Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest superhero of them all?

Smithsonian.com published The Psychology Behind Superhero Origin Stories by Robin Rosenberg.

Rosenberg says, “As a clinical psychologist who has written books about the psychology of superheroes, I think origin stories show us not how to become super but how to be heroes, choosing altruism over the pursuit of wealth and power.”

Rosenberg says, “I’ve found that superheroes undergo three types of life-altering experiences that we can relate to.”

1. trauma

2. a life altering force is destiny

3. sheer chance

“At their best,” Rosenberg says, “superhero origin stories inspire us and provide models of coping with adversity, finding meaning in loss and trauma, discovering our strengths and using them for good purpose.”

Reading Rosenberg’s piece in Smithsonian after watching “To Whom it May Concern, Ka Shen’s Journey” the previous night helped me understand his explanation. Ke Shen’s Journey was a documentary on the life of Nancy Kwan.

You may remember Kwan in “The World of Suzie Wong” (1960), or “Flower Drum Song” (1961). And in 1961, she won a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer in film.

In fact, Kwan’s father was a hero. During World War II, he was a spy for the British and when the Japanese discovered what he was doing, he took his two, infant children and fled Hong Kong disguised as a Chinese peasant. Another Chinese spy working for the British in Hong Kong wasn’t so fortunate. He was caught and beheaded by the Japanese.

For Kwon, her life altering experience was the loss of her only child, a son from her first marriage. Bernie died at age 33 in 1996. He contracted AIDS from his girlfriend whom Kwan had cautioned him to avoid.

Bernie had unprotected sex with the girl he loved. He didn’t use a condom. The girlfriend died of AIDS first and Bernie stayed by her side and cared for her to the end. Eventually, when the virus threatened his life, he moved home so his mother and stepfather could care for him, and they watched the son they both loved die slowly over a period of three years as he wasted away.

Today, almost age 75, Nancy Kwan actively supports the study of AIDS and the promotion of AIDS awareness.

I think Rosenberg is right, because I’m convinced that what he explains is one reason why I joined the U.S. Marines and later became a classroom teacher in a barrio high school populated by violent street gangs. I made a choice. We all make choices, but why do we make such choices?

For me it wasn’t trauma—at least I don’t think so—that motivated me to join the U.S. Marines. I think it was the role models I saw in Hollywood films. For example, John Wayne’s movies. By the time I joined the Marines in 1964, John Wayne had been in 158 films. A few that stick in my head are: The Fighting Seabees; Back to Bataan; They were Expendable; Fort Apache; She Wore a Yellow Ribbon; Sands of Iwo Jima; The Horse Soldiers; The Alamo, and The Longest Day, etc.

Of course, no film compares to the reality of combat and coming home from war with PTSD and/or recovering from a severe combat wound. Those factors are also a life altering force.

It seems to me that there are a lot of people in America that are not inspired to be a hero or altruistic.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says that 8.1% of the U.S. population are veterans. In addition, the NY Times reported that less than 1% of the American population is serving in the active military.  What does that tell us about the rest of America—not counting the physically and mentally disabled, police, teachers and firefighters?

Discover John Kerry, Purple Hearts, PTSD and WMD

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

Booze, the Veteran and coming home

I drank a lot after returning from Vietnam. One night during the thirty-day leave home, before reporting to my next duty station at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego, I stopped to buy a fifth of cheap vodka at a local drug store. I drank that vodka straight from the bottle at a friend’s apartment waiting for him to get off work at two a.m. He was a cook at a twenty-four hour coffee shop in West Covina.

Around two, Doug called and said his car wouldn’t start. He asked if I would pick him up. By that time, I’d finished two thirds of the vodka and was feeling no pain. I hadn’t had anything to eat for hours, and I’d already made two trips to the bathroom to dry heave before drinking more vodka.

Doug lived with his six-month pregnant girlfriend. Luckily, she went with me.

At two-thirty in the morning, I was driving on the San Bernardino Freeway through West Covina having trouble staying in one lane. Speed wasn’t a good idea, so I kept the car between twenty-five and thirty while weaving back and forth across three lanes. No one was passing me.

Then the flashing red lights came on behind me, and a West Covina police cruiser pulled me over. When the officer told me to step out of the car, I admitted I was drunk and said I would have trouble standing.

However, the officers wouldn’t let me stay in the car. Once outside, I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket. My military papers were there too and they fell to the ground. I didn’t know I’d dropped them, but the second officer saw the papers and picked them up. While I was leaning on the hood trying to steady the dizzy world around me so I wouldn’t fall over, the second officer was reading that I had just returned from Vietnam.

The officers talked while I leaned against the car to keep from falling over. They asked Doug’s girlfriend if she could drive, and she said yes. They didn’t ask to see a driver’s license. That was a good thing. She didn’t have one. With her driving, we got Doug and returned to his apartment where I crashed on the couch.

It was early January, 1967. No ticket was written. All these years later, I think those two West Covina Police Officers understood the kind of trauma war dishes out and must have felt that one drunk Marine just back from combat didn’t need to end up in jail on a drunk driving charge.

During all those years of protests against the Vietnam War, I would see this type of behavior from the police in other cities. I don’t believe many police sided with the war protesters. They understood what it was like to be under fire and how it messed with your mind.

Discover A Night at the “Well of Purity”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

The Uncles of World War II

I read a post in another bog yesterday by a GI who came back from Iraq with PTSD. He mentioned that World War II veterans didn’t suffer from PTSD. Someone at the VA told him that.

Bull shit! The truth is that PTSD has been around for thousands of years. It is nothing new. The only difference is that we now have a name for it.

Three of my uncles fought in World War II. Two were in the navy and fought in the Pacific. My mother’s younger brother lied about his age and joined when he was seventeen. He worked with radar and submarines and stayed in the navy for thirty-three years. He retired a lieutenant commander.

My dad’s older brother James was on the USS Hornet when the Japanese sunk her early in the war. Along with hundreds of others, he ran along the flight deck and then the hull as the aircraft carrier rolled over. Destroyers picked him up along with other survivors. Uncle James was a drunk. When he was in his seventies, he died a drunk. I’m sure his drinking was caused by the war.

Uncle James came to the house once and told my dad to leave my mother and his sickly son, because we weren’t worth it. My mom picked up a cast iron frying pan and chased him down the street hitting him with it. She told him to never come to the house again if he was drinking. I never saw him again.

Uncle Lloyd was my mother’s younger brother. Since he worked for the railroad, the Army sent him to India where he was put in charge of munitions trains running bombs and ammunition to the Burma Road where trucks carried death across the mountains. On the other side of the Himalayas, the war with Japan raged in China and Southeast Asia.

Uncle Lloyd hitched a ride in one of the munitions trucks and arrived in Burma close to the front lines. At one point, he had to run for his life during a major Japanese assault. To escape capture or death, he waded across what he thought was a rice paddy only to discover it was an open cesspool.


The construction of the Bruma Road

He escaped, flew back to India and came down with a skin disease. His hair, his fingernails and his skin started to come off. He was sent back to the states and spent months in the hospital as army doctors struggled to save his life from the bacteria/fungus that was eating him alive.

Uncle Lloyd lived to be ninety-three. He told me that every few months he had to go to the nearest VA hospital and soak in a tub of purple liquid to control that bacteria/fungus. Most veterans don’t talk about what haunts them. Uncle Lloyd had his combat demons too. He awoke often through the decades remembering wading through that neck-high shit to escape the Japanese.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

The Sniper and the [sort-of] “Dear John” Letter

In September 2009 , I found the 1966 Vietnam letters I wrote home that my mother had saved. Sitting on the floor sorting them, I noticed that my dad had written a lot while I was overseas. My dad was a man of few words, and the number of letters told me how much he cared.

My dad has been dead for twenty years and my mother for ten. These letters had been in a box for more than forty years. They showed that people now dead cared when I was in harm’s way as our troops are in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sitting on the floor with those letters scattered around me, I started to cry. After the tears dried, I read some more.

One of the letters was from Linda Grey, my dad’s best friend’s oldest daughter. By the way, when I was a kid, my family and friends called me Skip.

Hi Skip,

How are you doing over there, Skip? Your mother is teaching me how to cook for you, so when you get back I will cook a dinner for you, okay. That Tim just loves to tease me all the time. And it makes me mad! I hope you like the candy I made. We all miss you very much, and that is why we call Tim, Skip.

I’m sorry I haven’t been writing to you, but I have been working a lot this summer. Skip, have you met any beautiful girls over there?  Skip, for my summer vacation I went to Yosemite National Park with my grandmother, my cousin, my sister and I went horseback riding for four hours. When we got through going horseback riding, we went bicycle riding for one hour. Skip, could you find out how much does a culture pearl cost? Well, I will say good-by for now.

Love,
Miss Linda Grey.

Sitting on top of that bunker in Vietnam in 1966, I stared at the word “Love,” and wondered what she met and was afraid of my own imagination.

What if those thoughts were wrong?

It was a sunny, clear day with a deep-blue sky. That’s when the sniper fired. I felt and heard the round as it snapped by my ear brushing the skin but not breaking it. One more inch to the left, and I would have been dead.

Instantly, I rolled off the back of the bunker, grabbed my M-14 on the way down, hit the ground, flipped off the safety, rolled to the right into the open and searched for a target. There was no one beyond the concertina wire at the base of the hill. The rice paddies were empty—the trees a smudge in the distance.

A few weeks later, another letter arrived from my mother and she told me to write Linda and tell her that that I was too old for her. Linda was a teenager then—about four or five years younger than me. I turned twenty-one soon after arriving in Vietnam.

For the next month, my depression was deep.  As a child growing up, I’d known Linda for years, and she was a great kid to have as a friend. She also grew up to be a real beauty. I know now—decades later—that after she graduated from high school, she married the wrong guy, who abused her horribly, and her life was a mess for some time before she divorced him and eventually found love again.

After that narrow escape from death in Vietnam—one of several while I was there—I didn’t read letters on top of bunkers again. I also never forget the letters that the adolescent Miss Linda Grey wrote that ended with the word “Love“.

Are there any special letters or e-mails that you remember—ones that will still be in your thoughts decades later?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

The Creative Writing Class at war with the Vietnam Vet

The GI Bill helped pay my way through college. In 1971, I was in my third year; attending my third college. My third college was Fresno State. I was in a creative writing class when a debate about the war in Vietnam started after a young girl read her short story about ‘evil’ American pilots dropping bombs on North Vietnamese children.

I was the only Vietnam veteran in the class. I struggled to explain to the obviously brainwashed kids that American pilots dropping bombs over North Vietnam were thousands of feet above the targets and did not see the carnage. They were gone by the time the bombs exploded, and they were following orders. In the military, you followed orders or faced a court martial.

“How could someone sleep at night knowing they had dropped bombs killing innocent children and women,” one girl said. Others joined in, and the discussion turned into an argument. It was them against me. It was frustrating. The consensus was that any American in Vietnam was a baby killer. To them, the American pilots had to know what they were doing and were evil.

Eventually, the professor put a stop to the argument.

My first night in Vietnam, I relayed an order that killed a dozen Vietcong. I never saw the bodies. I never saw them die. I was in the radio tent a hundred yards from the action when a call came from one of the tank commanders saying there was noise in a ravine that led to the top of the hill. During the day, wires had been strung in that ravine with tin cans tied to them and there were rocks in the cans.

The tankers heard the rattle of rocks and called asking for permission to fire napalm into that gully. The officer on watch said yes, and I relayed the order. The tankers lit their flame and fired. The next morning, twelve blackened, burned bodies were found in the ravine. They all had weapons. They were coming to kill United States Marines.

Our colonel had devised a plan, and it succeeded. He had given no orders to build bunkers or spread concertina wire along the perimeter to protect us on our first night in country. The platoon of flame tanks had been left aboard the Navy ship until dark when they were brought ashore and guided to the hill where the platoon of tanks was positioned to protect against an attack.

In Europe during WWII, American bombers firebombed cities nightly during the closing months of the war against Hitler’s Germany. In one night, in one city, forty thousand civilians including women and children had napalm dropped on them. In Japan, firebombs dropped on Tokyo burned a hundred thousand in one day. There were no attempts to avoid hitting civilians to bring Hitler’s Germany and Japan to their knees. It was understood that war was ‘hell,’ and we fought to win. What has changed?

Discover A Night at the “Well of Purity”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

John Kerry, Purple Hearts, PTSD and WMDs

John Wayne movies molded my young brain, and fired my imagination. As a child, I dreamed of being a hero. Then at nineteen, I went to war and my thinking changed drastically. Narrow escapes from death ended my hero dreams, and I was fortunate to arrive home from Vietnam without a Purple Heart.

They say close only counts in horseshoes. I say it also counts in war. This morning, I awoke thinking about John Kerry and how his reputation was smeared during his presidential campaign.

 John Kerry fought in Vietnam. He was wounded three times. They were not serious wounds, but they drew blood. Even flesh wounds earn Purple Hearts. One wireman in my communications platoon was awarded a Purple Heart. While in the field sleeping in his shelter half, his unit came under attack. Mortar rounds dropped in like hail. Half asleep, he scrambled out, tripped on one of the lines that held his shelter half up, fell and hit his head on something.  He needed stitches. His sergeant put him in for a Purple Heart.

One of the tankers in that action was scrambling to get into his tank. In his rush to get inside the protection the tank offered, he slammed the turret hatch on one of his hands and crushed all the bones in it. He was also awarded a Purple Heart. He earned a ticket home too, and was discharged from the Marines with a VA disability for the crushed hand.

Bob, a history teacher I taught with, was in the Navy and served in Swift Boats like Kerry. Bob was the mechanic that kept the twin engines running. He told me once that the safest place in that swift boat was between the twin engines. On the water, the swift boat was an easy target and the metal hull was thin.

Those of us that did not bleed during combat and never earned Purple Hearts were still changed by narrow escapes from death. I had several and came home with a case of PTSD that’s haunted me for several decades.

John Kerry’s flesh wounds show that he came close to death. Yet, during his campaign for president, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth cast doubt on his courage, and George W. Bush, the man who used family influence to get into the National Guard and avoid combat, somehow became a hero, walked into the White House and served as president for eight years starting two wars. I have no idea what kind of president John Kerry would have been. I wonder if he would have used bogus evidence for WMDs and invaded Iraq.

Abraham Lincoln said “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

Vietnam Rations and Nutrition Today

There was a mess hall in Chu Lai, Vietnam inside the company area and, of course, I ate there but not often. That mess hall served three companies. Except for Thanksgiving, the food wasn’t that good. It was powdered eggs for breakfast and similar chow the rest of the day.

Most of the time, I ate C-Rations and heated them with a can of Sterno. If I didn’t have Sterno, I opened a can of crackers or chocolate, took out the contents and vented the bottom, stuffed the can with dirt and soaked the dirt with gasoline then lit a fire and heated the main course on that makeshift stove.

When I was in the field driving a radio Jeep, I’d pop the hood and set the can on the manifold until the food was bubbling. The engine was kept running to power the radio behind the front seats. My favorite C-ration was the ham and limas. Since few in my platoon liked that flavor, I usually ended with more than one can. The chocolate was horrible–not sweet by today’s standards.

Since GIs were eating that chocolate in World War II, there must have been a lot less sugar in candy then. I’ve seen movies where WWII GIs are rolling through towns in Europe or Japan handing out United States military chocolate to kids. That C-ration chocolate wouldn’t sell well today—American kids would throw it in the trash.

Today, the average American eats (156) one hundred and fifty-six pounds of sugar per person annually, that’s thirty-one, five-pound bags. The high school where I taught installed soda machines a few years before I left in 2005. I was told that two thousand sodas were being stocked in those school machines twice a week and there were only two thousand students. I read that in 1600, sugar consumption in the UK was seven pounds per person. In 1850, that was up to fifty-two pounds. In America, diabetes has jumped more than five hundred percent since the 1950s, and kids are getting adult diabetes. Need I say more?

The C-rations I ate in 1966 were stamped on the side of the box with 1945.  Every box of C-rations came with four, free cigarettes. I smoked a few but didn’t like what it did to my taste buds, so I gave the cigarettes away. I imagine many young American men were hooked on cigarettes fighting America’s modern wars until the day came when tobacco was removed from military rations. At nineteen, I didn’t know a thing about nutrition. I’ll bet there wasn’t much health left in those cans after sitting for more than twenty years.

Discover Eating out in Vietnam 1966

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”