Monday, October 21, 2019

Honored at West Point

Last Thursday evening, I had the honor of attending a dinner at the United States Military Academy, West Point, to receive a literary award, the Military Order of St. Louis, for my Khe Sanh trilogy, A Patch of Ground, The Long Goodbye and The Gunpowder Prince. The dinner was hosted by the Knights Templar Priory of Saint Patrick in the Hudson Valley of New York, and was attended by many distinguished retired and active members of the military, including several generals.  Past recipients of the award include best-selling writers Thomas Fleming, James Bradley (Flags of Our Fathers) and Philip Caputo (A Rumor of War). Among this year's nominees were several best-selling writers and historians, as well as Pulitzer-winning journalist. I would not have been there except for the efforts of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Black. His contributions, including advancing my nomination, are something for which I will forever be grateful. In 1968, then-Captain Black was commander of a company that included my friend Tom Mahoney. Tom is the subject of my book The Long Goodbye and Captain Black not only oversaw what proved to be a futile effort to retrieve Tom’s body from under a deadly enemy ambush, but later wrote an eloquent and heartfelt letter to Tom’s mom (see below). In the audience were my old Khe Sanh siege buddies Michael Reath and Michael Maier (just to be clear, not everyone at Khe Sanh was named Michael😉). Both New Jerseyites, their escorting of me to West Point was not only greatly appreciated and entertaining (we still, even after all these years, maintain the dark sense of humor we'd developed at Khe Sanh in order to stay sane during the unremitting enemy shelling), but was also vital to my safe arrival there, given the mindboggling level of traffic and bewildering highway system in northern Jersey. This honor, as well as the genuinely warm welcome and humbling respect I enjoyed from my hosts and attendees, will remain a highlight among so many wonderful memories I have collected over the years.

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