal—I hope. And if the winner doesn’t want to read these two novels because they don’t offer the theme or genre the winner prefers to read, then I will offer an Amazon “Give as a Gift” equal to the full price of the e-book that will be set at $3.99.

Here’s the working cover of “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”.

LowiDef Dec 19 Book Cover for Redemption With Title Flattened

Originally posted on Lloyd Lofthouse:

How important is a book’s cover? Well, for an answer, The Midwest Book Review rejects books submitted for review if the cover doesn’t measure up to traditional industry standards. Midwest reviewers do not bother to open those books. They go in the recycle bin.

On Saturday, January 10, 2015, I attended the January meeting of the Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club to hear a presentation by Jim Azevedo, the Marketing Director of Smashwords. The title of his presentation was “The Secrets to Ebook Self-Publishing Success”. With a Power Point Presentation that had 72 screen shots, he focused on ten secrets, and the one that grabbed my attention was #2, Creating a SUPBERB cover image.

It was soon obvious to me that a book’s cover was probably one of the most important steps to publishing success after writing a riveting story that is professionally edited, because more than 26%…

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Killing Season was obviously too brutal for many Americans—even the critics

•December 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

According to Box Office Mojo, Killing Season’s widest release was to 12 theaters for seven days and then it went to DVD. I think this decision was made because most film audiences in American prefer romance and fantasies—not the brutal, bloody reality of gory, brutal up close and personal hand-to-hand combat.

The film was released on July 11, 2013, and it was a flop at the box office earning a total of $39,881 in theaters. Peter Sobczynski reviewed the film and gave it less than one star. Sobczynski says, “The film is quite awful—badly written, ineptly staged, horribly acted, historically suspect and boring beyond belief—and fully deserving of its ignominious fate.”

Here’s the thing, I don’t agree with Sobczynski. I didn’t think it was a bad film—and was that because I have no taste, or because I’m a former U.S. Marine who fought in Vietnam?

To me, this film reveals rather brutally what combat does to two men, and how war might leave mental scars that run deep. In fact, similar brutality appears in my novel, “Running with the Enemy”. If you have a weak stomach and lose sleep easily over reading about or watching extreme violence, this film and my novel are not for you.

Here’s a brief plot summary without spoilers: In Belgrade, Serbia, former Scorpions soldier Emil Kovač (Travolta) meets an informant to retrieve a file on American military veteran and former NATO operative Colonel Benjamin Ford (De Niro). Ford has fled to a cabin retreat somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains, to forget the war. Now a recluse, he meets Kovač, posing as a European tourist, during a hunting trip. The two men become friendly, until Kovač reveals his true identity. Intent on revenge for something Ford allegedly did in Serbia, he initiates a gory game of cat-and-mouse with Ford. The latter is badly injured but is quick to rebound.

I find it interesting that the film had 257 customer reviews on Amazon, and 132 were 4-and-5 star reviews—that’s 51%.  Only 62 were 1-and-2 stars—that’s 24%. More than twice as many reviewers enjoyed the film, and I was one of them.

The Most Helpful Review said, “Killing Season is a movie that thrills and leaves you thinking. It is timely because the tension echoes many of the current situations going on in society. In their own right each of the two in the movie have their reasons (and justifications) for their points and places. In the end (sorry, no spoiler here) the stark realization of the view from the other side really brings home the powerful moral of this movie. De Niro is his usual amazing self and Travolta delivers a nearly convincing eastern bloc persona. Well worth seeing.”

I also scanned the 1-star reviews and the most detailed one I read ended with: “If you’ve ever wanted to see De Niro piss on his own leg to heal a gaping wound this is your chance. You won’t get another.”

I asked Google why it might have been a good idea for De Nrio to piss on his wound, and Wise Geek.org says, “As difficult as it might be for some to comprehend, the medical benefits of urine have been widely studied in many areas including, but not limited to, the effect of pee on wounds. Normal urine is not only pH balanced, it is non-toxic and is believed to contain many nutrients and healing compounds. Normal urine is both anti-viral and anti-bacterial, making it a potentially ideal treatment for cuts, abrasions, wounds, and skin infections of any kind.”

>>>Focus on the key word there: “normal” urine.<<<

I don’t know about you, but don’t expect me to pee on my wound if I was in the same situation. I’d rather use powdered cayenne. I keep some in the car, bathroom, kitchen and my wood shop. In fact, Earth Clinic.com says, “For stopping profuse bleeding, we eagerly recommend using powdered cayenne to speed up the coagulation process and close the wound.”

I learned about using powdered cayenne on wounds when I belonged to a wood-carving club. Every veteran wood carver in that club had some fine ground pepper/powdered cayenne stored in their tool box with their super-sharp carving knives—just don’t put powdered cayenne or black pepper in your eyes, mouth or nose. It burns really bad, but surprisingly doesn’t burn when sprinkled on cuts and gashes—at least that has been my experience.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

Low-Def Kindle Cover December 11

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

“The Patrol” is a film based on actual events in combat

•December 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I bought the DVD for The Patrol at Costco thinking it was about American special-forces troops in Afghanistan, but it wasn’t.  It was about a British Army Patrol often under attack from an unseen enemy. The UK troops in the film return fire but have no way to know if they inflicted any casualties on the Taliban. I think we tend to forget that U.S. troops aren’t the only forces fighting in Afghanistan. To date, the UK has lost 453 troops in Afghanistan in addition to 2,116 wounded in action.

The Patrol takes place in 2006, in Helmand Province, as the British Army deploys into the Taliban heartland.  In 2006, Britain led the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Helmand province in the south of the country with a 3,300-strong force after fresh outbreaks of violence. At its peak, in Helmand alone there were 137 UK bases and around 9,500 UK troops.

The Patrol has been called, “The British answer to The Hurt Locker and is just as depressing for its sense of reality. As in all war, there is no glory, and with casualties, morale suffers. Hollywood, the news and novels are where war is glorified. Rooted in reality, this film is not your average Hollywood epic. If you are interested in the reality of war, I suggest you ignore the average star rating on Amazon from customer reviews.

War is not combat all the time. The average infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year thanks to the mobility of the helicopter. Now research is revealing that our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are experiencing over 310 days of combat—a day of combat is a day that you don’t know if you will live or die that day. – Our Warriors Today and “Combat Trauma”

The first-time, writer-director Tom Perch draws on his own life in the army to build a convincing low budget film of how troops lose faith in their leaders when they have lousy weapons and see no reason to keep risking their lives in combat that makes no sense.

What worked for me in this film was that the usual macho type heroes we see in most combat films were missing. There were no heroes here and no cowards either. Just troops doing the job they were trained to do—and obviously sent in to harm’s way by corrupt, bungling governments.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

Low-Def Kindle Cover December 11

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

 

 

Comparing the results of 2 films may reveal a sad fact about the values of the average U.S. citizen

•September 26, 2014 • 5 Comments

There are some films and documentaries that should be required viewing the same as taxes and death. The Hornet’s Nest is one of those films that should be viewed not once, but at least three times or more, but, sad to say, average American values are on display when we compare two films that came out on the same weekend.

The Hornet’s Nest, a film my wife and I recently watched at home on a DVD, is a documentary shot by two journalists, a father and son, Carlos and Mike Boettcher, who were embedded with front-line U.S. combat troops in one of the most dangerous combat zones in Afghanistan.

The Hornet’s Nest is not based on a true story—it is a true story.

“The Hornet’s Nest is a groundbreaking and immersive feature film (documentary), using unprecedented real footage to tell the story of an elite group of U.S. troops sent on a dangerous mission deep inside one of Afghanistan’s most hostile valleys. The film culminates with what was planned as a single day strike turning into nine intense days of harrowing combat against an invisible, hostile enemy in the country’s complex terrain where no foreign troops have ever dared to go before. … What resulted is an intensely raw feature film experience that will give audiences a deeply emotional and authentic view of the heroism at the center of this gripping story.”

Yet, this film was never released to theaters outside of the United States and earned a total lifetime gross of $312.7 thousand.  The same weekend that The Hornet’s Nest was released on May 9, 2014, Neighbors, a film I did NOT see and don’t plan to see, came out.

Neighbors grossed worldwide more than $268 million, and was released in 3,311-theaters compared to 57-theaters for The Hornet’s Nest.

I know that the corporate goal in the private sector is all about making profits almost any way possible, legally or illegally, but this is ridiculous—because if we lose the world-wide war against Islamic extremism, there may be no profits for corporate capitalists to earn, and consumers, those who are still alive and have converted to Islam to survive, may have few if any products to buy as they get out their prayer rugs at daybreak, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and evening and turn toward Mecca to pray to the Prophet Muhammad’s tomb. Oh, and the prayers must be said in Arabic, no matter what the native tongue is.

The United States has been fighting the war in Afghanistan since 2001, and the Iraq and Afghan wars against Islamic terrorism have cost $4 to $6 Trillion (so far), in addition to thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injured U.S. troops, and that isn’t counting the hundreds of thousands of deaths of civilians who lived in Iraq and Afghanistan and the millions who have fled to refugee camps to escape the horrors of war.

According to Hollywood Reporter, the average cost of a movie ticket is $7.96. That means 39,285 people may have seen The Hornet’s Nest documentary, compared to about 34-million viewers who watched Neighbors, a film about a couple with a newborn baby who end up having a loud, hard partying fraternity move in next door; a film with an R rating “for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity and drug use throughout. “

Rotten Tomatoes listed six media critics who reviewed The Hornet’s Nest and those six gave the film a 100-percent rating. Variety critic, Joe Leydon said, “This gripping documentary about soldiers in harm’s way during America’s longest war seems all the more relevant as we begin the countdown to troop withdrawals from that war-torn land.”

How about Neighbors?

Rotten Tomatoes reported that 44-critics reviewed the film with an average rating of 73-percent. One of the top critics, Christy Lemure, said, “I have been both of the people at the center of the conflict in “Neighbors.” I have been the drunken sorority girl who doesn’t want the party to end and I have been the perplexed new mom who’s desperate for some sleep. … If only the stakes were higher for all of these characters, it might even be possible to care about who wins.”

For those who care about the truth; the reality and quality of life, you may download the full film of The Hornet’s Nest for $3.99, and watch it starting with the next embedded video, or buy the DVD from Amazon by clicking the previous link.

As a combat veteran who fought in Vietnam, believe me when I say that you can’t hide from the harsh reality of life. Fantasies of sexy vampires, and visits to Disneyland and/or Magic Mountain will not protect you from that reality, because it will find you sooner or later, and it is a hard-wired fact that the United States has hundreds of thousands if not millions of enemies in the Middle East who want to destroy everything there is about America and the citizens who live here.

_______________________
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

Low-Def Kindle Cover December 11His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Hal Salzman: STEM Graduates Can’t Find Jobs

•September 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Lloyd Lofthouse:

Make no mistake, this is the home-front war: American corporations against the U.S. middle class.

Discover how profit hungry corporations and billionaires are going to destroy the middle class in the United States by firing U.S. citizens and replacing them with lower wage immigrants on work visas. Instead of jobs going to other countries, U.S. corporations are working to bring these lower wage workers to the United States to replace more expensive citizen labor. Bill Gates and Microsoft are part of this plan.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Hal Salzman, sociologist and professor of public policy at Rutgers University, says there is a shortage of jobs for graduates who have studied science and engineering. The so-called STEM jobs, he says, have an excess of applicants.

Salzman wrote recently in U.S. News and World Report:

“All credible research finds the same evidence about the STEM workforce: ample supply, stagnant wages and, by industry accounts, thousands of applicants for any advertised job. The real concern should be about the dim employment prospects for our best STEM graduates: The National Institutes of Health, for example, has developed a program to help new biomedical Ph.D.s find alternative careers in the face of “unattractive” job prospects in the field. Opportunities for engineers vary by the field and economic cycle – as oil exploration has increased, so has demand (and salaries) for petroleum engineers, resulting in a near tripling of petroleum engineering graduates. In…

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Anthony Cody: What Marc Tucker Gets Wrong

•September 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Lloyd Lofthouse:

This mania of testing to measure student growth while ranking and yanking teachers based on those scores and then closing schools to turn over to corporation owned Charters reminds of General Westmoreland’s White House supported VAM-like measures for winning the Vietnam War that was based on numbers too—enemy body counts.

The theory went like this: the more people U.S. troops killed, the happier Westmoreland and LBJ were and eventually Nixon—with his B-52 bombing of Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam where the U.S. dropped more bombs than we dropped during all of World War II in both major theaters, The more U.S. troops killed the closer we were to winning the war.

About a quarter to a half-million Vietnamese civilians died, and a half million children have been born with birth defects since the war ended thanks to the use of Agent Orange that our troops were also exposed to. And that isn’t counting the half million to 1.1 million deaths of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops.

In the end, the U.S. lost the Vietnam War. I wonder how much suffering will be caused by NCLB, Race to the Top and the VAM driven Common Core agenda that is similar to the carpet bombing of Southeast Asia by Nixon, before the billionaires—for instance, Bill Gates—and Washington D.C. realize they lost this war too because using VAM like bombs wasn’t the way to improve public education to make it better than it already is.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Anthony Cody was not heartened by Marc Tucker’s vision of a new accountability system with fewer tests. In this post, he explains why. If ever there was a need for close reading, he believes, this is it.

Cody writes:

“Tucker’s plan is confusing. In a proposal in which accountability remains closely tied to a set of high stakes tests, Tucker cites the “Failure of Test-based Accountability,” and eloquently documents how this approach doomed NCLB.

“Tucker speaks about the professionalization of teaching, and points out how teaching has been ravaged by constant pressure to prepare for annual tests. But his proposal still seems wedded to several very questionable premises.

“First, while he blames policymakers for the situation, he seems to accept that the struggles faced by our schools are at least partly due to the inadequacy of America’s teachers. I know of no objective evidence that would support this indictment.

“Second…

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