MUSINGS FROM MAMF WRITER-IN-RESIDENCE PAUL ZOLBRODPosted: January 8, 2017
As I sat in the radiology waiting room at the local Veterans Administration Hospital a few days ago, listening to a fellow patient whom I got to know only as Bill, I found myself wishing that my Facebook friends could hear some of the stories we vets swap. While the grim front line stuff is rarely if ever mentioned, the yarns we share should circulate more widely. Our Americans know very little about our everyday routines while serving, which is too bad. So much of what we carry with us into our old age is woven into the American fabric. Without that knowledge among non-serving fellow Americans, our full identity as a nation is overlooked. After all, the country has undergone seemingly endless wars and campaigns spanning the twentieth century.
Here’s a quick rundown of what Bill had to say while we both awaited the first phase of a cardiac stress test we were to take, he on the treadmill, me in an x-ray contraption that would expose my arteries without that exertion, thanks to my arthritis. He told the tale with almost endless laughter, adding yet another dimension to what military life can offer.
A Vietnam vet inducted during the draft, when he got his notice he reported to the induction center to be routinely processed into infantry basic training as we draftees were back then.
However, an officer happened to be standing by, seeking one more body to meet a recruiting quota, so Bill got to sign on as Regular Army rather than an enlistee and qualify for communications training. “Pure dumb luck,” he grinned
All as a first step in such happenstance opportunities which ultimately led to Officer’s Candidate School, a commission, a shortened tour in Vietnam away from combat, advanced electronic missile training in Korea, a college degree, and a post-discharge career at Sandia Lab. “So here’s this dumb shit from rural New Mexico entering military service as a nobody and landing in clover,” he chortled, with a range of fascinating adventures to tell about.
Listening to Bill’s narrative, recited with zesty humor and full of the lusty details of non-combat military life, I found myself all the more pleased to have edited a collection of deployment accounts by fellow New Mexico vets and their loved ones for the Museum of the American Military Family. Titled, “From the Frontlines to the Home Front,” it contains a rich tapestry of stories that demonstrate how deeply invested we Americans all are in what our veterans and their families have contributed, not just in the name of freedom, but in our accumulated wisdom, and yes, folly.
What pleases me most about having compiled that volume is the quality of the writing and the range of experience its contributors register, sometimes with pathos, sometimes with humor, sometimes with dedication and concern, but altogether as a veritable atlas of what it means to serve, or to be a parent, a wife, a child, or a friend or sweetheart of someone who has served.
Personally, I would like to see the book circulate widely, even though it is not being sold on the conventional market to assure that each story remains the property of its author. Instead it will be distributed without cost to veteran’s groups with modest underwriting from the New Mexico Endowment for the humanities, together with contributions from donors to the Museum of the American Military Family, housed in Albuquerque but striving to gain national focus.
With help from donors to meet the cost of printing, we hope to make copies more widely available. Local residents and New Mexicans from throughout the state have a standing invitation to visit the Museum and enjoy its fetching displays, located in Tijeras just off the I-40 exit there–open on week-ends and by appointment. I’d also like to have someone step forward to review the book, if only to announce that service members and their loved ones have stories to tell like the ones that circulate among the corridors and waiting rooms of the Albuquerque Veterans Hospital.
Those who might be interested in reading my introduction to the book can send me an email address and I’ll gladly reply with an attached copy. My address is <firstname.lastname@example.org>, In any case, do come visit the Museum and be amazed to learn that military service is a family matter.
The museum is located at 546B Highway 333 (Old 66) Tijeras, NM 87059 (Next to Molly’s Bar) Phone (505) 504-6830