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Monday, October 13, 2008

If Not Now, When?

Jack Jacobs. I heard Jack speak at a Naval Order Luncheon a couple of years ago and I was kicking myself for weeks because I did not tape his talk. Well, now his book absolves me of the need for self mutilation. This is not "just another Vietnam story" - it is a life narrative that involves a whole lesson in European cultures assimilating into America in the 20th Century. The narrative comes off in print just as if Jack is talking to YOU! I hope this book becomes required reading for every high school kid in the country. Why? Because Jack gives a real-life story but life lessons are peppered through every page in a way that transposes dry humor - sometimes dark humor - on top of underlying principles. Plus - it far outclasses any of the dozens of "victim books" pushed on students these days as a means of inspiring a social consciousness.

Jacob's Vietnam experience came in two parts. One, in which his brain was nearly blown out of his head and yet he still managed to survive and perform heroically - the words of an old Jewish proverb ringing in his ears --- "If Not Now... When?". And the second - in the closing chapters of the Vietnam war, taking the fight to the enemy still. It was that second part of the war that I relate to from my own time there in a tin can providing naval gunfire support to the troops ashore. He relates one incident - calling for artillery - and having the USS Newport News respond with amazing effect. (Newport News - a few weeks after this event - had an explosion aboard - with 20 casualties. It was about a week before my ship arrived in those waters). My brother's - brother-in-law ... was part of the Newport News crew then.

Jacobs writes about his time after the war, as a teacher at West Point. One of our friends in Sparta, NJ was in his classes in the mid '70's. Nobody dozed in HIS classes! His life experience and his delivery of lessons beyond the scope of the course made for indelible impressions on the minds of young Army cadets.

Readers will find many connections to their own experiences in this book because Jacobs presents a wide body of knowledge and experience that is bound to touch all of us in some way, even if you are a teenager in 2008. I cannot say enough about the book. Get it. Read it.

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