"May you always see the world through the eyes of a child." ~CJ Heck

"All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being,
not just with my hands but with my heart.” ~Tahereh Mafi, ‘Shatter Me’



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Great Writing has FEELing!

by Robert Cosmar
Author, Blogger, Astrologer

Many times in my life I've wanted to write, but couldn't.  My mind was usually crammed with thoughts, worries, or fears -- or all of them together.

One thing I have learned is, if you can focus on your feelings without forcing the issue, something usually gives.

Many times we judge our ideas, or self, too harshly and don't trust our simple feeling process. Not every post or article has to be brilliant, or a work of art.

In a way, writing is like journalling or keeping a diary. You want to share your most intimate feelings, but you're not ready to allow the whole world to see it, especially if another person is involved.  Maybe it is wise not to share their name, however, you could probably use a pseudo name.

My best writing is what I call, inspired.  It comes from within my feelings or experiences of life. Sometimes pain is involved -- but writing can be very healing and a way to unburden yourself, if you will just ask yourself, "What am I feeling today?"

When I don't feel inspired, I allow myself to remember an experience or event in life that touched me or made me laugh. This is easier to write about because it can be recalled in detail and then described.

Writers block is never fun, or easy to overcome, but there are tools to work with that can help us to move forward until the fresh waters of inspiration bless us with their wisdom.


Books by Robert Cosmar:

Big Little Book of Whispers
Trilogy of Awareness
Awareness: Being Fully Alive
The Magic of Love and Intimacy


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Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Ultimate DUH ...

Have you ever had one of those "Duh ..." moments, when you find out something that should have been obvious, but it escaped you at the time?  You know what I mean.  The "Oh MAN!" kind of "DUH ..." where you smack yourself on the forehead for not seeing it in the first place?

Robert and I (sort of) agreed we wouldn't tell anyone about our latest "Duh ...", but I've had a change of heart.  I can't stop kicking myself over it and I thought, maybe writing about it will be cathartic. Then again, maybe not ...

As most of you already know, we made a major move nearly a year ago now.  We left the cold and snowy mountain winters of Pennsylvania and relocated to sunny Florida, where every day is a barefoot day and arthritis is only a vague memory.

That being said, the house we bought came with everything in it -- I mean everything -- even our beloved electric golf cart.  The previous owner moved into a nursing home and, from what we could tell, the only things he took with him were his clothes and toiletries.

The first week was a whirlwind of deciding what to keep, what to donate to charity, what to throw away,  water, electric, pest control, where we wanted the cable and computer connections installed -- I remember thinking, OUR moving van arrives at the end of the week!  How are we going to get it all done?

We also squeezed in our new Florida driver licenses, and registered and insured our car and golf cart.  Like I said, it was one crazy whirlwind week ...

Now, in the midst of all of the confusion, the only thing we were ever told about our battery-operated electric golf cart is that we should make sure the batteries -- all six of them -- always had sufficient (distilled) water so we wouldn't burn up the batteries.  We were told to open the cap on the battery, look inside with a flashlight, and  always make sure the water level is just above the metal plates.

Still talking about the golf cart -- which is one of the things we love best about living here -- we did everything we were supposed to do.  Like clockwork, we checked the batteries regularly and always topped off when the water level got low.

Now, fast-forward to last Tuesday.  Robert and I had several errands to do and they were in other parts of town -- three different parts of town, which is a lot of driving.  No problem.  Our little golf cart was a powerhouse!  We love nothing better than taking off for a couple of hours in our golf cart -- we love the adventures we find along the way.

We had done two of the errands and were on our way to the third when Robert suddenly noticed that the battery gauge had plunged into the red zone -- the no battery charge area.  We had just gone through a tunnel under a major roadway and could hardly get up the incline to the other side!  We had gone this far before with no trouble at all -- something was wrong.

We pulled the golf cart off the path and parked it on the grass.  Immediately, the battery gauge went right back into the high-end of the green area, which meant we had plenty of juice left in the batteries.  Very strange.

Robert decided we should call Mike at the service garage.  Mike told us it sounded like the batteries were going bad.  He asked how new they were.  We told him they were new a year ago, just before we bought the house, and he said that was good, because they were still under warranty.

Then as an afterthought, he asked whether we had kept the water level up above the metal plates in the battery cells.  Robert told him we topped them off regularly -- since it was summer, we checked them every two weeks, instead of once a month.   Mike asked him to check that for him, while they were on the phone.

We lifted the seat, which is where the batteries are, and he took off a cap.  Robert said, "It's full, Mike."  While he did that, I took a cap off of one of the batteries on my side of the cart.  It was totally empty!  I took off another one beside it, and that one was full.  Then I removed one more.  That one was empty, too.

"Crap, Robert!  These cells are all independent of each other!"

He gave me a wide-eyed stare.  Then Robert told Mike to hang on a second.  We scrambled, taking one cap off after another and peeking inside.

For an entire year, we had only filled one cell on each battery, thinking that if you filled one hole, the whole battery was full of water.  There are four white caps on each of the six batteries!  That meant we have been driving with only six cells powering our golf cart, instead of twenty-four!
 
What was really strange is that we had filled the same six cells each time -- what are the odds of that, I wonder?

When we thought about it, it was totally obvious to us both.  Why would there be four white caps on each battery if you were only supposed to fill one of them?

Mike told us we had a fifty-fifty chance that the batteries were fried, but we also had a fifty-fifty chance they would last another six months to a year.

We got our baby towed home, filled all of the cells, plugged it in, and asked the universe for a miracle.

I'm happy to report, we got our miracle.  But this was an adventure we could have happily done without ... DUH!



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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cozy Chat with Author C.J. Heck

Today I did an interview with BookwormSimi which she posted on her "Blissful Blog" (Books, Books, and Some More Books):  

Cozy Chat with the Author, C.J. Heck:

Welcome, CJ.  Let's get to know more about you both as a writer and a person.

Simi: What is your genre? Why did you choose to write it?

CJ:  I write in several different genres, actually. I’ll answer this separately for each genre.

Poetry for Children and Children’s Stories:

I’ve always written poetry, both for children and adults. The children’s poetry is different in that it’s always written from a child’s point of view.

(I like to say that it’s my own inner child who does the writing). The topics I write about are all designed to help children understand the world they live in. They have so many questions and the world doesn’t always make sense to them.

My love for writing for children probably first came from an overactive imagination in childhood. I was always pretending and creating magical adventures. I think I put more miles on mama's broom than she ever did, because it was my pony and I rode it everywhere.

My love of poetry, rhyme, and rhythm came from my mother. When it was raining, she used to entertain us by teaching us tongue twisters while she ironed. My love for both prose and poetry only grew stronger as I went through school and English was always my favorite class.

When I became a mother, I often made up bedtime stories or poems for my three daughters which they wanted retold time and again, which inspired me to come up with even more. When mother heard them, she told me I should write them all down.

From then on, I scribbled poems and stories in notebooks which were piled high on a corner of my desk. I didn't begin writing seriously until the 1990's, when one of my daughters picked up one of the notebooks and began to read some of them. She said, "Mom, you really should DO something with these! They're good. They're really good."

With that thought in mind, I set up a website for children and their parents, posting the poems and stories I had written, plus those I was still writing. Then I began to get requests from parents and teachers, asking where they could buy them in a book.

So, I took a deep breath, exhaled, and decided I would give it six months. I quit a full time job and began the daunting task of sending manuscripts to publishers. After 5 months, (and a pile of rejections) I received a publishing contract for my first book of children’s poetry.

I also have five children’s books ready to go that are in a holding pattern for now. I need an illustrator and that will be expensive!

Poetry (for Adults): Anatomy of a Poet

My adult poetry is most often about my own life, my experiences, my observations of others and how I see the world and my surroundings.

As a baby boomer, I came to the realization that we are all products of our environment. Everyone we meet, each new experience, adventure, book, thought or lesson touches us and teaches something we were meant to know. Life is continually changing us, molding who we were into the unique being we are now.

As Bri Maya Tiwari once said, "There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken; a shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable; a sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy, and a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength. There is a hollow space too vast for words through which we pass with each loss, out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being." 

That quote describes my life perfectly.

One of six children, I grew up in a small Ohio town and married my high school sweetheart at nineteen. A Vietnam War widow at twenty, I went on to marry two more times and then divorce twice. I had three daughters and I now have eleven grandchildren.

I guess you could say, I made a lot of choices, some were good, some not so good, but as one of the poems in the book ends, "...at least I made choices. How sad for those who merely hitchhike along, never daring to choose at all."

Anatomy of a Poet was written over a period of forty years. The poetry is rich with memoir, humor and, at times, it is sensual.

Poetry can be daunting and hard to understand, but it doesn't have to be. I feel I have an obligation to write in a way that everyone can understand what I’m trying to say. I believe poems should flow softly through a poet's words, their meanings easily touching the mind and heart of its reader -- if a poem comes from the heart, it will reach other hearts.
 
Short Stories (for Adults): Bits and Pieces (flash and short fiction and non-fiction)

For a poet, behind every poem, there is an untold story. The original thoughts and ideas for the poem had to come from somewhere. By its very design, a poem can tell only the shortest version of a writer's thoughts, emotions, or experiences.

The twenty-two flash fiction and short stories in Bits and Pieces share the real inspiration, the story, behind many of the poems in my poetry book, Anatomy of a Poet.

Many have nostalgic themes, others share my own blend of humor and sensitivity. They cover subjects like internet dating; a 'woman of the evening' alone in a bar on Christmas Eve; the horror of finding a headless body near a sewer drain in the city, and a grandfather and grandson teaching each other about life and love while in a park feeding the pigeons. Also in the book is one of my personal favorites, which has a surprise ending you won't expect or forget.


Simi:  Are you interested to write in some other genres in the future?

CJ:  At this time, I don’t have any other genres I feel compelled to write in. Down the road, who knows …

Simi:  Which is the first book you read?

CJ:  Hmmm, you’re asking me to remember something from a long time ago! I don’t really remember my very first book.

I do know what book was the biggest influence on me. That was Peter Pan. It's one of my all-time favorite books from childhood and I will cherish it forever.

I was so completely enamored by the premise of flying, merely by believing I could, that I tried to fly from the top of a bookcase. The little scar just above my left eyebrow was a small price to pay for learning that some things are only make believe, even though we wish they were real.

Still and all, I credit J.M. Barrie for encouraging the little girl inside me to stay alive and well and it's why I write for children. Like Peter Pan in Neverland, I hope I never grow up.

 
Simi:  Are you influenced by any authors?

CJ:  In the early 70’s, I was influenced by the poet, Rod McKuen. I was given one of his books and I loved the ease with which he wrote. That time period is when I started writing my own poetry. I was having a difficult time coping with my husband’s death and I found writing to be cathartic and healing. I still do, even now.


Simi:  Do you write more than one book at a time?

CJ:  Not really. Sometimes while writing, I do get ideas for other books, but I just write myself a note, as a reminder for later.


Simi:  Are you a full-time author or you doing some other job?

CJ:  I’m pretty much writing full time now. I’m not working outside the home.


Simi:  Do you prefer pen and paper or Microsoft Word?

CJ:  When I’m home, definitely the computer. When I’m out and about, or on a trip, I keep a notebook and pencil by my side. When I get ideas or thoughts, I jot them down at traffic lights or stop signs.

When I’m in restaurants, or anywhere else, I write on anything I can find – menus, brochures, even on the back of business cards, if I have to. Yeah, you could say I’m a die-hard writer!


Simi:  Which one of your books is the best according to you?

CJ:  Ooooo, that's not fair … that’s like asking a mother which child is her favorite! Every book I’ve written has so much of me in it and each is like a child – I couldn’t choose.


Simi:  Do your family members read your books?

CJ:  I suppose they do, I don’t really know. It’s not something we talk about -- unless I have a new book out and I’ve sent a copy to them. 

To my siblings, I’m just Cath’, their oldest and somewhat eccentric sister. To my daughters, I’m just good ol' dependable, loving, mom, who’s always there for them. 

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t believe any of them think of me as being an author. I’m just me and I happen to write.


Simi:  Tell us about your writing journey.

CJ:  As I’ve already described earlier, my writing journey just naturally evolved. It was never planned. It just, well, happened all on its own. 


Simi:  Tell us about your latest book and your work in progress.

CJ:  My next projects are the five children’s books I mentioned. I really need an illustrator for them before I can get them published. Trouble is, illustrators are expensive, so I’m saving up for it. 

I hope to sell a lot more books! That would certainly help! (hands waving in the air and grinning broadly)


Simi:  Do you reply to your readers?

CJ:  Yes, yes, yes! I love it when readers contact me and I always write back. I also enjoy talking with writers who want to be published. We were all new at it once. I always wished I had someone I could talk to about the whole process of getting published.

Simi:  Share some writing tips with us.

CJ:  Gee, I don’t know that I have any writing tips, other than those you’ve probably heard a million times. 

I do know that editing is one of the most important things a writer can do. You have to read what you’ve written with the idea in mind to pare down all but the most important words to the story or poem. Say things as succinctly as you can possibly say them and still keep the plot intact. When you’re done editing, then edit again, and again.
Proper punctuation is also very important. We all remember the following example, which has two totally different meanings, based on where the comma is placed:

Let’s eat grampa!
Let’s eat, grampa!

Simi:  Do you have any embarrassing tale to share with us? Mine is too embarrassing to share here. :)

CJ:  I had an embarrassing situation once, while doing an author school visit. 

During a presentation to an auditorium full of teachers, parents, and children, I was in the middle of saying one of the poems and I literally forgot how it went. I forgot my own poem! 

 I started to laugh and apologized and then the children surprised me by picking up where I had left off. They recited the poem word for word. 

When they were finished, I clapped for them. With each successive poem, they continued to recite it along with me, which was wonderful! I was totally humbled by the experience. It’s still one of my favorite (and most embarrassing) school visits.

Simi:  Study books used to work for me like sleeping pills. So, I had to either listen to some good music or eat my favorite snacks (read- junk foods :)) to keep my eyes open. Do you have any weird habits such as this?

CJ:  No, not that I can think of.


10 Fun Facts:

Favorite Color:  Forest Green
Favorite Book:  The Stand, by Stephen King
Favorite Author:  Nicholas Sparks
Favorite Movie:  Pay it Forward
Favorite Actor:  Tom Selleck (Magnum P.I.)
Favorite Actress:  Meg Ryan
Favorite Song:  Always and Forever, Luthur Van Dross
Favorite Singer:  Jimmy Buffett
Favorite Snacks:  Fruit, like Cherries and Strawberries
Favorite TV Show:  NCIS


Rapid Fire Round:

Love or Friendship:  It’s got to be both, together
Vampire or Werewolf:  Neither
Amazon or Smashwords:  Amazon
Chick-Lit or Historical Regency:  Neither
Robert Pattinson or Ian Somerhalder:  Who?

5 Things Your Readers Don’t Know About You:

1. I’m shy, except when I’m talking about my books to groups, or in school visits.
2. My bra size (Hahahahahaha)
3. I hate to iron
4. I helped to deliver one of my grandsons
5. I once assisted a coroner while he did an autopsy. He was looking for a permanent assistant and asked if I would be interested. I said I didn’t know, but I was willing to try.
I decided to look at it in a clinical manner and I did fine – within five minutes, I was belly up to the table! 

I found out afterwards that the pay was only going to be $6.50 an hour.
I turned the job down ... but at least I know I could do it.

CJ: YAY! This interview was fun! Thank you, Simi.

Simi:   Glad that you liked it. Nice to talk to you and I wish you all the best for your future works!

Author’s Bio:

A native of Ohio, CJ is a published poet, writer and author of five books. She has three daughters, eleven grandchildren, and lives with her partner, Author Robert Cosmar, in Florida. CJ is also a Vietnam War widow.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bill Cosby Speaks Out


"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk:

Why you ain't,
Where you is,
What he drive,
Where he stay,
Where he work,
Who you be...

And I blamed the kid, until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth. In fact, you will never get any kind of job making a decent living.

People marched and were hit in the face with rocks so we could get an Education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around.

The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids. $500 sneakers for what? And they won't spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics. I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit.

Where were you when he was 2?  Where were you when he was 12?  Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol?  And where is the father?  Or who is his father?

People putting their clothes on backward: Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong?  People with their hats on backward, pants down around their crack, isn't that a sign of something? Isn't it a sign of something when a girl has her dress all the way up and has all types of needles [piercing] going through her body?

What part of Africa did this come from? We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans; they don't know a thing about Africa ...I say this all of the time. It would be like white people saying they are European-American. That is totally stupid.

I was born here, and so were my parents and grand parents and, very likely, my great grandparents. I don't have any connection to Africa, no more than white Americans have to Germany, Scotland, England, Ireland, or the Netherlands. The same applies to 99 percent of all the black Americans as regards to Africa. So stop, already!

With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap .. and all of them are in jail. Brown or black versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back.

People used to be ashamed. Today a woman has eight children with eight different 'husbands' -- or men, or whatever you call them now.

We have millionaire football players who cannot read. We have million-dollar basketball players who can't write two paragraphs. We, as black folks, have to do a better job.

Someone working at Wal-Mart with seven kids, you are hurting us. We have to start holding each other to a higher standard. We cannot blame the white people any longer.'

~Dr. William Henry 'Bill' Cosby, Jr., Ed.D."


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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Old Apple Tree



I don't know why, but last night as I was lying in bed waiting to fall asleep, I thought about an old apple tree we had in our side yard when I was a child.  It was an ancient, gnarly old thing, and so big that I couldn't even begin to wrap my arms around it.  

I remember it had the most wonderful bark and one side of its trunk looked just like the wrinkled face of an old man with his eyes closed.  I always imagined that he had been trapped inside the tree forever by a wicked witch, and he was just waiting, hoping for a genie to come along to break the spell and set him free.  

Just above the old man, a long, thick branch grew straight out in a perfect right angle from the trunk, and right over it, a round hole had formed in the tree itself. That branch is where I loved to be.  I would climb up there and sit and read for hours, my back against the trunk, legs stretched out in front, with an extra book tucked in the hole for later.

But that old apple tree wasn't just for reading and climbing.  It was great for other things, too.  We kids used it as 'base' when we played tag and it was plenty big enough to hide behind for hide and seek. 

I remember once having to memorize the poem, "Trees", by Joyce Kilmer when I was in the fourth grade and thinking, She must have had an old apple tree, too, when she wrote the poem.  Ours also had a nest of robins in its hair.

Daddy always said he wanted to take the tree down.  "Lord knows, it isn't good for anything but dropping leaves in the fall and it hardly ever grows an apple."  He and mama thought it was such an eyesore, and maybe it was, but Mother Nature saved him the trouble.

One summer night we had a fierce thunderstorm and it woke all of us from sleep.  One particular flash of lightning was so much brighter than the rest.  Daddy said it sounded like the lightning had hit something nearby and he went downstairs to look around.  

When he came back upstairs, he told us the lightning had split the old apple tree right down the middle.  

I loved that tree.  It was like losing a good friend.  But I always wondered if that broke the spell and set the old man free ... 

   


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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Gift of Time


I saw this on the internet today and it touched me deeply. Its author is unknown, but I want to share it with you.


"After 21 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out to dinner and a movie. She said, “I love you, but I know this other woman also loves you and would love to spend some time with you.”

The other woman that my wife wanted me to see was my mother, who has been widowed for 19 years. The demands of work and three children had made it only possible to visit her occasionally.

That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie.

“What’s wrong, are you well?” she asked. My mother is the type of woman who suspects a late night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news.

“I thought that it would be nice to spend some time with you,” I responded. “Just the two of us.”

She thought about it for a moment, and then said, “I would like that very much.”

That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up, I was nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed nervous about our date. 

She waited patiently at the door with her coat on. I noticed she had curled her hair and was wearing the dress she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary. She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel’s.

“I told my friends I was going out with my son and they were impressed, “she said, as she got into the car. “They can’t wait to hear about our evening.”

We went to a restaurant that was nice and cozy, but not elegant. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady. After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print. 

Halfway through choosing our entrees, I looked up to see Mom staring at me with a nostalgic smile. “I was just remembering how I used to have to read the menu to you, when you were small,” she said.

“Then it’s time that you relax and let me return the favor,” I responded.

During dinner, we had nice conversation – nothing extraordinary, just catching up on the events of each other’s life. We talked so much that we missed the movie. Later, as we arrived back at her house, she said, “I’ll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.” I agreed.

“How was your dinner date?” asked my wife when I got home. “Very nice. More than I could have imagined,” I answered.

A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to do anything for her.

Sometime later, I received an envelope in the mail with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place mother and I had dined. The attached note said, 

“I paid this bill in advance. I wasn’t sure that I could be there; nevertheless, I paid for two dinners – one for you and one for your sweet wife. You will never know what that night meant to me. I love you, son.”

At that moment, I understood the importance of saying, “I love you” and giving those we love the time they deserve. Nothing in life is more important than family. We have to give them the time they deserve, because often these things cannot be put off until “some other time.”


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Sunday, July 14, 2013

There Comes a Peace in Knowing



Through Memoirs From Nam, I have now met several people who knew and served with my husband, Doug, ("Doc"), in Vietnam. I have come to understand just how difficult it is for many veterans to talk to the survivors of the brothers they lost.

From a widow’s perspective, what their reaching out does is create a healing bridge between the survivor who loved them and the veteran who called them brother. It helps to answer many of the questions we can’t help but hold onto for decades. I will be forever grateful to these men for the courage it took to reach out.

Three years ago I received a letter from Lt. James McCraney, who was Doug’s best friend in Vietnam. On the day Doug was killed, James was also a part of the same mission.

With his permission, I posted that letter here on the blog, where it touched the hearts of everyone who read it. (Blog Post: Memoir of Douglas S. Kempf, 8-2-10)  (Blog Post: Denise Kempf Snyder: Uncle Doug, 10-14-10)  and (Blog Post: Untold Stories, 8-17-10).

Later, I also spoke with Lt. McCraney by phone. It was emotional, but it was good for both of us to talk about Doug, and I respected James and admired him for the courage it took to contact me and share his story. There were some things James couldn’t talk about, but it was an important beginning.  He told me some day, maybe he would be able to tell me more.

Time passed. James and I kept in contact through occasional emails. Then one day a couple of years ago, I received another long letter from him. This letter was as difficult for me to read as I know it was for James to write.

From the day I received it, James’ letter has been ‘on hold’ in my desk -- and in my heart. The images touched me so deeply that, until now, I just wasn’t emotionally ready to share it. This is through no fault of Lt. McCraney. I extend to James my most profound and sincere thanks.

"Cathy,

I am ready to tell you as much as I can remember about my short time with Doug. As I have mentioned to you before, I was a brand new 2nd Lt., not two months out of Officer Training. I was flown out to a remote firebase on the edge of a small, rice-growing, and very poor village. This firebase was so small that I can't remember the name of it.

As I made my way from the landing zone, (which was in the middle of a road), I saw a couple of guys walking toward me. One was the guy that I was to be replacing, and the other was Doc Kempf. Both had big smiles -- one was about to go home, and the other just seemed genuinely glad to meet me.

I went in and met the officers in charge of the artillery unit at this base. Doug hung around and after a while showed me my "hooch". It was mostly sandbags on top of a metal culvert and an air mattress. His was next door. I don't think that Doc ever met a stranger. Everyone knew and loved Doc. He was our friend and our Mama. He treated us for everything, listened to us, and he always seemed to know what to do. We hung out a lot whenever we both had some "free" time.

I was asking him about being in country and where all he had been He stated that the infantry had been south in the area called Pineapple -- this is the Mekong Delta. All were glad to get out of there, since it is wet and muddy most of the time. It was the rainy season when I hit Nam and it would rain until November or December.

Doug and I would sit in our hooches and fight the rain, play cards, but mostly we would talk. Since I was single, I didn't have family to talk about like he did. He always talked about you and about how he missed you, since you had only been married for such a short time. He showed me pictures, too, however, the only one that I can remember clearly now was a photo of his niece. He was so proud of all of you.

Doug and I didn't know when the next mission in the boonies would be. Bear in mind, this would be my first mission. He tried to prepare me as best he could, telling me what to take and all. Also trying to let me know what to expect even though you can't explain it. Remember, he was my Mama at this time. Even though I was an officer, I never looked at Doug as an enlisted man. We were just friends, that's all.

One day he asked me to go into the village with him to "doctor" some of the kids. They were dirty and had skin rashes on them. Doug would treat them and give them what "goodies" that we had. I was always fearful that someone would kill us down there, but he didn't seem to worry. He had a great big heart especially for the kids. I told him that he would make a great doctor someday.

The time came for my first mission. We were going out for about three days recon. Doug didn't seem to think that this would be much. He was right. They were uneventful, long days of scorching heat -- when it wasn't raining. Since I was an artillery officer, I walked in the formation in the middle with the Captain, his radio, and Doug, We were always together, or close.

Upon coming in from this mission, Doug worked on us as best he could. He called me a big baby since he cut a boil out of my back. I told him that he could at least give me a stick to bite on. He just laughed at me. He treated scratches, sore feet, or whatever else ailed us. We would laugh and talk and dream of home and loved ones during this downtime. Doug always liked to hear me talk, since I was from the deep South. I told him that he talked funny to me and he would even try to talk like me -- I couldn't get the Yankee out of him.

The next mission was in September. There was still a lot of rain and humidity. This mission was to be for two weeks. That is no fun. Again, Doug told me how to pack. For the life of me, I don't know how he always seemed to be in such a good mood. We had been out for one day and nothing happened.

The second day, around 11:00 am, we were ambushed. The forward units were hit the hardest. Doug and I were in the middle of the unit and "fairly" safe at that point. They radioed back to the Captain that we had hurt and dead. This had gone on for about 30 minutes. Doug was listening to the Captain's transmissions. He started to go and someone pulled him back. He would look at me and me at him. He knew what he had to do. Momentarily, someone hollered "Medic". He didn't balk this time. Grabbing all of his gear, he raced up to the front.

We thought they were gone. That was not the case. They had left a couple of guys behind just to wreak havoc on us. As Doug got close, one of them opened up on him and Doug never knew what hit him. I hate to be so graphic, but that is how it was. He did not suffer. After everything was really over, it was time to gather everything up. We called in medivac choppers and had to cut down trees in order for them to hover and receive the hurt and dead.

As I got to the front and saw the ponchos on the ground, I asked who they were. Someone turned to me and pointed and said, "That's Doc Kempf". I can't describe to you -- and I mean that -- how I felt. All I could think of was, no, no, no! I uncovered him to make sure. He looked peaceful, if that is possible.

As the chopper hovered and the grass was blowing from the rotors, I helped strap Doug into a "chair-like" device to pull him up into the chopper. The last visual I have of him is seeing him going up and going round and round with his arms outstretched. I can't get that out of my head -- and I don't really want to.

That was the end of a too short, but fulfilling, friendship. I have shed many tears over Doug throughout these years. His death has touched me like very few have. I know that all of you feel so much more for him than I could ever feel, but I was fortunate to have been exposed to him.

I never knew anything more after we came back in from this mission. We had a medic replacement, but no one could take Doug's place. He was discussed many times after that.

Respectfully,
James"




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