Harvard Authors’ Bookshelf

Looking for a holiday gift for a special reader? Take a look at the Harvard Authors’ Bookshelf and find a book that won the BOOKVANA award in the Fiction: Romance category and was a Finalist in the International Book Awards in the same category. Kirkus called it “A thought-provoking and ultimately moving story that looks at love, human nature, and conservative religion.” Amy and Atif fall in love while their families feud over the building of a mosque.

More on Masjid Morning:  https://richardmorrisauthor.wordpress.com/masjid-morning/

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Free Delivery

Free Delivery

Amazon Prime had nothing on us today! We offered free delivery on our books so that runners wouldn’t have to carry them home. We would deliver them to their door (just like UPS) or  mail them (just like USPS).

Start of the 5K Zombie Run
10-14-2017 Hyattsville, MD

Why the special service? Because today our market was runners–about 570 of them at the Zombie Run in Hyattsville–many of whom were miniature zombies–lots with painted faces. We could make the offer because most of the runners were local, and the “book rate” at the Post Office is pretty cheap for those who weren’t.

This was the second annual Zombie Run produced by the Hyattsville Elementary School PTA, and I was a sponsor for the event.

Little Zombies line up for 1K

Many runners who liked our books left their wallets home and had no cash or plastic, so we directed them to our local Busboys and Poets Bookstore or Franklins General Store in Hyattsville or online to purchase their copies. Several people commented on seeing Masjid Morning and my other books in the front of the newly arranged bookstore at Busboys in Hyattsville.

Busboys and Poets Book Store

Zombie Run Sponsors

 

 

 

 

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Offbeat Gargoyle and Cologne No. 10 For Men

Richard Peabody

I was excited to read that Gargoyle, DC’s oldest literary magazine, celebrated its 40th anniversary, and I’m proud that I worked with its founder and editor, Richard Peabody, a couple of times over the years. That sort of puts me in the company of MacArthur Fellows, National Book Award winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, and other literary luminaries. Tara Campbell published her book blog about the celebration in Washington Independent Review of Books on October 9, 2017.

Melissa Scholes Young, the event host, described Richard as the literary godfather of DC.

Tara Campbell writes:

MFA student Vince Granata kicked off the event with an illuminating overview of Gargoyle’s establishment in 1976, its reputation as a “scallywag, maverick” publication, its description in the Post as “Washington’s most revered and irreverent” literary magazine, and Peabody’s explanation in an interview that Gargoyle has never been bound by specific editorial guidelines because “[w]e don’t believe in them.”

She adds, “Ah, Gargoyle, always piquing our interest with something a little offbeat.”

Stress City –
Edited by Richard Peabody – Paycock Press (2008)

I met Richard in 2006 when he agreed to edit my Vietnam War satire, Cologne No. 10 For Men. He helped me cut that book in half–eliminating poignant intellectual discussions and sidebars unrelated to the story–and placed the most offbeat passage he could find right at the beginning.

When it was published, he gave me a blurb:  I love the way Wilfred recycles the bodies. That’s fabulous stuff  with a direct line to Heller’s Catch-22 and perfectly captures the insanity of the Vietnam War.” — Richard Peabody, editor, Gargoyle Magazine. 

A year later, in 2008, he included a chapter from Cologne No. 10 For Men in his Stress City anthology. It begins,

They sat in the twilight watching wisps of fog rising from the glassy lake. “It’s becoming clearer to me now, Robbie. What we need to create is the functional equivalent of war: everything except the killing.”

“You mean the illusion of war.”

“Yes,” Wilfred said, astounded at Reckert’s clarity. . . .

Writer’s Digest described Cologne No. 10 For Men as “a truly superb novel of the Vietnam war, a novel that compares favorably with those earlier “dark humor” war novels such as CATCH-22 and M.A.S.H. The writing crackles with authenticity.” Kirkus Reviews called it “A funny and serviceable satire about the gross rationalizations that propel war and peace.” “. . . like Catch-22 or M.A.S.H. . . .carries echoes of Tim O’Brien’s similarly toned The Things They Carried.“ And David Willson, Books in Review II, The Vietnam Veterans of America Veteran commented, “There aren’t very many funny Vietnam War infantry books. This is one of them. Read it and be amazed.” Click here for more on the illusions and delusions in the war.

I wasn’t at Richard’s 40th anniversary celebration of Gargoyle Magazine at American University, but I’m glad to see him honored in this way, and I will always be grateful to him for helping me along the way. Thanks, Richard!

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On the Wrong Side of History

I just completed ten blog posts summarizing Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s Vietnam War series and inserting comments about what I was doing at the time or how that particular segment related to my Vietnam War satire, Cologne No. 10 for Men, or the songs on my “Skytroopers” CD.

This war went on … and on … and on. The last of our troops left in March of 1973. By that time I was in my isolated mountain community designing and building custom homes, building my family (three children by 1975), building my business by adding a small prefab housing facility, immersed in energy-efficient passive solar design, and participating in community theater and other events. The war to me was very far away. But gradually I began to look back through the lens of hindsight and contemporary morality.

Helicopter Maintenance

 

Every soldier’s war was different. Much of the difference depended upon what year or decade one was there and what job one had. Some shuffled paperwork on safe military bases. Others drove trucks, repaired helicopters, built roads and bridges, Military police, Judge Advocate Corps, Medical Services . . . .  Somewhere between five and fifteen percent actually saw combat.

If you’ve read my posts, you may have noted that I was a “hawk” and supported my government’s actions throughout the events of the entire KB/LN series. At some point though, after I left Vietnam, I began to reassess this support, especially after we withdrew from the war after losing 58,000 of our men KIA and 153,000 wounded. South Vietnam suffered the majority of an estimated 2,000,000 civilians killed. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam ARVN suffered 266,000 killed, and there were  1,011,000 North Vietnamese combat deaths.

(I didn’t know it then, but now, in 2017, it is estimated that fifteen percent of Vietnam veterans [389,100] came home with PTSD. Thousands more are homeless, and thousands are addicts or alcoholics.  “More than 150,000 Vietnam veterans have committed suicide since coming home from Vietnam. This is almost three times the number of soldiers that actually died during the war.” Thousands of others have suffered cancers from Agent Orange.)

Homeless men sleeping on a grate in Washington DC, 1-18-16

 

 

 

In 1978, in our secluded mountain community, we heard about Vietnamese boat people  escaping Vietnam and coming to the United States after living in refugee camps in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In the U.S., the Lutheran Church established an organization to help the new arrivals, and I thought that our rural Methodist Church should get involved.

Boat Families

I had also made acquaintances with members of an Amish church nearby, and they wanted to help. Eventually, our two churches took a family of ten Vietnamese. The Amish people had a vacant house that they made available. It had a coal furnace, gas refrigerator, and no electricity, but every night an  Amish neighbor would come in, stoke the furnace, light the kerosene lights, and shovel the snow off the walks. My mother and sister would drive the family to doctor’s and dental appointments, and on shopping trips, and our nephew, the dentist, donated his time, as did the doctor. After a while, I employed one member on my carpenter crew building houses. Many other people helped. The family stayed a year and then moved on to a relative in Chicago and later to Santa Ana, California, a large Vietnamese community, where the weather was warm like Vietnam. Now, today, most of the children have graduated from college and have secured good jobs. Several recently came to visit us and their Amish friends.

Meanwhile, I kept looking back at my Vietnam War experience, wondering whether we should have been fighting there. “In November 1967, to the flag-waving warriors of the Vietnam Era, [Robert] Kennedy, on national television, had said the following: ‘We are killing South Vietnamese, we’re killing children, we’re killing women, we’re killing innocent people because we don’t want to have the war fought on American soil, or because they’re 12,000 miles away and they might get to be 11,000 miles away.’”

I began to consider all the illusions and delusions of the war, and my mind began to swing toward opposing the war. Many tactical operations seemed absurd, like our:

Free fire zones, where we or our helicopter support could kill anything that moved. Anyone who was running was assumed to be the enemy.

Search and Destroy missions (later called Search and Clear) that sought to win the hearts and minds of civilians by sometimes burning their homes.

Measuring our success by counting enemy bodies (KIA) and “friendly” bodies and dividing the enemy KIA by our KIA to determine “kill ratios.” A ten-to-one kill ratio was considered pretty good. Unfortunately, commanders started gaming the system and finding bodies or killing civilians to increase their kill ratios. In other wars, we measured our success by taking and holding ground, but not in Vietnam. Listen to my song “Counting Bodies in the Nam” (2007), lyrics.

Fighting up Hamburger Hill

Fighting our way to the top of a hill, losing untold men to enemy fire, and then giving the hill back after we conquered it. What was the point?

The one-year tour of duty for troops made the soldier’s goal surviving for the year and going home rather than fighting until the war was won and the mission was accomplished. Was our objective to win or survive? I remember the World War I George M. Cohan song: “Over there . . . we’re going over . . . and we won’t come home till it’s over over there.”

The idea that we could win by dropping bombs on the enemy. This destroyed his homes and family, but never his desire to rid the country of us, the enemy.

My Lai Massacre, a few of the victims

The idea that killing thousands of people with bombs and artillery is not an atrocity, but Lt. Calley’s actions at My Lai were.

Our hubris–the idea that we were invincible, and superior to our enemy, who were intellectually backward, primitive, aboriginal “third world” people. This was basically a racist idea.

We were fighting against Communism, but the U.S. Military was the second largest socialist dictatorship in the world. It provided us with food, clothing, shelter, medical care, transportation, jobs–everything–as long as we did what we were told.

We were even told that Agent Orange, which we used to defoliate jungle canopies and destroy rice crops (to drive refugees to the cities) doesn’t hurt humans. However, the Agent Orange Act of 1991 accepted a presumed link between Agent Orange and many cancers.

TV reporters in Vietnam sought grisly material to report on the evening news at home–the more revolting, the better.

Harassment and Interdiction Fire–every night on an artillery fire base, the artillery would fire randomly outside the perimeter (not at an enemy target), I guess to scare any forces who might attack us. [“Who are they firing at?!” “Nobody!”]

Pull back and call in the artillery, a standard practice whenever we received enemy fire, and a practice that resulted in high civilian casualties but few among the enemy.

Artillery Preps: Before we made a combat assault, jumping from our helicopters to surround a village, the artillery would fire rounds at our helicopter landing zone (again, not at an enemy target), which let the enemy know exactly where we would land.

After considering these things, I found myself on the wrong side of history and decided that I had to get on the right side through my writing. I began writing Cologne No. 10 For Men, a satiric novel like Catch-22 or M.A.S.H., only one about the Vietnam War instead of  World War II or Korea. I wanted to tell an engaging story that would highlight some of our illusions and delusions in Vietnam.

Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond

Decades later, in 2002, I again found myself on the wrong side of history and decided that the Republican party no longer represented me. This was when Trent Lott, Republican Senate Majority Leader, agreed with Senator Strom Thurmond from South Carolina at Thurmond’s 100th birthday party, that the country would have been better off with racial segregation. Lott said: “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either,” a veiled reference to Civil Rights Movement strife. In his presidential campaign, Thurmond had called for the preservation of racial segregation, states’ rights, and overturning the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and prohibited racial segregation in schools, employment, and public buildings. The Republican party also seemed to be spendthrift at the time, whereas I always leaned toward fiscal conservatism. So, I said, “Wait. This is not my party! This does not represent what I believe,” and I became a Democrat.

My wife reflects upon the fact that she grew up in Montgomery, AL, without an awareness of the Civil Rights Movement even though it was taking place near her while she was growing up. Some years later, she felt that students of color in an African American studies class she was taking in graduate school did not believe her when she told of her unawareness. On the other hand, they themselves did not know much of the history of African Americans in this country either.

Carl B. Stokes, first African American mayor of a major U.S. city [Cleveland]

In a Cleveland suburb as a teenager, I raised the question about why no people of color lived in my town. [A real estate representative told me that people of color didn’t want to live in the town.] At least by the time I was in graduate school at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, I had enough awareness of race relations in this country to volunteer to work for Carl B. Stokes [the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city] in his first campaign for mayor. But I didn’t explore the issue of residential segregation any further until almost fifty years later when I was writing Canoedling in Cleveland and had my characters pursue the questions I had not asked back then. Well Considered and Masjid Morning were also written in response to what I saw happening in my world. //
We live in a city that has chosen to become a sanctuary city (see blogpost), that allows voting by sixteen-year-olds and recognizes the importance of its youth in other ways [a shout out to our mayor, Candace B. Hollingsworth], that allows noncitizen voting in local matters that affect them. It is a city where neighbors proudly act upon values that seem to me to be on the right side of history. In a time when everyone wonders where the future political leaders will come from, I feel so fortunate to have strong leadership on the right side of history in my own city. And as Barbara and I celebrate fifty years of marriage together this year of 2017, I know that one of the reasons our marriage has lasted and thrived is because we both have changed tremendously – but we changed in the same direction and so did not grow apart.

 

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“The Vietnam War:” Episode Ten: “The Weight of Memory” (March 1973 – Onward)

[What follows is a brief summary of Episode Ten of the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Special “The Vietnam War” along with my personal commentaries, songs, and writings about where I was during this period. – Former 1Lt. Richard Morris, A Co. 2nd Bn 5th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile) 1967-68]

Last Episode (Ten): “The Weight of Memory” (March 1973 – Onward), Thursday, Sept. 28:

Tim O’Brien, Vietnam Veteran and author of The Things They Carried, said that soldiers carried many things: diseases, leeches, lice, each other, and many others.

 A COVERcologne 12-06[I was delighted when Kirkus Reviews described Cologne No. 10 For Men as “A funny and serviceable satire about the gross rationalizations that propel war and peace.” “. . . like Catch-22 or M.A.S.H. . . .carries echoes of Tim O’Brien’s similarly toned The Things They Carried.“— Kirkus Review]

The Paris Peace Accords, officially titled the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, was a peace treaty signed on January 27, 1973 to establish peace in Vietnam and end the Vietnam War. The treaty included the governments of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), and the United States.

POWS and MIA

Following the accords, the North Vietnamese returned 591 American prisoners of war (POWs) during Operation Homecoming. On March 29, 1973, the last U.S. soldiers left South Vietnam:  200 Marines. The U.S. listed about 2,500 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action, but only 1,200 Americans were reported killed in action and body not recovered. In 1991-1993, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs led by John Kerry, Bob Smith, and John McCain “found no compelling evidence that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia.”

 One hundred forty-five thousand NVA troops remained in the South, the North had positioned surface-to-air missiles just north of the DMZ, and the new Ho Chi Minh Trail was a paved road. By August 15, all parties were to cease all operations. 

For two more years, the North and South fought an endless civil war. And Americans couldn’t get their minds off it [except me*]. Was it worth it?

* [I say “except me” because I was in my isolated mountain community building my family (three children by 1975), building my business by adding a small prefab housing facility, and immersed in energy-efficient passive solar design, and participating in community theater and other events.]

Watergate:

[Excerpt from Wikipedia] Shortly after midnight on June 17, 1972, Frank Wills, a security guard at the Watergate Complex, noticed tape covering the latches on some of the doors in the complex leading from the underground parking garage to several offices (allowing the doors to close but remain unlocked). He removed the tape, thinking nothing of it. But when he returned an hour later and discovered that someone had retaped the locks, Wills called the police. Five men were discovered inside the DNC office and arrested. They were Virgilio González, Bernard Barker, James McCord, Eugenio Martinez, and Frank Sturgis, who were charged with attempted burglary and attempted interception of telephone and other communications. On September 15, a grand jury indicted them, as well as Hunt and Liddy, for conspiracy, burglary, and violation of federal wiretapping laws. The five burglars who broke into the office were tried by a jury, Judge John Sirica officiating, and pled guilty or were convicted on January 30, 1973.

Nixon said, “I had no prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in.”

On July 27, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommended that the president of the United States be impeached and removed from office because of obstruction of the investigation of the Watergate break-in and other unlawful activities.

Nixon Resigns
(AP photo)

Nixon resigned the Presidency on August 9, 1974. Vice President Gerald R. Ford of Michigan took the oath of office as the new President to complete the remaining 2 1/2 years of Mr. Nixon’s term.

In Vietnam, one-fifth of the workers in the South were unemployed. The army cut the pay, and twenty-thousand deserted. Fuel, ammo, artillery shells, grenades, and bullets ran low.While the Watergate scandal riveted Americans’ attention and forced President Nixon to resign, the Vietnamese continued to savage one another in a brutal civil war.

In the 1975 Spring Offensive, Le Duan attacked Phuc Long province followed by the key Central Highlands city of Buon Ma Thuot. These operations were intended to launch a general offensive in 1976. However, the South Vietnamese realized they could no longer defend the entire country, given the cutbacks in American aid, and they ordered a strategic withdrawal from the northern half of South Vietnam. The retreat was a debacle, however, and the southern forces were routed. They abandoned the Highlands. Hue fell, then Danang. A flotilla of boats with soldiers and civilians headed south towards Cam Ranh Bay. By the end of March, eighteen North Vietnamese Divisions were pursuing six ARVN Divisions.

Vietnamese attempt to enter U.S. Embassy grounds

Panic was rampant among the 200,000 South Vietnamese who had helped the U.S. South Vietnam requested $722 million in emergency aid, but Congress voted against any. Evacuation of Saigon broke every rule. People escaped on aircraft, boats, helicopters. However, U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin was not interested in leaving. The ARVN held on for twelve days, and on April 21st, President Thieu resigned. He was not invited to the U.S. by President Ford.

April 1975, South China Sea — US Choppers Ditched After Saigon Pull-out — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

 

 

 

On April 27, 1975 rockets landed in the center of Saigon, and small boats full of refugees left the harbor and sailed for sea. There was a call for choppers from off-shore ships.

President Ford ordered Ambassador Martin to leave, and 129 Marines in the building went to the roof to await helicopters.

When hundreds of thousands of North Vietnamese troops poured into the south, Saigon descended rapidly into chaos and collapses. There was no bloodbath, but one and a half million South Vietnamese went through re-education–supposedly for three days of study, a month long for officers [It is said that some spent years.]. The Communists bulldozed cemeteries to eliminate names of the enemy dead. Altogether, three million soldiers–Northern and Southern–were killed, plus 58,000 Americans. Washington refused to recognize the Communist government, which abolished capitalism and set up collective farming.

Sino-Vietnamese War– March 16 – February 17, 1979

On March 16, 1979, Chinese troops crossed the Vietnamese border and captured several small cities, withdrawing a month later.  China launched the offensive in response to Vietnam’s invasion and occupation of Cambodia in 1978 (which ended the rule of the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge). China and Vietnam each lost thousands of troops. Vietnam lost almost as many troops as the U.S. lost in the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam Memorial

In April 27, 1979, four years after the Fall of Saigon, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund was incorporated to establish a memorial to the veterans of the war. Jan Scruggs, a wounded Vietnam veteran, led the effort. Eventually, $8.4 million was raised by private donations. A year later, a site was chosen, and on March 30, 1981, the design by Maya Lin, a Yale architect, was selected over 1420 other designs, with the names of the more than 50,000 U.S. servicemen killed in the war inscribed on the black granite.

 

Diplomatic Relations

In 1985, the U.S. had no diplomatic relations at that time, but our veterans kept traveling back as tourists. So, we entered into a negotiation with Vietnam to restore diplomatic relations, led by  Senators John McCain, John Kerry, and Bob Kerry. Le Duan was dead, and the country had embarked on a more pragmatic economy, although the government was still Communist. Hanoi began to help the U.S. find MIAs. In 1994, we lifted the trade embargo. In 2000, President Bill Clinton visited the country followed by Obama in 2016.

Ghosts

Many ghosts remain from the war, including the casualties and poisoned soil from Agent Orange, and the tons of ordinance that are buried in the ground, ready to go off.  North Vietnamese mothers continue to come south looking for their sons and daughters to take them back for reburial in the North so their souls will not wander. In America, we have ghosts from PTSD, which in World War II was combat fatigue, and in World War I, shell shock.

[Sometimes I still sing love songs that I wrote in Vietnam to my wife back home (“Mirage,” “Barbara,” and “I Needed A Girl Like Barb’ra” — see Skytroopers CD links below). I recorded them on a tape with Sgt. Mendoza, a most excellent guitarist who helped me on the rear firebases, and then I sent them back to the world. I’m glad I was able to sing them to her in person.]

My DEROS Calendar

 

For my other blog posts on the Vietnam War, see:

Cav Takes Over Khe Sanh

Fact or Fiction in Vietnam,”

Kill Anything That Moves – The Real American War In Vietnam, by Nick Turse: A One-Sided View of the War,”

Cologne No. 10 For Men – Fact or Fiction

Skytroopers CD

Skytrooper CD Lyrics

A Movie of Cologne No. 10 For Men?

“Read it and be Amazed.” —Vietnam Veterans of America on Cologne No. 10 For Men

“When’s the Sun Gonna Shine on Camp Evans ?”

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“The Vietnam War:” Episode Nine: “A Disrespectful Loyalty” (May 1970 – March 1973)

[What follows is a brief summary of Episode Nine of the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Special “The Vietnam War” along with my personal commentaries, songs, and writings about where I was during this period. – Former 1Lt. Richard Morris, A Co. 2nd Bn 5th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile) 1967-68]

Episode Nine: “A Disrespectful Loyalty” (May 1970 – March 1973), Wednesday, Sept. 27:

Vietnam Veterans Against The War – April 1971 – Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Stop the war; no more war
VS
Nixon needs our support; Love it or leave it [the country]

Most Americans blamed the students for the Kent State murders.

John Kerry of the Vietnam Veterans Against The War Winter Soldier Investigation speaks to Senate Foreign Relations Cmt, April 22, 1971

April 22, 1971 – Vietnam Veterans Against the War – John Kerry spoke to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:  we have rationalized destroying cities, free fire zones, falsification and glorification of body counts, but no accusation of torture or atrocities. Threw medals over the fence at the U.S. Capitol. Kerry later served as the U.S. Secretary of State from 2013 to 2017.

The 1971 May Day protests was a series of large-scale demonstrations against the war  in which the May Day Tribe sought to shut down roads and bridges in the Washington, DC area. Twelve thousand demonstrators were arrested, seven thousand in one day.

The Pentagon Papers are a systematic history of the Vietnam War by former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. Daniel Ellsberg, who worked on the project, released them to the New York Times in June, 1971. After the Boston Globe and Washington Post published excerpts, the U.S. Supreme Court authorized publication by the NY Times.

McNamara said that the purpose of the war was to contain China. The papers revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scope of its actions in the war with the bombings of Cambodia and Laos, which were not reported in the mainstream media.

Ellsberg was initially charged with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property, but the charges were later dismissed after prosecutors investigating the Watergate Scandal discovered that the staff members in the Nixon White House had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg.

In 1971, 17,000 ARVN troops were sent to Laos to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and to prove that Vietnamization can work. There were said to be 22,000 VC/NVA troops in area (actually, 60,000), and the invasion failed. Half of the South Vietnamese troops were killed, wounded, or captured. Yet Nixon claimed victory.

U.S. discipline and morale low. One fourth of soldiers used marijuana, but never in combat. However, 40,000 U.S. troops were addicted to heroin. Creighton Abrams was quoted as saying, “I need to get this army home.”

In 1970, we had 334,600 troops; in 1971, 156,800; in 1972, 24,200. Add to these numbers a million or more ARVN troops [SOURCE: Dept of Defense Manopower Data Center].

On March 30, 1972, Le Duan and The North Vietnamese chose to test the strength of the ARVN and bring the war to a rapid close with an Easter Offensive by sending fourteen tank divisions crossing the DMZ into Quang Tri Province, aiming south for Saigon. At this time, the U.S. had only 60,000 combat troops in country. However, the U.S. mounted Operation Linebacker “bombing the hell out of them.” The ARVN fought bravely, and the tanks made easy targets for the bombs. Most tanks were destroyed.

Pulitzer-prize-winning photo of girl with clothing burned off by napalm, 1972, by Kim Phuc

In response to the Easter Offensive, Nixon resumed the bombing of North Vietnam and mined the Haiphong Harbor on May 9 where most war supplies came in country from China and Russia. The Soviets and Chinese denounced the mining. As part of the Paris Peace Accord, the U.S. Operation End Sweep removed the mines between February 6 and July 27, 1973.

March 29, 1971: Lieutenant Calley was sentenced to life in prison at hard labor, but spent only three days behind bars. The public decided that Calley was not guilty; the war was. Twenty-three officers and men were acquitted or dismissed; they were only following orders.

In March, 1972, Nixon traveled to China, the first step in normalizing relations with the country, and later to the U.S.S.R.  to sign the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which curbed the growth of nuclear arsenals and was also the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I).

On the home front, Nixon authorized the Watergate break-in to place eavesdropping equipment in the Democratic National Headquarters.

Jane Fonda

And Jane Fonda was pilloried as a traitor for broadcasting on Radio Hanoi that American pilots and bombers were war criminals.

January 22, 1973, Lyndon Baines Johnson died of congestive heart failure on his ranch in Texas.

After being re-elected over George McGovern in a landslide on November 8, 1972, Nixon announced that Hanoi agreed to a peace deal. American prisoners of war will finally come home – to a bitterly divided country. Nixon did not consult the South Vietnamese in this agreement; nor did Le Duan consult the Viet Cong.

In May of 1970 I graduated from Harvard with an MBA in Production, and took a job as Materials Manager for a small prefabricated housing company in Millis, MA, where I had written a purchasing handbook for them during my internship the previous summer. We still supported the war; my wife remembers  talking with other students at Boston University Law School (where student protests had closed the library the preceding year) and saying that we couldn’t just leave Viet Nam, because of all the lives that had been lost in this effort. They countered with the idea of preventing further loss of life.

In 1971 in pursuit of more opportunity, I started my own design-build firm in a small rural county in the mountains of Western Maryland. First Barbara transferred to West Virginia University Law School but then traded student life to work for both an attorney and for me … and we started our family with the birth of a daughter. Our geographical isolation where the mountains blocked communication signals and the constant attention to building work and family made us mostly disconnected from the history narrated in this segment. Referencing the communications isolation, one friend excitedly announced that at her high location on a ridge, she was able to listen to the Watergate hearings which opened on May 17, 1973. This was our first awareness of National Public Radio, founded 2/26/70.

Our best friends who were anti-war politely tolerated my Vietnam stories and songs, including my sad ballad symbolizing the need to be successful in Vietnam:

11. Smoking Hamlet (Together We Can Empty The South China Sea)

[Inspired by a “Stars and Stripes” article about the Vietcong destruction of a Montagnard village in the Central Highlands]

We moved into a smoking hamlet at the break of day.
The hooches lay in dying embers. Gone their roofs of clay.
The cattle lay in bloody pools awaiting their decay.
The only sound the crackling embers gorging down their prey.

A shadow moved and snapped a twig. I jerked my rifle high.
An aged man with placid visage soon came hobbling by.
Without a fear he came to me and gave the reason why.
The VC kidnapped everyone and left him there to die.

Quietly he said to me.

Together we can empty the South China Sea
And move the purple mountains with one bold decree.
Together we can make every bamboo viper flee.
Together you and I can be free.

Last Episode (Ten): “The Weight of Memory” (March 1973 – Onward), Thursday, Sept. 28: While the Watergate scandal rivets Americans’ attention and forces President Nixon to resign, the Vietnamese continue to savage one another in a brutal civil war. When hundreds of thousands of North Vietnamese troops pour into the south, Saigon descends rapidly into chaos and collapses. For the next 40 years, Americans and Vietnamese from all sides search for healing and reconciliation.

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“The Vietnam War:” Episode Eight: “The History of the World” (April 1969 – May 1970)

[What follows is a brief summary of Episode Eight of the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Special “The Vietnam War” along with my personal commentaries, songs, and writings about where I was during this period. – Former 1Lt. Richard Morris, A Co. 2nd Bn 5th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile) 1967-68]

Episode Eight: “The History of the World” (April 1969 – May 1970), Tuesday, Sept. 26:

Hamburger Hill 937 near Ho Chi Minh Trail after nine days of being thrown back

Between May 10 and 20, 1969, troops of the 101st Airborne, 9th Marine Regiment, 5th Cavalry Regiment, and the 3rd ARVN Regiment fought a battle against the 29th NVA Regiment to take heavily fortified Hill 937, “Hamburger Hill,” near the Ho Chi Minh Trail. U.S. losses during the ten-day battle totaled 72 KIA and 372 WIA, and there was no good count of NVA losses as they ran off the hill, but 89 individual weapons and 22 crew‑served weapons were captured. A week later, caring only about kill ratios, we abandoned the hill.

The efficacy of Vietnamization – placing the South Vietnam Government in charge of the war – was hotly debated. But if the U.S. was to leave, the South would have to pick up the load. And with soldiers’ morale plummeting in Vietnam, President Nixon began withdrawing American troops. We also began pouring weaponry into Vietnam to arm the ARVN, which had between 850,000 and one million soldiers, and 90,000 KIA. There was rampant corruption in the ARVN. “Ghost soldiers” would sign up, pay their commanding officer their salary, and then continue to work their civilian job.

Race relations in the U.S. army were problematic. In the rear areas in Vietnam, there was segregation and discord, but where the troops fought together, they were tight.

I wrote a song about a Black soldier who volunteered to take point, the most dangerous position in a patrol, for an entire year (see lyrics and hear a bit of the tune). He also has a heroic role in Cologne No. 10 For Men, albeit with a different name.

5. The Ballad Of John Wesley
© Richard A. Morris 1968

[Pvt. E-1 John Wesley was a black point man in C Co. 2nd of the 5th Cavalry whose heroic feats were widely told. Those in this song may or may not be true.]

John Wesley
An old NVA belt on his steel pot
Gave warning: Charlie mess with me and death will be your lot.
And a boyish grin showed a golden tooth with a white enamel star.
On his pump shotgun ‘neath a brass Cav patch
he’d eleven notches carved.

John Wesley
It was five a.m. in foggy 506.
For him though, that old High Noon clock was counting deadly ticks.
As around the bend five NVA with their bad AKs did come.
And a woman’s voice ordered him “Lai dai” as she chambered up a round.
John Wesley, did he drop his gun and try to run away.
No he opened up and he turned them all to clay.

John Wesley
It was New Year’s day and a truce had been decreed.
In defense, he patrolled around his company FOB,
When he came upon three well-armed Cong, all comfortable and nice.
When they saw him there they boldly smiled and kept on munching rice.
John Wesley, did he blow his cool and fill the fools with lead?
No he opened up some Cs and dined instead.

John Wesley, John Wesley, John Wesley

Relations between troops and their commanding officers was often strained. There were 800 cases of suspected “fragging” of superior officers in Vietnam–tossing a grenade in his hooch–especially those officers who volunteered for dangerous missions. (These were not especially attributed to racial tensions.)

Ho Chi Minh, Le Duan

Ho Chi Minh died on September 2nd, 1969, after struggling for independence against the French, Japanese, ARVN, and U.S. Le Duan continued to be the top decision-maker in North Vietnam.

Back home, there continued to be peaceful moratoriums, but the Weathermen of the Students for Democratic Society held four days of rage in Chicago, in which 200 were arrested. The moratorium on October 15, 1969 was the largest outpouring of dissent in the country’s history, and was on-the-whole peaceful and middle class. On November 3rd, Nixon appeared on TV calling for patience.

My Lai Massacre, a few of the victims

In Quang Ngai province south of Da Nang, seventy percent of the villages had been destroyed by off-shore guns and forty percent of the people had been sent into refugee camps. The Americal Division was operating there with “no sense of purpose,” according to author and veteran Tim O’Brien.  

On March 16, 1968, the My Lai Massacre occurred in the hamlet of My Lai. It was the worst mass killing of the war. Between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians – under the command of  Lieutenant William Calley, Jr., a platoon leader, and his commanding officer, Captain Ernest Medina, were killed. Victims included men, women–some of whom were gang-raped–children, and infants.  Twenty-six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only Lieutenant Calley was convicted.

Hiroshima

Calley was found guilty of killing 22 villagers, was originally given a life sentence, but served only three and a half years under house arrest. To see more about atrocities in Vietnam, see my blog post “Fact or Fiction in Vietnam.”

On November 15, 1969, half a million people demonstrated against the war in cities across the U.S. Vietnam War veterans were now being called “baby-killers.”

President Nixon announces the Cambodian Incursion, April 30, 1970

The Cambodian incursion took place between April 29th and July 22nd by the ARVN  and by U.S. forces between May 1 and June 30. The objective was to defeat the approximately 40,000 troops of the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong who were ensconced in the eastern border regions of Cambodia.

Kent State University Killings of Four Students by the National Guard

Protests continued on college campuses. And on May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard killed four students and wounded nine others on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. As a result, hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students. Four hundred forty-eight campuses were closed, and the National Guard was called out in sixteen states.

At about that time, protests were held at Harvard Business School.  I was still a hawk then, and I remember taking the mic and defending Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia.

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The Vietnam War: Episode Seven: “The Veneer of Civilization” (June 1968 – May 1969)

[What follows is a brief summary of Episode Seven of the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Special “The Vietnam War” along with my personal commentaries, songs, and writings about where I was during this period. – Former 1Lt. Richard Morris, A Co. 2nd Bn 5th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile) 1967-68]

Kill Ratios (not)

Kill ratios were used to rank our kills. The higher the ratio of the enemy soldiers we killed over our soldiers that they killed, the greater our success. A ten-to-one kill ratio was thought to be pretty good. I satirize this practice in my novel, “Cologne No. 10 For Men,” and in my song, “Counting Bodies In The Nam” which I wrote in 2007 (lyrics of all my songs can be found here, and the tunes here.

13. Counting Bodies In the Nam
© Richard A. Morris 2007

[A tribute to the practice in Vietnam of counting friendly and enemy soldiers killed in action and calculating kill ratios to measure success in battle. I never witnessed the shenanigans that could have occurred in counting bodies more than once or counting bodies that we found. The song is an intro to my critically-praised Vietnam War novel, Cologne No. 10 For Men, which satirizes the body count system.
V. 1
Counting bodies in the Nam
to prove that we have won.
So what if we don’t control the land
and give it right back to Charlie again.
Cause land don’t count at all – just – the bodies.
And we don’t have to kill ‘em to count ‘em, no.
Doo, doo Doo, doo Doo,

v.2
Find a body, claim it quick
in a hamlet or a crick.
In a grave   we’ll dig it up
and add it to the glorious sum.
To raise our kill ratio
It’s their dead over ours, you know.
The proof that we’re ahead.
As long as we ain’t dead.

Illusion, delusion.
The kill rat tells the truth, we know.
Ten to one says we’re winning, yeah,
Even if all hell is beginning.
Doo, doo Doo, doo Doo.

 

 

 

v.3
Counting bodies in the Nam
to prove that we have won.
And we don’t really have to kill anyone.
Just count ‘em dead and add ‘em up.
We can even count ‘em more than once
‘Cause it’s only the count that counts, you dunce.
Till pacification lets us stop counting
And pacification lets us stop killing.
But there will be no peace until we leave.
Yes, there will be no peace until we leave.

Maj. Gen. Julian Ewell

In 1969 Major General Julian Ewell, commander of the 1st Brigade, 9th U.S. Infantry Division, operated in Dunh Tuong Province in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. In

Operation Speedy Express

Operation Speedy Express, he used 8,00 infantrymen conducting night ambushs, free fire zones where any occupant could be killed, 50 artillery pieces, 50 helicopters, and U.S. Air Force fighter bombers carrying out 3,381 tactical air strikes. Patrols pursued VC around the clock, and anyone who was running was assumed to be VC.

Between December 1968 and the end of May 1969, he claimed 10,889 enemy dead, with only 242 U.S. soldiers killed (a kill ratio of 45:1), but only 748 weapons were recovered (a ratio of enemy killed to weapons seized of 14.6:1). We used to say that a weapon proved the KIA was a soldier. So how many of his kills were really enemy soldiers?  [In Cologne No. 10 For Men, note how the protagonist, Lt. Wilfred Carmenghetti, handled this shortage of weapons problem.] The U.S. Army after-action report attributed the low number of weapons to the high percentage of kills made during night hours (estimated at 40%), and by asserting that “many of the guerilla units were not armed with weapons.” Newsweek’s Saigon Bureau Chief, Kevin Buckley, wrote an article that questioned the spectacular kill ratio and suggested that half of the dead were innocent civilians. (probably a lot more than half)

So when I satirize body counts in Cologne No. 10 For Men, I’m speaking truth, man. And when it comes to atrocities, see my blog post “Fact or Fiction in Vietnam.”

Back in the States, Black students were taking over college administration buildings demanding, among other things, Black Studies programs.

Hanoi Hannah

In North Vietnam, Radio Hanoi was lying to the people, announcing great victories after Tet and mini-Tet. But the people noticed that the Saigon regime had not fallen, and the U.S. was still bombing them. And many parents of soldiers found that their loved ones were not returning home. University students and children of the wealthy were not being drafted, so most draftees were poor youth from the countryside. They moved down the Ho Chi Minh Trail passing wounded soldiers moving northward who told them what they were getting themselves into. Most of the truck drivers were women, and during the war, more than 20,000 drivers and mechanics were killed by bombing.

My Vietnam experience–my one-year all-expenses-paid camping trip in the great outdoors with free food, lodging, clothing, cigarettes, and ammunition compliments of the U.S. Government–ended on May 25, 1968, a week or so before Robert Kennedy was shot. I kept a calendar in my little black notebook and marked off the days until DEROS (Date Eligible to Return from Overseas), and each succeeding day I became more apprehensive. Sometimes Lady Luck is not a lady (for a satirical proof of this fact, see “Lady Luck and Lt. Smith” in “Cuts From Cologne.” I made it home, and soon was placed in charge of recreation at Ft. Benning, a safe summer job before I left active duty and Barbara and I travelled to Boston where I began my studies at Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration in September.

The 1968 Democratic National Convention was held August 26–29 in Chicago, about the time I was beginning school. Since President Johnson had announced he would not seek re-election, the purpose of the convention was to select a new presidential nominee to run as the Democratic Party’s candidate. Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Senator Edmund Muskie were nominated for President and Vice President, respectively. The convention was held in a year of civil unrest, with riots in more than a hundred cities following the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy.

Fifteen thousand protesters showed up, most of whom were anti-war, and Mayor Daley had twelve thousand police plus six thousand each from the Army and National Guard. The police rioted against the mob with billy clubs, mace, and tear gas, and the demonstrators threw rocks and bottles. The press criticized the police for using Gestapo tactics. A small majority of Americans approved the police actions.

In Vietnam, the CIA’s Phoenix Program was hunting down civilian runners and spies who were used to guide arriving soldiers to their new commands. By 1972, Phoenix operatives had neutralized 81,740 suspected Viet Cong operatives, informants and supporters, of whom between 26,000 and 41,000 were killed.

On October 31st, LBJ stopped the bombing of the North, and Humphrey’s polls rose. But on November 30th, after Richard Nixon beat Hubert Humphrey in a close election, Nixon called for a return to bombing of the North. At the Paris peace talks, the parties disagreed about the shape of the table, until Russia suggested a round table.

In January of 1969, when Nixon took over, 37,563 American soldiers had been killed in Vietnam. Soon thereafter, Nixon started the secret bombing of Cambodia.

Episode Eight: “The History of the World” (April 1969 – May 1970), Tuesday, Sept. 26: With morale plummeting in Vietnam, President Nixon begins withdrawing American troops. As news breaks of an unthinkable massacre committed by American soldiers, the public debates the rectitude of the war, while an incursion into Cambodia reignites antiwar protests with tragic consequences. Protests continue on college campuses, and the nation struggles with the deaths of four students at Kent State University.

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“The Vietnam War,” Episode Six: “Things Fall Apart” (Jan. 1968 – July 1968)

[What follows is a brief summary of Episode Six of the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Special “The Vietnam War” along with my personal commentaries, songs, and writings about where I was during this period. – Former 1Lt. Richard Morris, A Co. 2nd Bn 5th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile) 1967-68]

“Something’s going to happen but we don’t know what.”

Attacking the enemy troops at Hue

On the eve of the Tet holiday, January 31, 1968, all hell broke loose. North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launched surprise attacks on cities and military bases throughout the south. Le Duan and Ho Chi Minh counted on the attacks to stimulate a general uprising all over the south. This did not occur. The NVA and VC suffered devastating losses. At Hue, they held on for 25 days and cast grave doubt on Johnson’s promise that there is “light at the end of the tunnel.”

In Saigon, the communists attacked six primary targets: the HQ of the ARVN General Staff at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, the Independence Palace, the U.S. Embassy, the Republic of Vietnam Navy HQ, and the National Radio Station. All the attacks met stiff resistance and failed.

Ilikai Hotel

During Tet, I was Battalion Communications Officer with the 1st Cavalry Division units at Camp Evans, just a few clicks (km) north of Hue, but I had orders to go on R&R to Hawaii for a week.

Barbara after R&R in Hawaii, in early March

So we met in Hawaii–me from Vietnam and her from Alabama–and stayed at the Ilikai Hotel.  It was to be a honeymoon for us, since we had married shortly before I left Ft. Benning for Ft. Polk, LA to be a training officer and just a few months before I went to Jungle School in Panama for two weeks and then shipped out to Vietnam.

We had a great time in Hawaii, but I was fearful of returning to Vietnam in the middle of Tet. However, when I got back, most of Hue had been recaptured by our forces. The VC/NVA executed 2800 people on their way out. Altogether, 6000 civilians died, 110,000 lost their homes. There was no popular uprising, and no South Vietnamese Army units defected.

On February 1, South Vietnamese Army General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the National Police, publicly executed Viet Cong officer Nguyen Ven Lem, captured in civilian clothing, a photo that some called “the picture that lost the war.”

The American people became convinced that if the VC/NVA could attack cities all over Vietnam at will, the war would continue for many years. Sixty-three percent disapproved of the war.

Operation Pegasus.

On March 10, Gen. Westmoreland requested 206,000 more troops, and on March 26, LBJ replaced him with Creighton Abrams. On March 31st, President Johnson announced that he would not seek nor accept the nomination of his party for President of the United States. On that day the 1st Cavalry Division launched Operation Pegasus to relieve the 3500 Marines and 2100 ARVN troops surrounded and under siege by 20,000 NVA troops at Khe Sanh near the DMZ. I’ll never forget flying in that chain of choppers down Rt. 9 from Dong Ha to Khe Sanh. A Co. 2/5 landed on a hill denuded by Agent Orange with a 30-foot-wide bomb crater on top. Eerily, we found no enemy troops – only some discarded weapons – and presumed that the attack on the Marines had ended. Where was Charlie? I wrote a song about it in Vietnam. (Here’s the link to all my songs):

9. Charlie’s Gone From Khe Sahn
© Richard A. Morris 1968

Charlie’s Gone, Charlie’s Gone, from Khe Sahn, from Khe Sahn.
When we got there, when we got there,
the Leathernecks were lyin’ in the sun
and a-havin’ fun, a-havin’ fun,
and a-sippin’ a long, cool one.
‘Cause Charlie’s gone.

Charlie’s Gone, Charlie’s Gone, from Khe Sahn, from Khe Sahn.
We’d like to think, we’d like to think, he heard the Cav was comin’ and he run.
But there’s more than that, there’s more than that,
‘Cause the jets are gettin’ deadly with their bombs.

He didn’t even say goodbye.
He didn’t even pack his bags.
He didn’t even say where he was goin’ knowin’
We’d want to pay a visit to him soon.

Charlie’s Gone, Charlie’s Gone, from Khe Sahn, from Khe Sahn.
We’re moppin up, we’re moppin’ up
his weapons by the hundred these days.
But no KIAs, no KIAs and no pris’ners are we gettin’ from the caves
Cause Charlie’s gone.
Adieu.

Other companies saw days of tough combat. Overall, the division killed more than 1000 enemy; 19,000 fled.

On April 4th, Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis and riots erupted in major cities all around the country.  Then Robert Kennedy was killed on June 5th, immediately after I returned home.

May 1968 was the bloodiest of the war, with 2416 U.S. KIA. It was “mini-Tet” when the communists attacked 119 targets throughout South Vietnam, including Saigon. This time, however, allied intelligence was better prepared. Most of the communist forces were intercepted by allied screening elements before they reached their targets. Thirteen Viet Cong battalions, however, managed to slip through the cordon and once again plunged Saigon into chaos. Severe fighting occurred at Phu Lam, around the Y-Bridge in Saigon, and at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. By May twelfth, the offensive was over as Viet Cong forces withdrew from the area leaving behind over 3,000 of their dead and 7,500 wounded–another victory for us.

During mini-Tet, our battalion was still on Camp Evans, as I recall. I was getting to be a “short-timer,” which meant that soon I would be returning home. In April, I flew to Ankhe and took my graduate Graduate Records Exam in a Quonset hut. So during mini-Tet, my mind was on graduate school. The Vietnam War was different from other wars in that each man served for only one year, and that became an objective for many soldiers–to survive for a year. That’s not to say that we didn’t fight hard, though; we did, just to stay alive and to take care of our comrades.

Next Episode:

Episode Seven: “The Veneer of Civilization” (June 1968 – May 1969), Monday, Sept. 25: Public support for the war declines while American men of draft age face difficult decisions and wrenching moral choices. After police battle with demonstrators in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic National Convention, Richard Nixon wins the presidency, promising law and order at home and peace overseas. In Vietnam, the war goes on and soldiers on all sides witness terrible savagery and unflinching courage.

 

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The Empty Chair

I was unable to be at the Hyattsville (MD) Arts and Ales Festival at the opening bell, so Barbara set up a display on an empty chair with our pictures showing before and after photos of us fifty years apart. The “before” picture was part of my first blog post about the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick Vietnam War series.

This was an effort to get passersby interested in purchasing Cologne No. 10 For Men, my Vietnam War satire. It turns out that many people are watching the series and are astounded by the history. She displayed the “Follow Me on my blog at richardmorrisauthor.wordpress.com/blog” notebook with printed copies of my five blogposts about the series.

Kids, dogs, and art

She sold several books before I arrived. And then we sold some more (several times my usual expectation at festivals for a book an hour), along with copies of my other books. Some were interested in my historical thriller from Prince George’s County, MD, Well Considered. Others had Cleveland connections and were curious about Canoedling in Cleveland. Still others wanted to learn more about Islam in Masjid Morning.

Craft Beer and Ale

It was a glorious, sunny day, with lots of kids and dogs, folks drinking craft beer, perusing juried art, and many people interested in my books. Thanks to the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation for a very successful festival.

Art Car

 

My next appearance is at the Zombie Run where I am a sponsor (but not a runner) on 10-14-2017. Signups are currently being accepted.

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