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A blinding flash of clarity

I think it was “Alice in wonderland” that they said; “You have to run as fast as you can, just to stay where you are.”

It is only recently I have started to see the wisdom in that statement. In fact, with age, I have had many epiphanies of this sort.

I don’t mean “talking rabbits or red queen types of “flashes of clarity”, but clarity none the less.

One thing that I find most disturbing is the tendency of our youth to blindly accept mediocracy as the new normal.

When people are convinced that they are being held back by a loosely defined invisible “system” and they bear no responsibility for their lack of achievement, mediocrity is the best you can hope for.

I grew up knowing I could be anything I was willing to work hard to become. It all depends on how badly you want it.

I was told, by those wiser than I (doctors), I could never play sports or have an active lifestyle because of my asthma and being a skinny little kid.

I just refused to accept that. I guess not knowing any better, is probably what saved me.

If you have read my books, you already know just how wrong those dire predictions of my doomed existence turned out to be.

 

Turn off your TV, stop playing video games, and don’t believe anything without empirical evidence.

The one thing everyone should know, in this day of modern technology,

is that you can make a computer model say anything you want it to.

Question everything!

 

Run as fast as you can, so you can at least, stay where you are.

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Letters and emails

Dear Jerry,

My name is A. I ‘m from Warsaw, Poland and I am S’s friend. I’d like to thank you very much for signing your book for me. I began reading it on Tuesday when I said goodbye to S at the airport in Cracow and I was so deeply engrossed in reading that I barely noticed my plane touched down in Warsaw again. I enjoyed tremendously the part about your childhood in Florida and the part about your service in Viet Nam is just unbelievable.

(2)

Thank you so much for the book. It is a treasure and so well written that somebody like me who has only learned English as a second language can understand almost everything without referring to a dictionary.

I hope one day when I come to visit S in GA I will have a chance to meet you and talk to you about the things you described. I’d really like to know more.

I’m looking forward to meeting you.

Love, A (Female 40 +)

(3)

“Jerry, I finished the book tonight and I remember laughing to each chapter until the end of the book where I cried and still am crying as I write this because I was there at the time and I have been there myself. God Bless”   (Male 50+)

(4)

I had the privilege of viewing the book prior to publishing and assisting with some of the edit work, a pleasurable experience in itself. “My First Forty Years” reads exactly like a book written by a person who has just completed his/her first book, and that is what makes this book so strong and very special. Jerry was able to marry two key characteristics of a good book: Narrating factual information to the point and, at the same time, keeping the reader captured through both content and presentation. His no-nonsense and honest approach to writing about his life kept me well paced – I was able to follow his steps, visualize, and anticipate the following experiences of his life. Jerry also seamlessly interpreted his past from both his views back then and now without making the content too choppy. Jerry is an excellent storyteller with a vivid, humorous, and colourful style, seldom have I come across a book where a writer’s nature is so well mirrored on paper. I highly recommend it.   (Male 40 +)

(5)

Subject: One Great Read

Jerry,

Thank you so much for the privilege of reading your book.  I sat down to read some last night around 10 and couldn’t put it down until I was finished.  I laughed so hard at the sloth story I thought I was going to wake the kids up.

You have a true gift, your writing style is like we’re sitting across the table after dinner and having a couple of beers.  Your stories are priceless and it’s even better they’re true.

You don’t know this, but my favorite author is Pat Conroy.  He has a way of telling stories about the south, my south, and the military, family, friendship, etc. that makes you wish you were a part of his story.  I love his books so much I traveled to Beaufort, SC to meet him, have autographed copies of all his books. And you, my dear man, write like Pat Conroy.  The only difference is, this is your first book, and it took him 2 or 3 to develop the writing style you have.  I look forward to your next one, and your next one, and your next one.

There was one problem with the book, and that it was much too short.  I wanted to know what happened after the first 40 years and longed to know more about your Emy.  I hope one day you can share a little of that part of your life too.

You are a natural-born storyteller, which is a complement coming from the Irish.  I look forward very much to bbq next summer and hearing more of your stories.  You are a true American treasure Jerry, and they don’t make them like you anymore.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday.  Merry Christmas, Jerry.B (Female 30+)

(6)

“Just finished it…. Have to gather my thoughts as currently I’m in complete tear breakdown mode… ”

“Where do I begin…

I guess I should start at the beginning…

Your words flowed off the pages as if we were on your porch enjoying a beer, chatting and watching the deer pass. The way you choose to present yourself in the books – as is – this is me – loved it!!

I can picture you, broom in hand, faking your own misery for the sake of your recruits…. Priceless.!!! You’re the reason people want to learn and strive to learn, a creativity for improving everyone around you is a magical gift…

Loved every minute of it and ponder how tasty the lobster was, considering all the work and people involved – (had me cracking up hahaha) and as I finish the first epic part of your life’s journey, I feel satisfaction for knowing such an awesomely strong human, someone that was trained and trained others to be tough and defend…..and who has a giant heart… 🙂  “K (Female 30 +)

Roberts cover

 

Almost a soldier

 

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To my amazement I was almost finished with my eight weeks of basic training and I was still alive.

Our final task had been to live for a week in Army issue, two-man tents. Each man was issued a half, and by joining the two they now had a two-man tent. The lesson I learned about those tents is I was better off sleeping under my poncho. After a week of being rained on and rolling in the mud during the day, we were tired enough to be able to sleep at night.

We had night training as well; we would train until almost midnight, and then get up at five o’clock the next morning.

At the rifle range while learning to shoot, find targets, and how not to get shot, we stayed wet, cold, and tired. This part of my training allowed me to experience, for the first time, what it is like to almost get shot.

The last thing we did when we were finished on the rifle range was to assemble in a platoon formation, which consisted of four squads standing inches apart, and perform what was called “Inspection Arms”.

We would hold the M-1 rifle with our left hands, across our chests, and with the barrel (business end) pointing up and to the left. With our right hands we held the small of the stock, just behind the trigger. With the left hand, using our thumbs, we pushed the rod to the rear, so the chamber (where the bullets go in) is locked in the open position. At this point we were supposed to look to see if it was empty. Then on command we released the bolt (the thing that moves the bullet into the chamber), which closed the chamber. Then we pulled the trigger.

Closing the chamber was done by inserting your right thumb and pushing down on the release, then pulling it out before it gets smashed by the bolt as it slams forward. Failure to do so properly was referred to as ‘M-1 thumb’. This is a very painful condition and should be avoided if possible.

This is when it got really interesting for me. The guy to my right pulled the trigger and there was a loud boom in my ear as a bullet zinged just over my head.

I have to admit, I flinched.

I don’t know why, but I was not frightened.

It may be that my brain processes things like that as; “it missed me, so the danger is over”. I was just pissed.

After the Range Sergeant got through with him, he and I went to the woods and had a little conversation. I made him understand how I felt about being shot at.

On the last day of training, we got up, ate our breakfast, packed our tents, and began the ‘Death March’ back to the barracks. After sleeping in the woods in two-man tents for a week, a ten-mile march is not an enjoyable task.

Come to think of it, it would not have been much fun no matter when we did it.

Our First Sergeant, who I think I saw maybe three times in the eight weeks of training, was a great inspiration.

He was about five feet two inches tall and heavy set. When he spoke, it was difficult to understand everything he said because of his heavy Spanish accent. On the day of the march he came out and addressed the company. I caught about half of what he had to say, but everybody heard him say, “Men, I will be with you today every step of the way.”

Although he was there, I don’t think driving up and down the formation – which must have stretched over a mile – in his Cadillac was what we thought he had meant.

By this time, I wasn’t too surprised by his actions, as I had learned that we could not expect the cadre to do anything we did. The exception was our Drill Sergeant, who led our platoon on the march (limp and all).

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Excerpt; Skydiving

Emy&me

I was living in a two-man room in the barracks at the time with another sergeant. One day he came into the room and said, “Hey Roberts, you want to jump out of an airplane?” I replied, “Sure. Why not?” After my shift was over we went to the local skydiving club and joined. That was in 1973.

At the time almost everyone was jumping with Army and Air Force surplus parachutes. The ram-air ‘chutes of today were still in the development stage at the time. The big deal of the day was one called a Para Commander; you could steer it pretty well, even though it was a round ‘chute.

One of the guys had what was called a ‘Thunder bow’. Anyway it was shaped like a triangle. It looked really strange at the time but it was one of the first ram air designs.

One day at the drop zone he was doing a 13,500 foot jump and for some reason at around twelve thousand feet he opened the ’chute. If that had been a round ‘chute there is no telling where he would have landed. Everyone was pissed off because the jump plane could not land until he was on the ground, and it takes forever from that altitude to get down.

One night I was on the night shift and was suffering from something I ate earlier in the day. I spent most of my shift in the latrine.

By morning I was so weak I could hardly stand up. As I walked out the door, Emy was waiting with three of my friends. They were saying that they had my ‘chute and we were all going to the air field to jump. Not wanting to ruin anyone’s fun I said, “Sure.”

When we got there, everyone was sitting out by the runway in the sun. It had to be at least ninety degrees out there. We didn’t get a lift until around noon.

By now I felt like I was going to die.

I got in the Twin Beachcraft aircraft, which held about fourteen jumpers. There were no seats to make room for as many jumpers as possible. Everybody did what was called ‘packing’. On takeoff everyone stands up and moves as far to the front as they can without getting in the pilot’s lap.

After takeoff, everyone sits on the floor and waits for the plane to reach jump altitude. By this time I was so sick I just didn’t care about anything but getting on the ground and going home.

Finally, we reached jump altitude and the first stick (group) of jumpers went out. I was the first jumper in the second stick. As I reached the door, and the cool air hit my sweat-soaked body, the jumpmaster yelled, “Go!”

That was a static line jump, which means we were attached to the plane by a nylon strap. When you get to the end of the strap, the other end is attached to the parachute. Military jumpers get into a tight body position when they exit. Skydiving is different, in that when you exit you spread your arms and legs and arch your back, so you are falling face first.

The cool wind felt so good as I sat in the door that I didn’t jump, but just leaned forward and fell face first out of the plane.

I remember letting out a great sigh of relief.

I was so glad to get out of the aircraft I had almost forgotten that I was falling through the air from 3,500 feet.

Several things happened very quickly. My static line started to wrap around my arm, and instinctively I quickly moved my arm in a circular motion. The thought went quickly through my mind that if I didn’t get it off, it would break my arm when it reached the end of its length. I got the static line off just as I felt it stiffen. The next thing I saw was my parachute deploying, but I was watching it open while I was looking down between my feet.

I remember thinking, “How is that possible?”

Just then, as if to answer my question, my body quickly flipped, and I realized I had been falling head first.

After watching the spectacular deployment of my ‘chute, I then slowly drifted down to the airfield, feeling the best I had felt for the last twenty four hours. Instead of a normal PLF (Parachute Landing Fall) I had been so relaxed since I exited the plane that I just kind of crumpled as I hit.

I gathered my ‘chute, put it in the back of Emy’s car, and sat down in the front seat and closed my eyes. I don’t think I opened them all the way back home.

That was the most relaxed I have ever been on a jump and landed the closest to the staging area of anyone on that stick.

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The Authors Interview

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When an author gets interviewed, some questions seem to be obligatory.

Q; Let’s talk about your new book THE LIFE & TIMES OF AN INCORRIGIBLE and how it came about.

Me; Okay

Q; What authors and books influenced you in your writing style?

Me; (just can’t resist) Well, the two that come to mind are

“Under the bandstand” by Seymour Butts

and

“Yellow river” by I P freely

Q; Sergeant, why are you such an asshole?

Me; is that a rhetorical question?

Me; It’s part of the fuckin job description, shit for brains

(Interview abruptly ends)

Me; You gonna print that?

What did they expect from a Grunt Drill Sergeant?

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An Autobiography

I think all autobiographies should probably be classified as “based on a true story”. This is no exception to that rule. Although I am telling you this story as accurately as I can, everything is filtered by time and my sixty-five-year-old memory.

The main character in this story may come off as not so likeable to some. The main theme of this however is not amiability. It is a story of triumph over adversity and learning to take personal responsibility for one’s actions.

Everyone makes mistakes as they go through life and I am no exception. My stubbornness has, I believe, caused me to make more mistakes than the average person. I have learned most of my important life lessons from my mistakes.

If you spend all your energy trying to impress others you will end up exhausted and unimpressive.

I hope you will find my stories entertaining and possibly enlightening.

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“What a wonderful book”

LZ Jerry …just a thought on smoke

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Today as I was standing over my BBQ, with tears in my eyes,

and a beer in my hand,

it occurred to me that Hickory smoke is one of my all-time greatest smells in the world.

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It’s kinda hard on the ole eyes, but it has a smell that my brain automatically associates with the best BBQ on the planet.

I believe that Hickory is something the good Lord created for the sole purpose of southern BBQ.

In full disclosure, I must admit to liking Mesquite for chicken, but for any good BBQ, even chicken, you just can’t go wrong with Hickory.

That my friends, is not open for discussion.

So, don’t waste my time trying to argue about it with me.

It’s Friday, the beer is cold, and the smell of Hickory smoke is heavy in the air.

LZ Jerry alert; there is a high probability it could get drunk out tonight. As a precaution, have the kids cover their ears.C73CLiqVsAAMzvU

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

Except for you commie bastards and terrorist; I hope y’all fuckin die.

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…a different perspective on things than most

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If someone was not making the grade, the drill sergeant was required to turn in written counseling statements explaining what the private had done wrong, and how the D.S. was going to correct the situation.

Many of the drill sergeants would turn in a statement, it would get rejected, and they would have to re-do it so many times they would give up.

The word got around that my statements were not getting rejected. The next thing I knew, I was helping the other sergeants in the company write theirs. I probably wrote ninety percent of them.

It turned out the Effective Writing class I had to take in the advanced non-commissioned officers’ course paid off.

My techniques seemed to work. My platoon consistently scored first or second place on physical training tests, marksmanship, and drill and ceremony.

My philosophy was simple. Be fair, consistent, and hard.

I had a favorite endearing term for the troops.

I would say, “Get over here, sh*t for brains”.

One day my company commander overheard me and said, “Sergeant, don’t you call them that”. I answered, “Yes sir” and tried to be more discreet.

I got caught again with the same admonishment.

The third time he caught me, he was standing right behind me.

He told me he would give me an article 15 (company punishment) if I ever did it again.

I was talking to a drill sergeant from another company about my situation and he made a great suggestion that gave me an idea.

Realizing I could not afford to have that happen again, I rounded up the whole company and took them into a classroom.

I said; “Men, in the Army we use acronyms such as LAW,” (light antitank weapon). I gave several examples.

Then I said; “You have reached a point in your training where we consider you to be ‘Trainees Under Rapid Development’, or TURDs. So if a drill sergeant refers to you as a TURD, he is using an acronym.

I made sure that the whole company knew what a TURD was.

From then on I used this acronym when referring to my troops.

Once after that, while the whole company was on the rifle range for a week, the first sergeant and I were talking when I called someone a TURD.

He said, “Sergeant Roberts, you can’t say that. The company commander will hear you.”

I said, “So?” I looked at the troop and said; “Tell the first sergeant what a TURD is.” Without hesitation, the TURD explained.

The first sergeant told me I was lucky he knew that. I told him that they all knew it. Just pick one.

Just then, a private was walking by and the first sergeant said, “Come here soldier.” Again I told him to explain what a TURD was. He gave him the same answer the other trooper did.

The first sergeant just shook his head and said, “Sergeant Roberts, you’re a trip.”

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