Monday, October 28, 2019
Monday, September 16, 2019
High school was difficult for me in the mid-1950s. My high school counselor told me that college wasn’t in my future. I would graduate in the middle of my class. And we were poor—my widowed mother often stretched a half-pound of hamburger to feed seven kids. He concluded our pre-graduation meeting with, “Benson, I believe the military would be a good fit for you.”
The agency I’d been with in the Army recruited me to return to Virginia for an unposted civilian job. The government salary wasn’t significantly higher, but health benefits and other perks gave me the incentive to accept the offer.
However, I still needed a part-time job to support my family once we settled in.
So, I worked evenings and some weekends as a clerk at one of the stores in a rapidly expanding drugstore chain. After less than a year, I was recruited into the company’s management program. Compensation in the training program was equal to government employment, so with the expectation of advancement, I changed jobs. Leadership skills I’d learned in the Army were a personal asset in my new occupation.
The day I was promoted from trainee to assistant manager, my district manager said, “You’re moving up faster than most, but remember this—while climbing the ladder of success, you might have to climb back down someday. In other words, always treat those you supervise with respect and fairness.” His advice was very good, but still not the best advice I’ve ever heard.
We were spending a summer afternoon with friends from church, and our conversation turned to our work and the future. Our friends were preparing to move back to their home state, where they were both certified to teach. My friend Lyle asked about my own work and what might be ahead for me.
I told Lyle that my previous boss, who had recruited and promoted me to manager, was moving up to the corporate office. He told me I was on the fast track for supervising one of the new districts. The increased pay and responsibility seemed like a good incentive to accept the position, but I lamented that the working hours and traveling time would increase.
When Lyle asked what I’d really like to do, I told him, “Teach.” I explained that my favorite job had been teaching operation and field maintenance of communications equipment to U.S. embassy personnel when I was in the Army.
He asked if I had a teaching degree, and I told him I had taken only a few college classes. When he suggested that I could enroll and maybe transfer my previously earned credits, I said, “I’m nearly thirty-three, with house payments and a family to support. Do you know how old I’d be if I went to college now?”
He countered, “How old will you be if you don’t go?” That was the best advice I’ve ever heard.
Three years later, I graduated with a teaching degree and started a satisfying thirty-five-year career as an education professional. I retired from teaching with an advanced degree, and now I can afford hamburger.
My high school counselor’s good advice was helpful. My district manager’s very good advice was practical. But the best advice I’ve ever heard, my friend’s question, was life changing.
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Actual memories of things that happened ‘way-back’ in the 1940s are difficult for me to recall with any measure of precision. These short stories about when I was young are true or nearly true. Some have been modified to protect the guilty (me) or embellished a little to fill in details that may have been or could have been.
Saturday, April 20, 2019
Sunday, February 24, 2019
I just finished Echoes of Nam - found it to be enticing, i.e. couldn't put my Kindle down. Although touted as fiction, I sense that there were interviews of a few 'Nam vets who had stories to tell but lacked the wherewithal to formulate a book with several stories tied together. The weaving of various security agencies activities through the book evokes the imagination of readers who have no idea as to what goes on behind closed doors, much less the Faraday cages. I've known just a few people who served in 'Nam - am sure that many of them could fully understand the loss of memory. Quite glad that I was too young for Korea and too old for 'Nam service. Hey bro' very good job with this book.
Even though a work of fiction, in ECHOES OF NAM, John Benson does a superb job in articulating the mental and physical pain, confusion and suffering that many survivors of war deal with daily. Even as a combat vet, this story has affected the way I look at homelessness among veterans. While the V.A. has come a long way in dealing with PTSD and other disorders facing our soldiers, sadly there are many who still "slip through the cracks." For that reason alone, this could be a true story.
Thank you for sharing your latest work. Echoes of Nam has me thinking about the impact of Military/Government Service on individual and family life. What makes this compelling story fascinating is the very real confusing, frustrating, physical and mental strength required to navigate the VA system and civilian world experienced by Brax and Wosk. They were victims of multiple trauma without benefit of mental resources. Many Veterans, in spite of apparent mental capacity, revisit the source of their trauma daily and nightly without let up.
And, thanks to pre-readers who wrote constructive criticism in its early drafts, and said:
The characters seem real. My favorite is Annemarie. As far as I’ve read so far there is a Christian thread but it is not preachy.
You have woven a fascinating story with a wonderful twist. I love those kind of stories. You have built the locations and characters rich and full so I can see them as I read. Your dialogue flows naturally, not forced. Thank you for sharing and letting me read, enjoy, and comment.
I was captured by the story so much the first time that I thought it was a true account, even though the preface stated that it was fictional. I was surprised how strongly the narrative captivated me again. It also helps and is enjoyable to read a book that describes places and things that I am familiar with.
Thursday, December 13, 2018
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Thursday, October 18, 2018
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Thanks for the encouragement from my writing group and to two of my brothers and a friend, veterans all, who commented on my book Echoes of ...
R eading the 2017 obituary of Brandon Wosk gives Hacker Lee Goor echoes of Vietnam. Later, after a routine mental health checkup, he brief...
The last paragraph of my book Echoes of Nam is: Gore concluded, “I can’t be offended by Annie’s statement about my physical appearance. What...