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GUNS Magazine July 2010 - Page 78
fAr more thAn WorDs Best bets for summer reading. was just a kid, camped with a coupla pals on a little island off the I tip of our “home” atoll. It was just far enough away by outrigger canoe we could pretend we were marooned there after a shipwreck. Unlike the other fried-coral lumps in that chain, this one hosted a wild, tangly mass of spooky-dark jungle—a perfect place for a boy to read Robert Leckie’s Pacific-combat classic Helmet For My Pillow. I remember waking one morning to realize I had used Helmet For My Pillow as a pillow…. on American colonists was so profound, some scholars believe our Revolution may not have occurred without it—or, the French Revolution, without their Rights of Man. My copy, from Forgotten Books contains both. If there is a modern Paine, it might be Mark Levin, author of Liberty and Tyranny. No less a scholar than Paine, Levin’s writings bring into sharp focus the erosion of rights won with blood and sacrifice, and illustrate how freedom can not only be lost, it can be stolen or casually thrown away— perhaps never to be regained. No hot air; no volatile but empty rhetoric; it’s more Plato’s Republic than a campaign bumper sticker. The biggest difficulty with this book may be an overwhelming compulsion to get sidetracked by his extensive sources, references and footnotes. Try reading it through once, then go back with highlighter and notepad. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin reveals, in his own modest words, how an unlettered indentured boy rose to become one of the most influential men of his time—worldwide—not just in his own country. Scientist, linguist, inventor, writer and revolutionary, his enormous impact and enduring wisdom has been sadly minimized in modern times. Simply put, the “towering figures” of our national scene today couldn’t bench-press Ben’s brain, or even lift his massive moral compass, much less carry it as a shield of honor, as he did. Please read it. Throughout my life I’ve observed, studied and researched people’s reactions to the challenges of combat and other lethal-threat stress situations. Extensive academic work on the subject requires a background in both stress psychology and stress physiology, and manages to give something visceral and intriguing the appeal of kibbled yak dung. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When In combat, a decade later, I reprised edge of darkness a couple of times when that act with the same book, and perhaps I wondered if I would ever see my reda decade after that, a third time, halfway headed angel again, outside of heaven. ’round the world. On that occasion I You can’t ask much more from an object used a borrowed copy, found in a pile of of pulp, glue and ink, can you? moldering paperbacks in a sandbagged Over the past two years they’ve bunker. I did it knowingly, maybe just served again, as painkillers, postto honor my personal “pillow history” surgical soothers, boredom-busters and with that book. I had, and have used, “recovery stimulants.” Several of ’em many other books for pillows, before were sent or recommended by you folks. and since. So, let me return the favor and spread In fact, I can’t remember a single time the wealth, OK? I’ve ever “deployed forward” without a History, Past & Future book stuffed in my ruck or carried in a cargo pocket, and virtually all of them Common Sense by Thomas Paine have done pillow-duty. Believe me, was without doubt the most influential the worst of ’em beat the heck out of literature written, justifying the sleepin’ on a helmet. The best, I think, American Revolution. It did not urge was a collection of Kipling—comfy! war or violence, but rather, thought and None have ever stopped a bullet for courage. Paine’s examination of the me, but they’ve cooled my mind and sources of power and their validity—or shaded my head in sun-hammered heat, lack of validity—is as timely today as it diverted my thoughts from creepin’ was in the 1700s. The galvanizing effect frostbite and sharp rocks in the it had gumbo mud of my “beds”; done double-duty as distraction from—and the instrument of destruction of—countless nasty bloodsuckin’ insects. Books have salved my soul after losses of comrades, and reminded me why I was whereverit-was and what I was fighting for. They’ve even pulled Three Aces: A winning hand of good reading. me away from the 78 The Whys & Hows WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JULY 2010