Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 30, 1970 – President Nixon Announces U.S. Attack on Cambodia

Today is the 38th anniversary of the day President Nixon went on national television – all three channels – to announce attacking Cambodia, Vietnam’s western neighbor. To many this was a widening of the Vietnam War. And this was also the trigger for anti-war protests that led to the death of four Kent State University students on May 4th.

I probably ignored that Nixon announcement as I ignored almost all news of the Vietnam War at that time. On April 30, 1970, I’d been married less than eight months to a man about to go on active army duty. I found playing ostrich with my head buried in the sand a very comforting position.

Last night I watched the NCIS episode that takes place in Baghdad. While the actual murder is done by an outsider, the episode conveys some of the chaotic and lethal conditions for U.S. troops in Iraq. In contrast, David Denby in his review of the new movie IRON MAN in the May 5th New Yorker said that “it’s worth noting that, possibly, more Americans will see this dunderheaded fantasia on its opening weekend than have seen all the features and documentaries that have labored to show what’s happening in Iraq and on the home front.”

In the 1987 movie GOOD MORNING VIETNAM (directed by Barry Levinson, written by Mitch Markowitz) there’s a scene that has remained vivid in my memory. In the movie Robin Williams plays Adrian Cronauer, an Air Force disk jockey at the Army-Air Force radio station in Saigon. Cronauer befriends a young Vietnamese man who later “pulls” Cronauer out of a restaurant right before it explodes. What Cronauer refuses to understand is that the young man is Viet Cong, and he has saved Cronauer’s life out of friendship. The other American military personnel in the restaurant didn’t have a friend to pull them to safety.

Tomorrow is the first day of May, which brings with it the American holiday of Memorial Day. For many Americans now, Memorial Day is simply a day off from work, a day for picnicking or shopping. Yet, during junior high school in Elgin, Illinois, when I was in band, we marched in a parade to the cemetery on Memorial Day to honor those who fought and died for our country.

As Memorial Day approaches – and regardless of what we think of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, let’s remember the men and women of past wars who died in harm’s way protecting our freedom as well as those men and women now in harm’s way.

If you want recommendations on how to show support for military personnel and their families today – check out my website at

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Events of the Heart –- Educating Women for Good Heart Health

The focus of these posts is a window into the world of the U.S. military from the perspective of a former Mrs. Lieutenant. Yet the posts are also “for women and about women.” And that’s why I feel compelled for this post today to take a detour.

Last night, at the Geffen Playhouse in the Westwood section of Los Angeles, I attended a one-night performance of “You’ve Gotta Have Heart.” This fundraising event – sponsored by the non-profit organization Events of the Heart – showcased celebrities doing stage readings of short pieces. (The line-up of performers appears at the end of this post.)

Why did celebrities such as Eva Longoria and Dana Delany from ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” take part in this event? Because the two founders of Events of the Heart –Pamela Serure and Carole Isenberg – are on a crusade to get American women to know and act on the following:

“Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in America, causing more deaths than all types of cancer combined. To date, we are losing a woman every 90 seconds to cardiovascular disease. It affects 1 in 4 Caucasian women and 1 in 2 African American and Latina women. But there is good news. Heart disease is completely preventable and detectable.”

Serure told her personal story of having triple bypass surgery at the age of 47. Before that moment when she almost died, she was sure she was too young to have heart problems. (One of the reasons heart disease claims so many women is because women’s heart problems are not taken as seriously as are men’s heart problems.)

Go to to learn heart facts that can save your life. And tell all the women you love to do the same.

YOU’VE GOTTA HAVE HEART April 28, 2008, program:

A Breathing Plan” written by Abigail Propogrebin, performed by Eva Longoria; “Pamela” written by Shelly Goldstein, performed by Brenda Strong; “Tabloid Lady” written by Maureen Orth, Dr. Elizabeth Nable, performed by Kathleen Madigan and Markie Post; “A Doctor’s Tale” performed by Stephen Collins; “4 Billion Beats” written by Carole Radziwill, performed by Alex Kapp Horner; “Rehab” written by Diane Rudnick Mann, performed by Dana Delany; “Heart-Ons” performed by Annalynne McCord; “Taking a Beating” written and performed by Judy Gold; “Gwendolyn Bradford” written and performed by Cynthia Adler; “Fran(k)” written by Doug Wright, performed by Holland Taylor and Jeffrey Tambor.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Free Book Review Copies Offered of MRS. LIEUTENANT

When my Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION written with Rabbi Karen L. Fox first came out in 1992, Karen and I conducted a traditional book marketing campaign. We did book signings and sent postcards all over the U.S. Never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined that in 2008 the cutting edge of book marketing would be on the internet.

Three months ago, after I accidentally learned this thanks to MRS. LIEUTENANT being a semi-finalist in the recent Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, I set out to become an “expert” on internet marketing. This quest has included reading several books – bought on Amazon – about, among other things, helping a book get noticed on Amazon.

MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL has been out on Amazon for two weeks and, as yet, there are no reviews on the book’s page. Good reviews (preferably five-star reviews) are very important to the algorithms of Amazon’s search engines.

MRS. LIEUTENANT needs good book reviews on Amazon. And for this reason I’m offering free review copies to the first 20 people who email me that they’d like to review the book.

Now here’s the fine print. I want the people to whom I send free review copies to actually like the kind of book I’ve written. Thus I’m asking potential reviewers to go to my website – – and read the first four chapters (one from each woman’s point of view). Then if you think the novel will appeal to you, contact me through the website and I’ll shoot a review copy to you.

The wheel has come full circle. I bought these internet marketing books on Amazon; now I want to use the advice to help MRS. LIEUTENANT achieve good buzz on Amazon.

FYI – The second edition of SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION will be out in a couple of weeks.


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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride

An April 24th blog announced the beginning of the three-day Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride “White House to Lighthouse Challenge.”

The ride began with an address from President Bush at the White House, and the website for the Wounded Warrior Project gives this schedule for the three days:

  • On Thursday, April 24th, Soldier Ride will start at the White House, stop at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and continue to Baltimore. This day of riding is by invitation only.
  • On Friday, the ride will begin with a "support the troops" rally at Baltimore Maryland's Inner Harbor Harborplace Ampitheater at 10 am and proceed to Jonas Green Park in Annapolis. The kickoff event will honor the wounded veterans and the recently redeployed 58th Infantry Brigade of the Maryland Army National Guard.
  • On Saturday, the ride begins and ends at Jonas Green Park in Annapolis. The riders will ride through historic Annapolis, the US Naval Academy, and along the Chesapeake Bay.

The purpose of the overall Wounded Warrior Project is:

  • To raise aware and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women
  • To help severely injured service members aid and assist each other
  • To provide unique, direct programs and service to meet their needs

The website also states that: “Soldier Ride is not about politics; it’s not about the war. It’s simply about the soldiers.” These words brought tears to my eyes, because I was just quoted in an article on about the “Support Military Families” section of my book website

“When my husband and I were later stationed in Munich, Germany, I learned from personal experience how important were such things as the Passover food items supplied to us by the Jewish Welfare Board. Thus, without taking a position on the current fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wanted my website to encourage people to support the needs of military personnel and their families.”

Wounded Warrior Project is one organization that lets severely wounded soldiers know that the general public cares about them. This project deserves to be supported – learn more at

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mrs. Lieutenant Then (1970) and Now (2008)

I read Tanya Biank’s column “Rank, Wives and Friendship: Can They Mix?” on with appreciation for how things have changed in 38 years.

(FYI – Biank is the author of the non-fiction book ARMY WIVES: THE UNWRITTEN CODE OF MILITARY MARRIAGE. The hugely popular Lifetime television series “Army Wives” is based on this book.)

Biank reported, in their own words, the wives of officers and the wives of enlisted men describing forming close friendships among themselves.

In 1970, when I was a Mrs. Lieutenant, we wives of officers wouldn’t have considered being friends with the wives of enlisted men. In those days we understood that it was a class (or maybe caste) system, and we were at the bottom rung of the elite.

I clearly remember that, for our graduation luncheon as wives of the officers attending Armor Officers Basic training, we had to serve sherry. This was so even though none of us AOB wives liked the drink. But the post’s commanding general’s wife liked sherry.

In my book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL, the rank of husbands plays an important role for one newly married lieutenant’s wife. Donna Lautenberg is a Puerto Rican who has grown up in an enlisted man’s family. Suddenly she finds herself married to an Anglo and an officer.

Donna arrives at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, on May 4, 1970 -- the day that the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four Kent State University Vietnam War protesters. And over the next few weeks Donna learns it is not always easy to adjust to new expectations.

In connection with Tanya Biank’s column, today we can hope that a new army officer’s wife who grew up in an enlisted man’s family would not find it as difficult to adjust to her changed position. This optimism appears to be thanks to the lowering of many of the social barriers between the wives of enlisted men and the wives of officers. Another victory for sisterhood!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Anniversary of President Nixon’s Death

Today, April 22nd, is the anniversary of President Nixon’s death.

In the epilogue to my book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL, Sharon visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. in April 1994 just when President Nixon died:

Ahead of Sharon appears the spot where the two sides of the wall meet. At the bottom of the last west panel is the date 1975 – the last year of casualties – with the inscription:

Our nation honors the courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country of its Vietnam veterans. This memorial was built with private contributions from the American people. November 11, 1982

At the top of the first east panel appears the date 1959 – the first year of casualties – with the inscription:

In honor of the men and women of the armed forces of the United States who served in the Vietnam War. The names of those who gave their lives and of those who remain missing are inscribed in the order they were taken from us.

"In the order they were taken from us."

How eerie to be walking this path now. Richard Nixon, the president who escalated and then ended the Vietnam War, has just died at the age of 81. Many of the Vietnam War dead lived less than one-fourth of that time.

It seems fitting to contemplate the Vietnam War dead today on the anniversary of Nixon’s death because Nixon’s Presidency was so intertwined with the Vietnam War, which is the backdrop to MRS. LIEUTENANT.

To remember those who died in Vietnam, go to The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall USA website is dedicated to honoring those who died in the Vietnam War. Since it first went on line in 1996 it has evolved into something more. It is now also a place of healing for those affected by one of the most divisive wars in our nation's history.

And as today is also the Jewish holiday of Pesach, it seems fitting to remember the Jews killed serving in the U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The website has a memorial list posted by SGT Brian Kresge on April 21, 2008, at

To support deployed military personnel and their families today, go to

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Our First Hosted Seder -– in Germany in 1971

Now that I have a moment to rest after cleaning, preparing and cooking for Pesach, I’m looking at the same April 11, 1971, letter I quoted in my last post.

The first seder of that year -- April 9, 1971 -- my husband and I were at the Jewish chaplain’s quarters. The second seder I hosted the other Jewish couple in my husband’s unit and a Jewish bachelor who I remember to this day.

Henry Einstein (yes, all the Einsteins from that part of Germany were related) had gotten out of 1930s Germany in time by being sent to relatives in New York. His father had died in Auschwitz and his mother had somehow survived by claiming French citizenship. (This had something to do with to being born in the Alsace-Lorraine area during one of its periods as French-owned rather than German-owned.)

Henry had enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II and had served at the Nuremberg Trials for Nazi war criminals as a court clerk working with Robert M.W. Kempner. Herr Kempner was an anti-Nazi official in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior who had been fired from his job early in the Nazi reign. He and his wife fled to the United States after this dismissal, and he later served as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. Kempner’s son Lucian was my husband’s civilian boss in Munich.

Henry didn’t leave Germany after the Nuremberg Trials were over. He stayed in Germany working as a civilian for the U.S. Army, as did many other German Jews who had gotten out of Germany in time and then returned with the U.S. Army.

Here are parts of my April 11, 1971, letter home:

“We sang a lot of songs as Henry knows them from his childhood here in Germany. The army provided kosher chickens and wine to the Jewish chaplains to pass out for people having seders… We had soup and gefitle fish provided by the Jewish Welfare Board, egg barley I ordered from the U.S., plus honied sweet potatoes and salad. .. I made charoset from a recipe in one of my Jewish books. Mitch unshelled the walnuts with his hammer.”

I had just turned 23 when Mitch and I hosted our first seder – a long time ago. And each Pesach since then I have truly enjoyed our kosher seders no matter how much work leads up to them.

This year, though, I owe a thank you to The Wall Street Journal for solving a mystery. My husband went to numerous stores in Los Angeles and none had pareve kosher for Passover stick margarine. The Journal’s Friday front-page story explained the mystery under the headline “What's Different This Passover? No Margarine.” Indeed, this year there was a shortage of pareve kosher for Passover stick margarine.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Celebrating Pesach as a “Mrs. Lieutenant” in Germany

Yesterday I was actually nostalgic for a time when I was a “Mrs. Lieutenant.” That time was the first week of May in 1972 right before my husband got out of the army.

Before leaving our three-bedroom quarters in the U.S. Army’s Perlacher Forst housing section of Munich, Germany, we had to pass inspection for our quarters. This meant that everything – and I mean everything – had to be spotless. Not just spotless on the outside, but spotless on the inside too.

We did what most officers did – hired a special cleaning team to ensure that we would pass inspection. The team descended like a host of locusts – and our quarters easily passed inspection. Worth every penny, and I’ve never again seen anyone clean that thoroughly.

I thought of the cleaning team yesterday as I determinedly tried to ensure that my stove was spotless inside and out. Of course, my cleaning for Pesach this year and for many years before has been much easier than the first time I cleaned for Pesach – in the spring of 1971. No automatically defrosted refrigerators and no self-cleaning ovens then. (The army cleaning team also didn’t have the advantages that these modern engineering marvels offer.)

Here’s what I wrote home from Munich on April 11, 1971:

“Thursday night Mitch and I cleaned all evening. We scrubbed the refrigerator, cleaned the over (we had cleaned the top last weekend), cleaned the food shelves, etc. At 10:30 I was still washing the kitchen floor. Then we searched for chometz with a candle but couldn’t find the blessings to say as our Haggadah didn’t have it in so we said approximately what we knew the blessings to say. The rabbi came during our cleaning to give us wine and more gefilte fish, and Friday evening his wife told me how pleased the rabbi was at how hard we were working to clean the house.”

The letter also included a description of how we obtained kosher for Passover food in Munich. This was a far cry from the numerous Jewish and non-Jewish stores right near our house in Los Angeles where we can get an unbelievable assortment of kosher for Passover food items.

That April 1971, when Mitch and I really cleaned for Pesach for the first time in our lives, we were Jews living in Germany, a country that only 30 years before had tried to make the world judenrein – free of Jews. This year of 2008, may all who are celebrating Pesach throughout the world truly appreciate this holiday celebrating our freedom. We are still here!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Original 1970 Army Documents on

MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL has as its source my experiences as a new army officer's wife at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, in the spring of 1970. For reference material while writing, I had all the original army documents from that time.

When I had the website for my novel designed by, I asked for a page to display some of these original army documents. And on my website, if you click on “Original Army Documents,” you will see a range of original documents – from my husband’s orders to report to active duty to the itinerary for the Armor School “ladies tour.”

In addition, when my husband and I were later stationed in Munich, Germany, I learned from personal experience how important were such things as the Passover food items supplied to us by the Jewish Welfare Board. Thus, without taking a position on the current fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wanted my website to encourage people to support the needs of military personnel and their families.

The website’s “Support Military Families” section describes some of the many current support organizations, all of which are in need of financial donations. These organizations range from Soldiers’ Angels – with the mission statement “may no soldier go unloved” – to Jews in Green – addressing the special needs of Jewish military personnel. And there are links to each organization’s website so that visitors to can easily support U.S. deployed military personnel and/or their families back home.

Of course my website also offers the first four chapters of the novel – one from the point of view of each of the four women protagonists: a Northern Jew, a Southern Baptist, a Puerto Rican, and a black from the South.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Following My Passion – Introducing My Novel MRS. LIEUTENANT

Whenever I write about preparing for college applications, I stress that the most important activity during the high school years is to follow your passion. And by passion I mean doing something or learning to do something or learning about something that you truly love.

I coach high school students to follow their passion without worrying about the passion’s career potential. And I coach parents of high school students about facilitating the passion of their children.

Today the result of following my passion for many years is on Amazon. Almost 20 years ago two women producers optioned my story about my first weeks as a new army officer’s wife in the spring of 1970. When they couldn’t “sell” the idea, they told me I had to write a book. By the time the first draft of the book was written, the producers had moved on. And that started the many long years of rewriting and rewriting and rewriting.

Now persistence and hard work have paid off. The book was just recently a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. And I’m confident that this book is the story I’ve wanted to tell since the spring of 1970.

I hope you’ll enjoy the story of MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL.

(The above photo was taken on November 18, 1967, at the Coronation Ball at Michigan State University.)

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Monday, April 14, 2008

A Surprise Launch for the Novel MRS. LIEUTENANT

Imagine my surprise when I walked into a friend’s home for a dinner party on April 13th to be greeted by a large crowd of guests for my 60th birthday and launch of MRS. LIEUTENANT. And there on a table waiting to be signed were several stacks of my novel – and this when April, my publisher’s rep, had told me a few days before that there were no books printed yet!

My older daughter Rachel – the producer – had produced this surprise birthday party and launch. And she and April had worked together to deceive me about the books.

And the surprise got better. My 83-year-old mother, who doesn’t like to fly, had flown in from Chicago with my sister. My youngest brother, who lives in LA, was there with his wife, two daughters and mother-in-law. My dear friend had driven in from Palm Springs.

And another former Mrs. Lieutenant and her husband had driven in from Phoenix. (They had been stationed with us in Munich, Germany.)

Along with my younger daughter Yael and my husband Mitch, there were many other wonderful guests (some of whom baked their special desserts). And the fabulous hostess had the opportunity to show off her new yoga studio.

It was a wonderful launch of a book that has been almost 20 years in the making. MRS. LIEUTENANT started as an option from two women producers for a movie about the story. When they couldn’t “sell” the idea, they told me I had to write a book. By the time the first draft of the book was written, the producers had moved on. And that started the many long years of rewriting and rewriting and rewriting.

Now I’m confident that this book is the story I’ve wanted to tell since the spring of 1970.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Show Support for Deployed Military Troops by Donating BOOKS!

In an April post on the Los Angeles Times’ blog “Jacket Copy,” Tony Perry -- who covers the military for the LA Times -- reported on books he had seen being read by Marines on bases in Anbar province in Iraq.

Perry said that one way to show public support for U.S. troops in Iraq is “by sending them books, lots of books.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any information in the post, nor did I get a response from an email, as to how to go about donating books to deployed military personnel.

Frustrated, I turned to “Andi H,” the wife of an active-duty soldier who in 2006 partnered with to create -- “a blog written by military spouses for military spouses.”

Andi’s email reply was prompt: I clicked on the link, and I immediately discovered that the slogan for this website is “Care packages for the mind.”

Go to this website and learn how you can send donated books to military personnel deployed all over the world. (There’s even a place on the website for individual military personnel to request specific books.)

Then I got an email from the president of about a relocation website specializing in community information and “now in over 240 military markets.” When I clicked on that link, the home page had the song “Thank You” by Brad Avery of Third Day and friend Scott Thomas for sale by,“with proceeds going to wounded soldiers and their families.”

I clicked on and learned that Shauna Fleming founded this organization to encourage Americans to write individuals letters to military personnel. Besides instructions on how to do this, this organization’s website provides links to other organizations helping military personnel.

One such link is to This project started in August 2003 as a family effort to help soldiers in one Army unit. On January 1, 2004, the effort was expanded to include “any member of the Armed Forces in harm’s way.” Letters and packages are sent to military volunteers stationed in areas in harm’s way and addressed “Attn: Any Soldier.” Then these volunteers put the letters and packages into the hands of soldiers “who don’t get much or any mail. Everything is shared.”

Regardless of your opinion on the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, you can support individual U.S. military personnel throughout the world by sending books or thank you cards or letters or packages. Do show your support in some way for the people who serve to protect us.

(For more organizations that help military personnel and their families, go to my website at and click on “support military families.”) Thomas

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Thursday, April 10, 2008


The April 14th New Yorker in “The Talk of the Town” section under the heading “The Canon: Still Flying” had a short piece by Rebecca Mead about a recent conference sponsored by Columbia University to celebrate Erica Jong’s 1973 novel FEAR OF FLYING “as a feminist classic.” Apparently many women in the audience agreed with this designation, and some did not.

I fall squarely in the group of those who do believe it is a feminist classic. In fact, as I write this, a 1973 copy of the book sits only a few feet away from me in a plastic box with other mementoes of my 20 months of living in Munich, Germany, as the wife of an army officer.

Why is a book published in 1973 part of my mementoes for the time period from September 1970 to May 1972?

It’s because of Jong’s chapter that begins this way: “Before I lived in Heidelberg, I was not particularly self-conscious about being Jewish.”

And, by the time I had first gotten to Jong’s description of living as an army officer’s wife in Germany, I knew I had found a soul sister. She must have lived this experience and not imagined it I told myself – no one could get the description down as well as she could without having been there.

Here are my favorite sentences from this section of the chapter:

“In Heidelberg, we set up house in a vast American concentration camp in the postwar section of town. … Our neighbors were mostly army captains and their ‘dependents.’ With a few notable exceptions they were the most considerate people I’ve ever lived among. ….It was all the more astonishing then when they announced to you that life was cheap in Asia, that the U.S ought to bomb the hell out of the Viet Cong, and finally, that soldiers were only there to do a job but not to have political opinions.”

And she goes on: “Across the way were our other neighbors, the Germans. In 1945, when they were still militarists, they had hated Americans for winning the war. Now, in 1966, the Germans were pacifists (at least where other nations were concerned) and they hated the Americans for being in Vietnam.”

And here’s the best part: “I can still close my eyes and remember the dinner hour in Mark Twain Village, Heidelberg. The smell of TV dinners in passageways. The Armed Forces Radio Network blaring out the football scores and the (inflated) number of Viet Cong killed on the other side of the world.”

Her description of the army personnel buying numerous cuckoo clocks to ship back in their household goods to sell had me in stitches. (My disclaimer: My husband and I never bought a cuckoo clock for ourselves, although several of my letters home are concerned with whether my father’s brother-in-law did or did not want the cuckoo clock sold in the PX European catalog – this seems to have been a major decision worthy of several letters back and forth. Ultimately, he did not.)

The New Yorker article says that FEAR OF FLYING has sold 18 million copies worldwide since its publication. At the conference, one of Jong’s sisters said to Mead:
“It was not a novel; it was a memoir, but it was a memoir something like James Frey’s memoir.”

I wrote MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL to describe a very specific slice of women’s social history, just as FEAR OF FLYING describes a very specific slice of women’s social history.

While MRS. LIEUTENANT isn’t a memoir, the novel does portray much that was factual at that specific time in 1970 right after the Kent State National Guard shootings. In retrospect, my novel may owe part of its inspiration to Erica Jong and her – dare I say it even today – “zipless f**k.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

To Stay or Not to Stay in Iraq: That is the Question

I’ve just finished reading The Wall Street Journal’s April 9th article by Yochi J. Dreazen about General David Petraeus’s Iraq report to two Senate panels.

As I’m not writing a political bog, I’m not going to give my opinion on what Petraeus said. And even if this were a political blog, I believe it’s ludicrous for people in the United States to make pronouncements about an extremely volatile situation halfway around the globe. That’s what the concept of “boots on the ground” is about – you have to be there to have even the remotest chance of knowing what’s really going on.

What I want to say concerns Dreazen’s following comment about the testimony of U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker: “Mr. Crocker tried to reassure lawmakers that an emerging agreement between Iraq and the U.S. won’t establish permanent U.S. bases inside Iraq or require future presidents to maintain large numbers of troops there.”

The other day I was surprised to learn that a close friend had no idea that the U.S. still has troops (and their families) in Germany as an aftermath of World War II. So when I read the above statement I tried to visualize permanent bases inside Iraq the way the U.S. has permanent bases (kasernes in German) in Germany.

From September of 1970 until May of 1972, I lived in Munich, Germany, with my army officer husband in military housing connected with McGraw Kaserne. Recently I’ve been reviewing the letters I wrote home (I’m working on the sequel to my forthcoming novel MRS. LIEUTENANT).

Many of the problems I experienced living in Germany then are probably not problems today thanks to the internet, cell phones, etc. Yet for all the annoying problems of living in a foreign country, we Americans were never threatened with the possibility of West Germans lobbing missiles into our housing areas or shooting us as we shopped in downtown Munich.

I can’t imagine a future in which U.S. military families could live safely in a housing area connected with a military base in Iraq. Thus I assume Iraq would always be an “unaccompanied tour” requiring family separations.

I do understand why the U.S. established bases in West Germany after the war. I personally lived through the Cold War threat in Europe, when U.S. policy makers truly believed that, without the presence of U.S. troops in West Germany, the Soviets would roll their tanks from East Germany into West Germany, and then from there who knew?

The question of remaining in Iraq indefinitely is a different question, and one about which I certainly can’t opine. I also can’t imagine what would have happened if U.S troops had stayed in Vietnam indefinitely. Would the fall of Saigon and its terrible aftermath for the South Vietnamese who were our friends never have happened? Or would this horrific scenario only have been postponed for a few more years?

Unfortunately, history doesn’t offer a crystal ball for what would happen in future different scenarios. That knowledge is only possible in alternate science fiction stories. And, for better or worse, we’re living in the real world.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

“Kosher for Passover” in the U.S. Army

Today I’m experiencing somewhat of déjà vu. I’ve just read the most recent post on concerning an Orthodox chaplain -- Army Captain Shmuel Felzenberg – serving in Afghanistan. The article is by Lee Lawrence, correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor.

In describing Chaplain Felzenberg’s kosher dietary needs, Lawrence says that Felzenberg has “Army-supplied kosher meals. For holidays like Passover, the Army provides supplies, right down to Passover-approved wine.”

The U.S. Army has obviously come a long way from my time as an army officer’s wife in Munich, Germany, where the Orthodox chaplain stationed there our first year influenced my husband and me to decide to keep kosher. In those days we did not get kosher food items for Passover from the army; the items we did get were provided by the Jewish Welfare Board.

In my 1992 Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION, co-authored with Rabbi Karen L. Fox, here is what I wrote in the sidebar “Passover in the U.S. Army” in the chapter “Pesach – The Freedom Story”:

“During Passover of 1971 my husband was stationed with the U.S. Army in Munich. We’d been married a little over a year and this was the first time we would be making our own seders. Needless to say, it was a little daunting to prepare for Passover far from home in a country we perceived as hostile.

“But we had assistance. First, the Jewish Welfare Board sent “kosher for Passover” canned match ball soup, matzah and other Passover food to armed forces personnel throughout the world. We had the basics.

“Then the Jewish army chaplain in Munich instructed us on many points. For the first time we cleaned our kitchen to remove all hametz, even though at that time we didn’t have dishes just for Passover. As we cleaned there was a tremendous feeling of Jewish pride as we continued the ancient Passover ritual in post-Holocaust Germany!”

Now in 2008 with the first seder less than two weeks away (the night of Saturday, April 19, this year), I’m busy preparing for the upcoming holiday. My husband and I have been keeping kosher since our return to the United States in May of 1972. And here in Los Angeles there are so many stores carrying “kosher for Pesach” food items.

And I am truly grateful for the freedom to practice my religion openly – a privilege that Jews throughout the ages have infrequently enjoyed. As I type this post I have tears in my eyes for the Jewish military personnel who will be celebrating Pesach – the holiday of freedom – far from home in Iraq or Afghanistan. As a former Mrs. Lieutenant, I know that these deployed Jewish military personnel, along with all deployed U.S. military personnel, are protecting that freedom of religion that I hold so dear.

If you want to know how to show your appreciation to U.S. military personnel, go to my website at and click on “Support Military Families.”

Monday, April 7, 2008

Lessons from Vietnam for Iraq: Are the Stakes Simply Too Great?

Yochi J. Dreazen’s April 7th Wall Street Journal article “Officer Questions Petraeus’s Strategy” got me thinking about the other U.S. war that had so many Monday morning quarterbacks – Vietnam – the setting for my upcoming book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL.

During the Vietnam War and in the 30 plus years since the war has been over (depending on what date you count as the end of the war), people have visited and revisited what the U.S. did right – some say very little – and what the U.S. did wrong – some say a great deal – in the fighting of that war.

During my senior year of high school (1965-1966), two school friends and I visited Michigan State University. We were on an official college visit, and thus were scheduled to sit-in on “representative” classes. One such class was taught by Professor Wesley R. Fishel, an early advisor in Vietnam as part of the Michigan State University Group that, from 1955 to1962, advised the Ngo Dinh Diem regime.

The 1968 book Fishel edited -- VIETNAM: ANATOMY OF A CONFLICT -- is an anthology with an impressive list of contributors. The dedication is: “To the memory of those who have died that a free Vietnam might live.”

And perhaps more apt, Fishel includes this Vietnamese proverb: “The tongue has no bones; it can be twisted in any direction.”

Here’s part of Fishel’s preface to the anthology: “The purpose of this volume is to inform, not to inflame. The problems with which we are dealing in Vietnam do not fall into neat, discrete categories. …. The issues are far too grave and the consequences of debate far too serious for one to cater to an already overly emotional public response to the problems posed by the Vietnam conflict.”

With the substitution of “Iraq” for “Vietnam,” Fishel could be talking about Iraq today. And the same is true of some of his sentiments quoted in MRS. LIEUTENANT. From his own essay in the anthology – “Only Choice in Asia: Stay and Fight”:

“The real question is whether, given the fact that the United States has assumed the responsibilities of leadership in the defense of Southeast Asia since 1954, we can now, in Munich-like fashion, consign the Vietnamese, the Lao and their neighbors to the limbo of Chinese domination for generations to come.”

And from an April 11, 1968, news analysis of Asians fearing U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam carried in MSU’s newspaper the State News: “The stakes are simply too great for anyone to leave South Vietnam alone.”

Only hindsight will tell us the outcome of U.S involvement in Iraq. We already know what happened when the U.S. gave up and withdrew from Vietnam.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Exploring What’s Behind the Curtain of the U.S. Military

Today, thanks to the internet, there are so many places that young people can get information on possible careers. And this is a very good thing, because most high schools do not prepare their students for life in the real world.

Yes, there’s a lot of emphasis in high school on passing AP exams and doing well on the SATs, as well as doing well on federal standardized tests. Yet where is the exposure to possible career paths needed in order for young people to fully consider their options?

In 1970 in the world of MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL, the U.S. Army for most young men meant fighting in Vietnam, a country halfway around the globe. Some young men enlisted and some young men went R.O.T.C. (Reserve Officers Training Corps) and many, many young men were drafted. Yet for those men who survived Vietnam and completed their army service, there was the G.I. Bill for college benefits as well as other benefits for veterans.

Today’s young men and women – in the world of the all-volunteer Army – could consider serving in the military for a short period of time to learn new skills before committing to a career path.

And it’s not just the Army to consider. There are also the Coast Guard, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps.

Some of the benefits for young people of serving in the military could be:

  • Stretching yourself beyond what you believe you can do
  • Experiencing situations outside your usual realm
  • Learning skills you normally would not learn
  • Functioning as part of a large organization with a shared mission
  • Earning money for grad school (that you can then attend at a more mature age at which point you might better appreciate the education)
  • Serving your country

For more information, go to and click on “Join the Military” and next click on “10 Steps to Joining.”

Then click on “Step 1: Learn about the military,” which provides a separate overview on the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy branches. Other “steps to joining” provide information on benefits, medical conditions, overview of jobs in each branch, etc.

Most of us get all our information on the U.S. military from news clips on television and the internet or from Hollywood movies. For young people unsure of their career path, it can be worth taking the time to find out what’s truly behind the curtain.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Vietnam and the U.S. 1970 – Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S. 2008

Given the current daily news from Iraq and Afghanistan, I thought it would be interesting to look at the news headlines from the first week in April 1970 – one month before the Kent State National Guard shootings as well as the opening of MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL.

Here are some news briefs from “Day by Day: The Seventies,” Volume 1, 1970-1975, by Thomas Leonard, Cynthia Crippen and Marc Aronson:

April 1: Communists launch a major assault across South Vietnam, striking at military bases and bombing major cities.

April 2: South Vietnamese and Communists delegates at the Paris Peace talks react with coolness to a French proposal for an international conference on Southeast Asia.

April 4: Increased fighting in Vietnam is reflected by 138 U.S. fatalities for the week, highest weekly figure since September 1969.

April 5: Battles along the DMZ in South Vietnam are the heaviest since November 14, 1969.

And instead of the current home mortgage crisis news and the election campaign news, the home-front news of that week included on April 1st:

  • The first contract covering table grape pickers in U.S. is signed in Los Angeles.
  • With agreement on a 41 percent wage increase over three years, the 60-day tugboat strike ends in New York harbor.
  • President Nixon signs a bill outlawing radio and television cigarette advertising effective January 2, 1971.

When we are busy with our everyday lives – whether in April 1970 or April 2008 – we often forget about U.S military forces deployed in combat areas. And there are many, many currently deployed military personnel who don’t have friends or family back home thinking of them.

As part of your everyday life now, consider supporting Soldiers Angels (, which sends letters, care packages and comfort items to deployed military personnel. The organization’s mission statement: “May No Soldier Go Unloved.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

April: “Month of the Military Child”

Thanks to – “where military spouses connect” – I have just learned that April is the “Month of the Military Child.” Then, from the American Forces Press Service, I learned that this month-long recognition has been celebrated since 1986.

Leslye A. Arsht, deputy under secretary for military community and family policy, said: “Our military children are unsung heroes. This is our chance to thank them for being so supportive of their parents.”

According to the American Forces Press Service article, half of all current military children – or 1.2 million – have had a parent deploy to a combat area.

In my forthcoming book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL, one of the four new officers’ wives grew up as an “army brat” – someone who is the child of a parent in the U.S. Army. Of course in MRS. LIEUTENANT, which takes place in 1970, the military parent was the father. Today either parent or both can be the military parent in a family.

The 1979 movie “The Great Santini” starred Robert Duvall as a lieutenant colonel Marine pilot whose family must constantly adjust to new duty stations. During the course of the movie the teenage son struggles to win approval from his demanding father. This movie provides a dramatic portrayal of some of the hardships that military families face.

Those of us who as children have not had to move every year or so – changing schools so often that, after a while, we’re not sure which post we were on for which school year – may find it hard to appreciate the sacrifice that military families make for a parent or parents to serve in the military.

All of us should be aware of the difficulties these military families face, and we need to understand that sometimes some of these families need special help.

Go to my website at and click on “Support Military Families” to learn about organizations helping military personnel and their families. And consider supporting one or more of these organizations right now – in the “Month of the Military Child.”

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Women in the Military, the Equal Rights Amendment and the Silver Star

The frontpage of the April 1st Wall Street Journal carried this news blurb:

“The Army is letting married soldiers live together in the war zone, a move to preserve the unions and bolster morale.”

Today’s army certainly isn’t the army I knew as a new army officer’s wife in the spring of 1970 during the Vietnam War.

I also remember in 1976, in connection with the U.S.’s 200th birthday, being part of the audience of a taped debate on the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. Phyllis Schlafly, a vehement leader of forces against the passage of the ERA, and her supporters worried about the possibility of women serving in military combat units.

It’s been a long time since that debate, but I recall Schlafly’s group was concerned about men and women sharing bathrooms and other such logistics of military combat life.

And now two women have earned the Silver Star Medal – the first women soldiers to be awarded this medal since World War II:

On June 16, 2005, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, vehicle commander, 617th Military Police Company, a National Guard unit out of Richmond, Kentucky, received the Silver Star along with two other members of her unit in Iraq for their actions during an enemy ambush on the supply convoy her unit was protecting. During the incident, she assaulted a trench line with grenades and M203 grenade-launcher rounds and then killed three insurgents with her rifle.

And on March 20, 2008, Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown, a medic from the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, received the Silver Star Medal. After a roadside bomb explosion in Afghanistan wounded five soldiers in her unit, Brown ran through insurgent gunfire and used her body to shield wounded comrades as mortars fell less than 100 yards away. She then helped drag the wounded men away from their burning Humvee and attempted to provide proper medical care while under heavy enemy fire.

The Equal Rights Amendment was defeated, but years later women in the military have shown that Schlafly and the other anti-ERA women didn’t have to worry about the triviality of their husbands sharing bathrooms with women in the military. The women in the military today are saving the lives of other women’s husbands.