Friday, May 30, 2008

MRS. LIEUTENANT Book Trailer Now on YouTube

I'm very pleased to announce that the first book trailer for MRS. LIEUTENANT is now on YouTube at the following link:

Nancy Brown of liked the trailer and put it up on

Let me know what you think of it.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Phyllis Zimbler Miller's Guest Post on BACKSTORY

Today, Memorial Day (Observed), seems a fitting occasion to share the backstory of MRS. LIEUTENANT. Here is an excerpt from my guest post that appears today on the blog BACKSTORY:

Where authors share secrets, truths, logical and illogical moments that sparked their fiction or memoirs. Brought to you by M.J. Rose and Jessica Keener.

May 26, 2008
Phyllis Zimbler Miller's Backstory

May 4, 1970 – Ohio National Guard shoot and kill four Kent State University Vietnam War protesters and wound nine others.

Two days later, newly married, I am on my way to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for my husband to start Armor Officers Basic training.

To this day, while I remember everything else and have all my original army documents (some of which can be seen on my website at, I can't remember how I got the four other members of my committee: a Southern Baptist, a black (the correct term in those days), and two Puerto Ricans – one of whom couldn't speak English.

The five of us spent the next few weeks together learning how to be a Mrs. Lieutenant. And from that day onward until now, I've wanted to tell the story of what being a new officer's wife in the U.S. Army was like during the Vietnam War.

MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL is the result 38 years later. I mashed up characters and incidents (some things I included at Ft. Knox really took place when we were stationed in Munich, Germany, the scene of the sequel I'm now writing – MRS. LIEUTENANT IN EUROPE), and I invented backstories for the main characters. Yet the overall story is an accurate depiction.

The story of MRS. LIEUTENANT may seem like ancient history. But today the U.S. is again involved in another unpopular war. And race issues, which are a theme in MRS. LIEUTENANT, are again in the news. Maybe I was destined to wait 38 years before publishing the book – until the time was ripe for this specific past to shed light on this specific present.

Please visit the author's website ( for more about her life and work.

If you want to see the complete post with photos on the BACKSTORY blog, click on

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

MRS. LIEUTENANT Blog Salutes U.S. Military on Memorial Day

Tomorrow, May 26, my husband Mitch will fly the American flag from the front of our house. As a former ROTC officer in the U. S. Army during the Vietnam War, Mitch always flies the flag on Memorial Day, July 4th and Veterans Day.

In anticipation of Memorial Day this year, I read the May 24th “Cross Country” article in The Wall Street Journal by Kevin Ferris titled “Protesting the Antiwar Protestors.” The article describes how Rich Davis, a 20-year veteran of the Navy who retired in 2001, ended up challenging the Chester County Peace Movement anti-war protesters who have spent every Saturday since March 2003 protesting outside the courthouse in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

After watching from his nearby apartment throughout 2006 and 2007, on September 8, 2007, he took a hand-made sign in support of the U.S. military’s mission and walked out to face the anti-war protesters. Tears came to my eyes when I read this about Davis:

“He was just a kid during the Vietnam War, but he is still bothered by the disrespect heaped on returning Vietnam vets in the 1960s and ‘70s. In part that is because, in 1967, Mr. Davis attended the funeral of a man he idolized – his sister’s boyfriend, Marine Lance Cpl. Alan R. Schultz from Levittown, Pa. Schultz was killed by mortar fire in Vietnam.

“Even today, Mr. Davis can’t look at an antiwar protest without thinking that Schultz, his comrades and their modern-day counterparts are being disrespected. So after seeing the war protesters each week, Mr. Davis said to himself, ‘Not this war. Not this time.’”

A few weeks after Davis’ initial solitary pro-U.S. military stand he had “about 40 sign-holding, flag-waving supporters at his side, thanks to support from the Gathering of Eagles” – And now Davis’ group is getting organized – Chester County Victory Movement – with its own website (

Here from a recent posting on is one such modern-day counterpart of Lance Cpl. Schultz who should be respected:

“Senior Airman Jonathan Yelner volunteered to be sent to Afghanistan two months ago to help local residents build new roads and buildings and to set up water supplies.

“Yelner, 24, was killed Tuesday when a bomb exploded near his vehicle near Bagram, about 25 miles north of Kabul and the site of an air base where U.S. forces are stationed.

“Yelner, a six-year Air Force veteran, was a weapons loader who had been assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. He was serving with the 755th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Air Base as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, military officials said.”

The boldface is mine because I want to emphasize that Jonathan Yelner was someone in the military who died serving his country – and he died not in battle, but in the U.S.’s humanitarian efforts to help impoverished people. In the hours before he was killed in Afghanistan, how do you think he would have felt if he could have seen the Chester anti-war protesters waving their anti-military signs?

It’s easy to go out on a Saturday and wave signs against fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s not easy to volunteer to serve your country and lose your life doing so.

Sometimes I imagine a science fiction movie in which there are no more military troops left to protect the U.S. And, as the evil forces attack and destroy every single city in the U.S., the dying Americans say: “Where’s the military when you need them?”

On this 2008 Memorial Day, I hope that we all count our blessings – the men and women of the U.S. military serving their country and thus protecting each and every one of us.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

“Ban on Sex for Soldiers in Afghanistan Lifted…Sort Of”

This was the subject line in the email from that greeted me this morning when I awoke. As busy as I am, I had to read the article reprinted from the May 15th Stars and Stripes and reported by Drew Brown. Here are the first paragraphs of that story:

JALALABAD, Afghanistan -- Single soldiers and civilians working for the U.S. military in Afghanistan can now have sex legally. Sort of.

A new order signed by Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-101, has lifted a ban on sexual relations between unmarried men and women in the combat zone.

General Order No. 1 outlines a number of prohibited activities and standards of conduct for U.S. troops and civilians working for the military in Afghanistan. Previously, under the regulation, sexual relations and "intimate behavior" between men and women not married to each other were a strict no-no. The regulation also barred members of the opposite sex from going into each other’s living quarters unless they were married to each other.

But the latest version of General Order No. 1 for Afghanistan, which Schloesser signed April 19, eases those restrictions.

The new regulation warns that sex in a combat zone "can have an adverse impact on unit cohesion, morale, good order and discipline."

But sexual relations and physical intimacy between men and women not married to each other are no longer banned outright. They’re only "highly discouraged," and that’s as long as they’re "not otherwise prohibited" by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to the new order.

I’m not sure what I think of this new order for U.S soldiers in Afghanistan partly because, for me, the idea of sex in a combat zone is connected to U.S. troops in Vietnam: In my book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL that takes place in 1970, Sharon worries about her husband Robert sleeping with Vietnamese women after she’s run into a high school classmate of hers at the Officers Club who is just back from Vietnam:

“She wonders whether Mark had a lot of experience dancing quite close to those Vietnamese women she's heard about, their thick black hair hanging straight down their backs, their native costumes – Sharon isn't quite sure what these look like so she pictures the revealing garment worn by the young lieutenant's Polynesian girlfriend in the film version of "South Pacific" – leaving bare shoulders exposed and no undergarments underneath.

“Will Robert be dancing with those sexy Vietnamese women soon?”

Does anyone reading this blog have an opinion about the new Afghanistan “sex” order? If so, I hope you’ll share your opinion in the comments below.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pritzker Military Library Promotes Importance of the Citizen Soldier

Yesterday my husband Mitch came across a reference to the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago. Although Mitch is on several military-related online “lists,” he had never before heard of the library. He sent me an email and suggested I contact the library to offer to donate a copy of MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL.

I immediately forwarded my May 21st blog (Respecting the Commitment of Graduating ROTC College Seniors) to

This morning I already had the following email from senior librarian Theresa A.R. Embrey:

Thank you for your recent donation inquiry. The Library would be happy to receive a copy of your new novel.

As you may know, the Pritzker Military Library was founded in 2003 by COL James N. Pritzker IL ARNG (ret.) as a non-profit (501c3) research library with a mission of acquiring and maintaining a collection and providing programs on the importance of the citizen soldier as an essential element of a democratic society.

The Library has a growing research collection of over 40,000 items of which 26,000 are books on military history and military fiction. The collection also consists of 6,000 historic photographs, 1,000 prints and posters --- many of which are original WWI and WWII recruiting posters, and artifacts like our collection of shoulder sleeve insignia. The oldest item in the collection is Strada’s The History of the Low Countrey Warres (London: 1650). The newest items were received from some of the leading publishers of military history in the past 2 weeks (i.e., Stackpole, University of Nebraska Press, Random House).

The Library also has an extensive programming schedule that features well-known and respected authors, historians, scholars, and veterans discussing the military, its history, and its importance to a democratic society. Past guests have included Joe Galloway, General Anthony Zinni USMC (ret.), Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Marc Bowden. To find out more about our programs, please visit this link:

I would also like to invite you to check out the Library’s website: The library’s programs are webcast live and archived on the web for later viewing. Also, if you become a free online member you can browse the Library’s extensive online catalog.

I replied to Ms. Embrey that I would post a blog about the library. Then this afternoon, when I sat down to write this post, I realized that Ms. Embrey’s email was an excellent introduction to the Pritzer Military Library.

I’m looking forward to utilizing the resources of this library. And I hope that those of you who have an interest in military history will do the same.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Respecting the Commitment of Graduating ROTC College Seniors

It’s college graduation season – and while this season gives me numerous blogging topics for – I’m talking about something different in this post.

And this something different is that, throughout the U.S., there are graduating college seniors who, as ROTC cadets, are now being commissioned as officers in the different branches of the U.S. military.

I was reminded of this by the May 20th Wall Street Journal “Main Street” column by William McGurn entitled “Why Harvard Harasses the Military.” In the column McGurn contrasts college graduation at Benedictine College in Atchinson, Kansas, with college graduation at Harvard. The contrast has to do with the different level of respect given to each college’s graduating ROTC cadets.

Here’s a description of Benedictine: “After all the degrees had been handed out, two young men in dress blue were called back on stage. Before their families, their classmates, and their teachers, these men raised their right hands and swore to ‘support and defend’ our Constitution. And then Lt. Jeff Fetters and Lt. Michael Mundie were presented to their class as ‘the newest officers in the United States Army.’”

As I was writing this post, my younger daughter said that I should write about when her father was commissioned. I went to my albums – and discovered it was exactly 40 years ago today – on Tuesday, May 21, 1968 – that the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army Reserve Officers Training Corps of Michigan State University held its 1968 ROTC commissioning parade at “four-ten o’clock” at Demonstration Hall Field!

I still have the commissioning program with the list of the ROTC army cadets including my future husband and his assigned branch – infantry. Major General Robert H. Curtin gave the main address: “There is a need for top quality, professionally qualified, dedicated and motivated people in the military service of our country.” He could be speaking about today.

With the approach of Memorial Day, instead of only thinking about the beach or shopping or the fourth installment of the movie “Indiana Jones,” keep in mind these patriotic words and show respect for the men and women today who support and defend our Constitution.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Announcing the Upcoming Virtual Book Tour of MRS. LIEUTENANT

MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL is about to embark on a virtual book tour around the blogosphere.

What is a virtual book tour? Instead of book authors flying from city to city and staying in hotels (and shlepping their luggage), book authors sit in the comfort of their own homes and write guest blogs that are featured on different people’s book-related blogs.

I’m doing my virtual book tour through Dorothy Thompson’s company – and Dorothy is a terrifically pumped-up person.

In future posts I’ll give you details of my “appearances.” For now I wanted to share with you a description of one guest blog assignment I just wrote – for the blog

I had to write a character interview as if an interviewer were talking with one of my characters. This was such fun! I chose Kim Benton, the Southerner in MRS. LIEUTENANT with whom Sharon Gold shares a car.

I’m not going to give away any snippets of the interview here as I want to save everything for the blog post. Yet what I will say is that Kim talks about her differences with Sharon on the subjects of race, religion and the North vs. the South.

Use the RSS feed on this blog or go to my website at to signup for emails of my blog posts in order to keep up with my virtual book tour stops. I’m looking forward to traveling all over the world without leaving my home!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

May 17 is Armed Forces Day – Show Support for Military Families

According to the United States Department of Defense link at President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department -- the Department of Defense.

Armed Forces Day is celebrated annually on the third Saturday of May. Armed Forces Week begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May, the day after Armed Forces Day. Because of their unique training schedules, National Guard and Reserve units may celebrate Armed Forces Day/Week over any period in May.

Why not mark Armed Forces Day by contributing to one of the many charitable organizations that support today’s military personnel and their families?

You can learn about some of these organizations at my website by clicking on SUPPORT MILITARY FAMILIES. Other organizations are described in my recent posts – including the May 12th description of; the April 24th description of; and the April 11th post about,, and

Whether through sending books and/or letters to military personnel serving in harm’s way or helping provide for the needs of military families left alone while a parent serves in a combat zone, you can show your support for U.S. military personnel regardless of what you think of the current fighting.

Say yes to showing your appreciation of the U.S. armed forces that protect our country. Do it now – in honor of Armed Forces Day.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Today’s Subject Is Fighting Cancer

My book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL is dedicated to Elaine Siegel Masser – my AEPhi sorority sister, college roommate and friend – who died at an early age from breast cancer.

On Monday evening I attended a reception at the AEPhi sorority house at UCLA for AEPhi alumni from chapters across the country. This was the first AEPhi function I’ve attended since I graduated from Michigan State University in 1969. At the function I learned that AEPhi nationally has just begun support of Sharsheret

Sharsheret is a national organization of cancer survivors dedicated to addressing the unique concerns of young Jewish women facing breast cancer. Sharsheret, Hebrew for "chain," was founded in 2001 by Rochelle Shoretz, a former law clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recognized the need for a breast cancer organization that would provide culturally sensitive support for Jewish women after her own diagnosis at age 28.

And then last night I received the email below from Hagan Black, the son of my good friend Loretta Savery (who I thank in the acknowledgments of MRS. LIEUTENANT). Hagan wrote:

I am participating in an event to benefit the American Cancer Society – -- Foothills Relay for Life. Our La Canada High School team will walk around the track for 24 hours with 30 other teams to raise money for cancer research, cancer patient support programs and advocacy. You probably know that my mom is the chair of this year's relay.

A special part of the relay is at 9 p.m. on Saturday night when we light over a thousand luminarias that have been purchased in honor of someone fighting cancer or in memory of someone who died of cancer. If you would like to purchase a luminaria bag and support our team, they are $10 each. You can purchase a bag or make a plain donation.

I’m also in the midst of reading Allison Winn Scotch’s novel THE DEPARTMENT OF LOST & FOUND about a young woman’s fight against breast cancer. And this book is also dedicated to the memory of the author’s close friend who died of breast cancer.

So it seems natural that this morning, when thinking about a post topic for today, I decided it was appropriate to blog about the above two cancer-fighting organizations as well as mention one other organization – Hurdle Jumpers – The motto of this organization, started by breast cancer survivor Janet Halbert, is “soaring over the obstacles of cancer treatment” Through oncology practices, Hurdle Jumpers distributes free kits designed to make a difference to people “who are about to start or are in the midst of cancer treatment.”

All three of these organizations are worthy recipients of donations. (Saturday night there will be a luminaria bag in memory of Elaine Siegel Masser.) And I hope that the information available through these organizations can help those of you in need of such information.

P.S. Just as I was about to post this blog, I got an email from the C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition – -– whose mission is “increased awareness that colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable, and beatable.” As a good friend’s sister recently died from colorectal cancer, I had to add this organization to my post. Check out the above website for more information.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Scholarship Applications for Female Veterans Due June 1

One of the pleasures of writing this blog in connection with my book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL is learning about organizations and companies that support military personnel and their families.

Just now, by looking at recent headlines on, I learned about Royal Neighbors of America. This is a fraternal benefit society first established in 1895 to provide “insurance protection to women and their families.” Check out the website at for a fascinating history of fraternal benefit societies dating from the craft guilds of the Middle Ages.

And if you’re a female veteran, download an application before the June 1 deadline for the Heroes at Home Women Veterans’ Scholarship Program. The minimum award amount is $2,500, and there are multiple awards.

Here’s what the Royal Neighbors website says about this scholarship program: Our goal is to help our female veterans give back to their communities by reaching their education goals, making them stronger community leaders as a result. Awards will be presented at the Student Veterans of America Conference in Washington, DC on June 12, 2008.

Eligibility criteria include: a female veteran; enlisted, officers and those who have completed their service; money can be used to pay for living expenses as well as tuition, books and school fees; do NOT need to be a member of Royal Neighbors of America.

If you know of anyone who could be eligible and interested in this scholarship program, please forward this post. And you also might want to check out the volunteer opportunities described on the Royal Neighbors website.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Today 38 Years Ago Armor Officers Basic #21 Started

Armor Officers Basic #21 ran from 13 May 70 to 16 Jul 70. On May 13 the four AOB wives in MRS. LIEUTENANT had not yet met.

Here’s how Sharon Gold, one of the four wives, describes her husband’s return home from his first day of AOB:

The Fiat appears in the open area between the three buildings. Sharon races down the stairs. Robert gets out, looks around as if checking who else has arrived home, and locks the car door. He kisses her hello.

"How was it? What did you do?"

"Cool it," he says out of the side of his mouth. "Wait until we get upstairs."

They walk up the outside stairs of the building, then down the outer balcony to their apartment door. Sharon unlocks the door and lets Robert enter first, then she follows him back to the bedroom, where he immediately sheds his uniform.

"It went okay. There's about 30 of us in the class. We filled out forms and listened to lectures. Not much action yet."

She doesn't want Robert to see any "action." She wants him to spend a quiet two years in the army behind a desk somewhere – if possible in Washington or some other big city – where she can pretend to herself he's not part of the war machine.

"What were the lectures about?"

"Mostly administrative details, TDY pay, uniform allotment."

"What's TDY?"

"Temporary duty. That's what this assignment is for me. Same as going to Ft. Holabird for MI – military intelligence – training will be temporary. The assignment after that will be a permanent one."

"And we'll get housing provided then, right?"

He turns away from her, places his insignia on the dresser. "If it's an accompanied tour."

"What's that mean?"
His back is still towards her. "Unaccompanied tours are to combat areas – Vietnam."

Sharon sits down on the edge of the bed. "Did they say anything about the chances of your going to Vietnam?"

Robert shakes his head.

To read the first four chapters of MRS. LIEUTENANT -- one from the point of view of each of the four women -- go to and click on READ THE NOVEL.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Introducing Another Project Helping Military Personnel – Vacations for Veterans

I’m always on the look-out to learn about organizations or projects helping military personnel and their families. In fact, I include several of these on my website in a section titled “Support Military Families.” And I blog about other organizations or projects I find.

In the coming weeks I’m looking forward to learning about several new groups as I have found a long list of such organizations on Yet for now I want to tell you about a project I learned about in the May-June 2008 issue of the University of Pennsylvania’s magazine The Pennsylvania Gazette.

Margaret (Peggy) Carr, who graduated from Penn’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1988, and her husband Chris Carr, both former Marine officers, started a nonprofit project called Vacations For Veterans ( Here’s the introduction from the website:

Vacations For Veterans is a nonprofit organization created to provide recently wounded veterans of the United States Armed Forces with a week of free lodgings donated by a vacation homeowner.

Each wounded veteran faces new challenges: readjusting, rebuilding their lives, and reconnecting with their families. For many of our wounded veterans, time away to rejuvenate is a luxury that is often unattainable and unaffordable.

When you make a donation of time at your vacation home, or a donation of money to sponsor a veteran, you give our wounded veterans a brief respite when they need it most. You make entire families feel better through your generosity.

Providing wounded veterans with a week of relaxation is a wonderful opportunity for both veterans and donors alike. It is a chance for many of us to show our appreciation for our veterans’ honorable service to our country.

If you have a vacation home that you’d be willing to share with a wounded veteran, please consider becoming a part of this program. Use the contact information on the website to get the ball rolling. And let me know if you do this. I’d be happy to include in this blog the names of people who read this post and then acted on it!

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

For Mother’s Day: Separating Sharon Gold and Phyllis Zimbler Miller

In honor of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and my parents Ruth and Albert Zimbler, I thought I’d reveal some of the differences between my fictional character Sharon Gold in MRS. LIEUTENANT and myself.

While Sharon Gold’s experiences as a new army officer’s wife in the spring of 1970 are based on my own, Sharon’s background is different than mine. Sharon was an anti-Vietnam War protester when she met Robert, an ROTC cadet at Michigan State. I was never an anti-Vietnam War protester. In fact, I was what might be called “an ostrich with her head in the sand.”

I met my future husband Mitch, an ROTC cadet at Michigan State, when we were both on the editorial staff of the State News. On our third date, as either the song “Duke of Earl” or “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (it’s been 41 years) played on the record player at a party in some student apartment, Mitch told me he was going to Vietnam. I was forewarned, but managed to totally disregard the warning.

In the novel Sharon at first refuses to marry Robert because he’s going to be part of the war machinery. In real life I wanted to get married before Mitch went into the army, but he was against it. Only after Mitch spent six miserable weeks at ROTC summer camp at Ft. Riley, Kansas, in the summer of 1968 did he change his mind. On one of his two phone calls to me in those six weeks he said, “You’re going to get your wish.”

We were married in September of 1969, one month before he was scheduled to report to Ft. Benning, Georgia, for Infantry Officers Basic. But that’s another story.

I do clearly remember seeing in the fall of 1969 the movie MEDIUM COOL about the violence following anti-war protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August of 1968. Mitch and I were on our way back to Chicago from MSU when the news of the violence blared from the radio.

This stuck in my mind because at that moment we were being pulled over as Mitch was speeding. He was going so fast that it would have been automatic jail time, except that the police officers in Michigan train at MSU. The police officer lowered the speed on the speeding ticket so Mitch wouldn’t have to go to jail.

And perhaps the biggest difference between Sharon and myself is that, because I grew up in Elgin, Illinois, I was accustomed to being the only Jew even in a large group of people. Instead, I gave Sharon the backstory of many of my AEPhi sorority sisters. They grew up in the Northern suburbs of Chicago with other Jews. For them the culture shock of the army would have been even stronger than it was for me.

P.S. The description in the book of Sharon’s attendance at two meetings of the Jewish Wives Club at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, is as authentic as memory allowed.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Salute to All Military Spouses on Military Spouse Appreciation Day

In my last post I promised to describe more of my interview with Anita Rufus of the Anita Rufus Show on KNewsRadio in Palm Springs, California. And I’ll get to that promise in a moment.

First I want to share something I just learned – today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. According to Spousebuzz, President Regan in 1984 declared the Friday before Mother’s Day as Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

In a guest blog on, Lieutenant General William Caldwell, Commanding General, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Ft. Leavenworth, said:

“All military spouses know why their loved ones serve, and they share in their hardship and sacrifice and ask for little in return. It is humbling to those of us who wear the uniform to know that our best friends, our spouses, are serving along side us. Those of us in uniform serve because we love our Nation; our spouses do it for love of us. Our service men and women could not continue in this profession without your help, and for that we are eternally grateful … and so is our Nation.”

And this is exactly what Anita Rufus and I discussed on the air. The role of a military spouse in supporting the husband (or today, the wife) in uniform.

In 1970 there were numerous expectations of how we officers’ wives would act in supporting our husbands. Probably today the expectations are somewhat looser. (I’ve heard of one current Navy officers’ wives club that is an officers’ wives and girlfriends club. I can’t imagine that when I was a Mrs. Lieutenant.)

In my day we had very specific rules and regulations we followed, which we first learned from social functions organized by the wives of more senior officers. In fact, I wrote about my indoctrination into how to be a proper army officer’s wife in my post yesterday to the blog BACKSTORY: Where authors share secrets, truths, logical and illogical moments that sparked their fiction or memoirs. Brought to you by M.J. Rose and Jessica Keener.

You can click on this link to read about the beginning of my time as a military spouse. In the meantime, I salute all the military spouses today on the occasion of Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

I Became a Mrs. Lieutenant 38 Years Ago Today

I had planned to write this post about my interview yesterday by Anita Rufus of the Anita Rufus Show, KNewsRadio, Palm Springs. (And I will get to that interview.) Yet, as I typed today’s date for my own records, I realized that my husband officially began active army duty 38 years ago today.

After all this time I can’t remember how I felt the first time Mitch left our furnished apartment in Muldraugh, Kentucky, to be officially on active duty. Instead, here’s what Sharon Gold thinks of her husband Robert’s first day of Armor Officers Basic (AOB) on May 13, 1970, in my book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL:

He'll be putting on his uniform, checking one last time, she knows, that his boots are shined, his insignia pinned on correctly.

She’ll write in her journal today, she tells herself. She hasn’t written anything – the pages all virgin white. Yet today she’ll record her feelings of watching her husband leave to become part of the war machinery.

Robert reemerges from the bedroom in his uniform, carrying his uniform hat, and stands in front of her for inspection. She wants to say "good luck." The words stick in her throat – don't these words imply the opposite is feared? She says: "You look terrific."

And he does look terrific if you like men in uniforms.

He kisses her good-bye at the front door. She stands on the balcony and watches him down the stairs to the car. He waves and mouths "I love you." Then he's gone.

She is without wheels and all alone.

Yet, as I told Anita Rufus in the radio interview, I was not all alone for long. Although the army hadn’t told the AOB class members they could bring their wives nor was housing provided for married officers attending AOB, it turned out that there was a “training” program for the wives of the new officers so we could learn how to be a proper officer’s wife.

Check out my website at and click on the section ORIGINAL ARMY DOCUMENTS. Then if you click on AOB WIVES MAY 19 INVITATION, you’ll see the actual invitation that I received for my first “official” social obligation. And in my next post I’ll talk more of what Anita Rufus and I discussed in the radio interview yesterday: the rules and expectations for the wife of an army officer during the era of the Vietnam War.

Here’s just one excerpt from Mary Preston Gross’ booklet “Mrs. Lieutenant” (Third Edition): “…it is true that a wife has no rank, but she does have position created by her husband’s rank, which is respected and accepted by Army custom.”

Yes, 38 years ago today, I became a Mrs. Lieutenant.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Recommended Books About Vietnam Era

Having recommended movies about the Vietnam era, I want to now recommend two books about that era in addition to my just-released book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL.

One recommended book is Tim O’Brien’s GOING AFTER CACCIATO a fantastical novel that begins in Vietnam and leads out of the morass of war. There supposedly will be a movie based on this book someday. But don’t wait for the movie if you’re interested in the story.

The second book is O’Brien’s THE THINGS THEY CARRIED a finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. This is a moving story about what soldiers fighting in Vietnam carried in their pockets.

And I have to admit I haven’t read O’Brien’s memoir IF I DIE IN A COMBAT ZONE. Can anyone who has read it post a comment here about the memoir?

I’d like to share one thing about fighting in Vietnam for those of you who don’t know this – fragging. Here’s an excerpt from MRS. LIEUTENANT that takes place at the Officers Club at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, when Armor Officers Basic class member Geist taunts Sharon Gold’s husband – Second Lieutenant Robert Gold:

Geist's face twists into a sneer. "Good thing it wasn't a fragging. Then you probably would have 'bought it'."

She's drowning but she has to know. "What's a fragging?"

"Hey, guys, little lady here wants to know what a fragging is!" Geist yells up the table.

"Come on, Sharon, let's dance." Robert pulls her to her feet.

Geist takes hold of her other arm. "It's a slang term – officers getting killed by their own men – on purpose."

She collapses back into her chair. "I don’t understand."

Now Robert faces her. "Fragging is when an enlisted man purposely kills his officer – usually by tossing a grenade at him."

"Happens a lot in Vietnam," Geist says.

The bile rises in her throat. She staggers up out of the chair and rushes from the room.

She stumbles out the front door of the club and slams her right foot against the curb. The stabs of pain slow her down.

Robert catches up to her. "Sharon!"

She collapses onto the ground and fights to catch her breath.

"Robert, it's horrible enough to be killed by a heartless enemy. To be killed by your own men – on purpose!"

He crouches beside her. "It doesn't happen that much. Reports are highly exaggerated. Geist should have kept his mouth shut."

"Why do they kill their officers?"

Robert offers her his hand to pull her up. She doesn’t take it.

"The men are drafted. They don't want to fight in a war that makes no sense to them. There's lots of drugs. They hate their officers who risk getting them killed. So they get rid of their officers. The next ones may be better."

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Recommendation for Two Movies About the Vietnam War

In yesterday’s post I mentioned MEDIUM COOL – a 1969 movie written and directed by Haskell Wexler and focusing on the anti-war protests that led to violence at the Democratic National Convention in August of 1968. I suggested putting the title on Netflix if you’ve never seen the film.

And I’ve previously mentioned GOOD MORNING VIETNAM starring Robin Williams as an Air Force disk jockey in Saigon as well as COMING HOME starring Jane Fonda.

I’d like to now mention two of my favorite Vietnam movies, although perhaps “favorite” is a misleading word. Both the following movies are very compelling although I’m not sure they can be described as “enjoyable.”

The first one is the 1987 GARDEN OF STONES – about the men who serve at the military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery during the Vietnam War. The cast includes James Caan, Anjelica Huston, James Earl Jones, D.B. Sweeney, Dean Stockwell and Mary Stuart Masterson. Francis Ford Coppola directed from a screenplay by Ron Bass that was adapted from the novel by Nicholas Proffitt.

The second one is the 2000 TIGERLAND – in which Colin Farrell gives an amazing performance as a rebellious army private training in 1971 at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, to ship out to Vietnam. Directed by Joel Schumacher, the script was written by Ross Klavan and Michael McGruther. This film is a heartbreaker and, in my opinion, is a “must see.”

Both these films, although about the Vietnam War, speak to similar events happening today. (Yes, the one major difference is that in TIGERLAND the men are mostly drafted, while today it’s an all-volunteer army.) For those of you with no personal knowledge of the military, both these films would be enlightening.

I have a friend who is currently a social worker at the VA hospital here in Los Angeles. I’ve asked her to write a guest post about the Vietnam War veterans who talk to her about their wartime experiences, and I’m hoping that in the near future she’ll be willing to share with the readers of this blog.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

The Aftermath of the Kent State University Shootings on May 4, 1970

Following the killing of four and the wounding of nine students at Kent State University by Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970, numerous pro-war and anti-war activities happened. To give you a feeling of these activities, here are news items from “Day by Day: The Seventies,” Volume 1, 1970-1975, by Thomas Leonard, Cynthia Crippen and Marc Aronson:

  • May 4 -- President Nixon describes Kent State shootings as unfortunate and calls for protection of the right to peaceful dissent.

  • May 4 -- Presidents of 37 colleges and universities warn Nixon that the nation’s youth are being alienated by war policies.

  • May 5 -- Students at Stanford and University of Maryland begin strikes to protest Nixon’s war policies.

  • May 5 -- At a White House meeting, President Nixon tells 28 senators and 72 representatives that U.S. troops will be pulled out of Cambodia in three to seven weeks.

  • May 5 -- Princeton University faculty vote for a two-week recess prior to the November elections to permit students to work for antiwar congressional candidates.

  • May 6 -- California Governor Ronald Reagan orders 27 state colleges and universities closed until May 10 in an effort to cool student tempers.

Just yesterday in yoga class a fellow student said to me, “People think the 60s were turbulent. But it’s really what happened right after the 60s that was turbulent.”

My fellow yoga student was right. The 60s get all the “claim to fame,” but the Vietnam War did not end on December 31, 1969. And what had been started by anti-war protesters in the 60s spilled over into the early years of the 70s.

The anti-war protest at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968 was one such event that led toward the Kent State shootings. If you haven’t ever seen the 1969 movie MEDIUM COOL about the violence at the convention, consider adding this title to your Netflix list. The film will give you a window into the divisive feelings of this period in U.S. history.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

In Memory of Those Killed and Wounded at Kent State University on May 4, 1970

Thirty-eight years ago today Ohio National Guard fired on Kent State University students protesting Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia as part of the U.S. Vietnam War campaign – four students were killed and nine others wounded.

Here’s the first part of that chronology as detailed in William A. Gordon's book “Four Dead in Ohio: Was There a Conspiracy at Kent State?”

  • April 30 President Nixon announces the invasion of Cambodia, triggering massive protests on many of the nation's campuses.

  • May 2 Ohio National Guardsmen are sent to Kent State after the University's Army R.O.T.C. building is burned down.

  • May 3 Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes personally appears on campus and promises to use "every force possible" to maintain order. Rhodes denounces the protesters as worse than brownshirts and vows to keep the Guard in Kent "until we get rid of them."

  • May 4 Four students are killed and nine others are wounded when a contingent of Guardsmen suddenly opens fire during a noontime demonstration.

The four students killed were Allison Krause, Jeffrey Glen Miller, Sandy Lee Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder (the later two passerbys and not protesters).

The nine others wounded were Thomas Mark Grace, Joseph Lewis Jr., John R. Cleary, Alan Canfora, Dean Kahler (permanently paralyzed from the chest down), Douglas Wrentmore, James Dennis Russell, Robert Stamps, and Donald Scott MacKenzie.

MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL opens on May 4, 1970, as four newly married women and their officer husbands approach Ft. Knox, Kentucky. It is against this background of national divisiveness over the Vietnam War that these army officers will begin their military service.

Their orders to report to active duty include this one sentence in the special instructions section: “Ultimate assignment to a short tour area.” Translation: Vietnam.

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