The actual title of the book is Flying the Lifeline:  Volume 1, Marine Helicopter Pilot.  It is written by Patrick R. Shaub and is the first part of a three part set.  This first book covers the main character’s life from childhood until the end of his career in the Marines.  It has 324 pages, including a helpful glossary of Marine and flying terminology.  The style of the novel is first person, written from the perspective of a man named Paul Stone, who is, I believe, closely associated with the persona of the author.  51FNiIKocvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

What I Liked:

I really liked the first chapter.  Without spoiling anything, it sets the reader in the life and death situation of the Vietnam War in general and helicopters in specific right away.  The rest of the book flows from the emotional center of that event even until the very last word.

I also liked that the book was written with the precision of military language and nomenclature, but at the same time it was careful to explain what was being described.  The author does a great job of helping non-military people like myself appreciate the book without having to learn a whole other language.

I enjoyed the details of the book.  Shaub is clearly an aviation expert, and this comes through.  There are times he reminds me of Tom Clancy–the way he can spend four or five pages describing the rotors on a helicopter, how it looks, why it is designed that way, what the upward thrust is, how it sounds and so forth.  Shaub is writing a different kind of book than a Clancy thriller, but the love affair with the technology and machinery is similar.

What Was Challenging:

Some readers might find the immersion into the Marine lifestyle a little daunting.  Although the author does not use strong profanity or imagery, there is still plenty of testosterone-filled boozing and bravado in the book that might not be comfortable for everyone.

A second challenge, that is actually a positive, is the MC’s flaw.  Every character needs a flaw in order to be sincere and genuine, and through the first half of this book I couldn’t spot the flaw. Then I realized, that since it is written in first person, the MC probably doesn’t know his own flaw, but by the last third of the book it was evident that the flaw was arrogance.

What was of Special Interest:

In my reading of the book, individual Marines seem like great people, but the Marine Corps as a whole looks like it is run by self-absorbed jerks.   Having never been in the military, I don’t know if that is accurate or not, but when I finished reading it I was mad at the Marines and wanted to go Google some of these people mentioned in the book and write them some nasty letters, then I remembered this was fiction.  Or is it?

Who Would Like It:

People interested in military, military history, The Vietnam War, flying, helicopters, The Marines, or biographical novels in general.  It is biographical fiction, so people who like that will really enjoy this book.  I also think that young people who are thinking about the military as a career would benefit from it, because it shows in very stark terms both the positives and the negatives of the military life.  I am anxiously waiting for Volume 2.

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There are many things I love about my country, more than can be included here, but here are five of them that I share today in celebration of her birthday.maxresdefault

1.  I love that we elect a President every four years.  Some presidents are good, some are bad.  Some are conservative, some are liberal.  Things tend to swing from one direction to another, and the net effect is that we remain a centrist nation, and it all happens without firing a shot.  It occurs so regularly that we almost forget how amazing these transitions of leadership are.

2.  I love that we celebrate our nations birthday on July 4, 1776.  This is the date we signed the Declaration of Independence and decided to be free.  Most nations celebrate their independence on the date they won a major battle or a treaty was signed guaranteeing them the right to exist or something.  Not us.  We celebrate our birthday on the day we decided to be free.  It is a little like parents celebrating their children’s birthday not on the day the child was born, but on the day the parents decided to have a child.  I love that about America.

3.  I love the simple, yet meaningful symbolism of our flag.  It has an intrinsic beauty.

4.  I love that our military is voluntary and civilian controlled.  Yes, i know that drafts have been used in the past during times of crisis, and could be used in the future, but right now our nation is protected by people who chose to serve, not by people who had to.  Some of the finest human beings I’ve ever met serve in the various branches of our armed forces.  These men and women train at the highest level, but are not ordered into battle by professional soldiers.  Instead, elected officials make the ultimate decisions about war and the commitment of troops.  I think that is all very spectacular.

5.  I love that because we are free, criticism of our government and its policies is an act of patriotism that is part of the process of us becoming more like the ideal we strive for everyday.

These are just some of the things I love about the United States of America, not to mention religious liberty, peach ice cream, Humphrey Bogart, free speech, the Bill of Rights, Disneyland, peanut butter . . .

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Memorial Day–The day to remember.  We should remember more often than one day a year.  But then again, we are a nation that celebrates thankfulness with gluttony and day-after materialism.  We celebrate the birth of our Lord with credit card debt.  Why then shouldn’t we remember with cookouts and big sales on mattresses and cars.

Remember–Remember what?  Remember that people:  Men and women, white, black, Asian, Latino, Native American, rich, poor, Christian, Jewish, atheist, Islamic, straight, gay, citizen and non-citizen, people from every imaginable walk of life,  gave their lives for us to enjoy liberty.  They did not give us the liberty, what they did was to secure the liberty; safeguard it, protect it.  Those who serve today have made the same commitment; they have said by their actions, “If necessary, I will give myself to preserve our way of life.”  No words could ever be employed to adequately convey the gratitude I feel for those individuals.

Remember–Remember what?  Remember that our nation is unique in that it is fundamentally constituted to preserve individual freedoms and rights.  What kind of rights?  These rights:

1.  Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.

2.  Right to bear arms.

3.  Right to not have troops quartered in your home.

4.  Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

5.  Right to due process of law and freedom from self-incrimination.

6.  Right to a speedy and public trial.

7.  Right to a trial by jury.

8.  Freedom from excessive bail and from cruel and unusual punishment

9.  Rights not listed are reserved for people.

10. The states are free to govern themselves within the framework of the federal government.

This is a summary of the Bill of Rights.

Remember–Remember what?  I remember when privacy was the expected norm instead of the aberration.  I remember when there were no speech police monitoring every utterance.  I remember when the press did their job and spoke truth to power.  I remember when people were tried by a jury in a court of law, not tried in the tabloid media and internet posts.  I remember when American Citizens were not executed without due process.  I remember when we thought torture is what the bad guys did.  I remember being able to say what you believe without having to qualify it with overtures of public tolerance.  I remember catching an airplane without being molested.

I remember.