RIDGE WRITERS ON BOOK: ’Portraits of Service’

By DONNA McCrohan Rosenthal

Seasoned professional photographers Miller and Wakeford have produced an extremely handsome and very moving coffee-table book that honors living veterans from many countries and all wars. It begins with a foreword by General George S. Patton Jr.’s granddaughter Helen Patton, whose family military heritage spans 300 years on both sides.

“Portraits of Service: Looking into the Faces of Veterans” presents U.S. Congressman John Dingell (U. S. Army WWII), Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Francis Currey (U.S. Army WWII), Germain Lorier (French Air Force, deployed to Indochina), D-Day medic and resident of seven POW camps Paul Coen (U.S. Army WWII) and 60 more in their own words.

You read their first-hand accounts while looking at photos that convey their spirit and, in some cases, pain.

Jessica Goodell (U.S. Marines, Mortuary Affairs Unit, Iraq) describes having to “scoop up the remains with our hands or retrieve limbs and place it all into a body bag.”

Jet pilot and POW at the “Hanoi Hilton” Brian Ratzlaff (U.S. Air Force, Vietnam) shares a harrowing ordeal that ended when “I knew the war was over for good when I saw CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite walk into our camp.”

Frank. W. Towers Jr. (U.S. Army, Vietnam) recalls the scornful treatment many soldiers received when they returned from the Vietnam War: “Some people actually went out of their way to mistreat you. It was really a sad time in America.”

Participants talk not only about memories but also about where their experiences have taken them. Some have PTSD. Some are disabled, some homeless. Jaspen Boothe (U.S. Army, Kosovo), who lost her home during Hurricane Katrina then learned she had an aggressive form of cancer, went on to found the nonprofit Finale Salute Inc. that helps homeless female veterans with housing.

The Independent Publisher Book Awards recognized “Portraits of Service” with the 2012 Outstanding Book of the Year Freedom Fighter Award.

Ms. Patton, in addition to heading Patton Publishing, established the Patton Foundation, which focuses on putting into practice General Patton’s concern for soldiers and their families.

Miller is the foundation’s executive director in America and Wakeford, the managing director for Europe.

Their caring collaboration invites readers to invest a few moments in contemplating, understanding and respecting the men and women of our armed forces. When veterans speak, we all benefit.

This weekly column is written by members of the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club.

Meetings are held the first Wednesday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church, and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions from a World Apart” is available at Carriage Inn, Jawbone Station, the Historic USO Building, the Maturango Museum, Red Rock Books and online from the official website, www.planetmojave.com.

Story First Published: 2012-12-12