Sep 122022

As a somewhat successful author who is active in several online authors groups, I frequently get requests to look at somebody else’s work in progress and give them my feedback. I used to do this, but these days I beg off because I just do not have the time to read three or four other people’s work and still get any of my own done.

I have also found that there are a lot of people who don’t want to hear what you feel you need to tell them. Instead, they want you to tell them what they want to hear. I have had more than one wannabe author call me an egotistical SOB or words to that effect when I read what they sent me and tell them that it is full of misspelled words, has little or no punctuation, or just doesn’t read well.

For example, there was the fellow who wrote a story about a Vietnam veteran coming home from the war and becoming some sort of a vigilante. That’s an old trope that is used over and over and is almost as bad as the private investigator who works with the police to solve cases. No, they don’t.

Anyway, back to the Vietnam vet story. The author had the main character borrow his mother’s car the day after he got back home, a brand new 1968 Mustang. The setting is in Tucson, Arizona, and the author writes that as he drove west on Speedway Boulevard, watching the sunset over the Catalina Mountains, he shoved his favorite CD into the player, popped the clutch, and speed shifted through to fifth gear. Having lived in Tucson for many years, I know the terrain very well, and I wrote back to tell him that while Speedway Boulevard does run east and west, the Catalina Mountains are on the east side of town, and the sun rises over them. Driving west, they would be in his rearview mirror. I also pointed out that in 1968 Mustangs did not have five-speed transmissions, nor did they have CD players. His response was that he didn’t need a bunch of negativity from a stuck-up author who didn’t want anybody else to succeed.

Which leads us to this weekend, when another author friend of mine asked for my help clarifying a couple of things about firearms in a book that he had agreed to go over for somebody else. In this story, a veteran brings his issued M-16 rifle home with him as a souvenir and uses it as his personal weapon when he becomes a police officer. By the way, because he was a veteran, he did not have to go to any kind of police academy. He went right into a squad car the day he applied. Besides the M-16, he also carries a .44 magnum revolver in a shoulder holster and a 9mm Beretta Model 92 pistol in an ankle holster.

I wrote back to tell my friend that absolutely nothing in that story was even close to accurate. First of all, the Army does not let people keep their issued weapons as souvenirs. If someone issues you a weapon, you darned well had better be able to give it back to them when they want it. They don’t just let those things walk away.

Secondly, just because someone was in the military does not mean they have the training to be a police officer. They are still going to have to attend a police academy to learn not only the skills and techniques officers use on the job but also about the laws they will be enforcing. Once they get out of the academy, they will be assigned a field training officer (FTO) to ride with, who will evaluate them before they are ever allowed to work on their own.

Now let’s talk about the handguns this guy carries in the story. Dirty Harry may have carried a .44 magnum, but in reality, they are absolutely too powerful a gun for police work. No police department lets an officer just carry what he wants. And a Beretta Model 92 is a big, heavy gun. It would take bell bottom pants to conceal it in an ankle holster, and forget trying to walk with that thing strapped on your leg! After I told my friend these things, he said that he would have to get back to the author and break his heart. Hopefully, a broken heart will convince this person to do some research before he starts writing again.

As a veteran myself, it amazes me that civilians always assume that if someone is a veteran, they must be a trained killer, experienced in all kinds of hand-to-hand combat and the use of a multitude of lethal weapons. Nothing could be further from the truth. Except for basic training, most soldiers never touch a weapon again unless they have a yearly qualification. The majority of the people in the military are cooks, clerks, truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, mechanics, computer technicians, and a thousand other jobs that do not require them to use a weapon. Part of my time in the military was spent as a firearms instructor, and when troops would come out for their yearly required qualifications, a majority of them had no idea how to even load their rifles, let alone shoot them.

And all that hand-to-hand combat training? It never happens. Most will get an afternoon lesson while in basic training, which is just enough to let them go on a pass and get in trouble downtown when they wander into the local bars and try to take on the civilians who have dealt with that kind of nonsense for years.

Something else that always surprises me is the esteem that we hold veterans in. Don’t get me wrong, the men and women who serve our country deserve our respect and admiration. But the reality is that just because someone is a veteran doesn’t mean he or she is a good guy. I knew lots of men in Vietnam I would never have trusted with my dog, let alone my wife or kids, or wanted to have as a neighbor. And when they do turn out bad, it’s not always PTSD. Remember all of those cooks, truck drivers, and other support personnel I mentioned? Most of them are never exposed to anything that would give them PTSD. Some of the people I served with were bad guys long before they ever put on a uniform. In fact, I had at least three men serving with me who were only in the Army because a judge gave them the choice of that or prison.

So, veterans are just people. Most are good, but some are bad. And very, very few are the highly trained killing machines that popular fiction would want you to believe.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Congratulations, Rebecca Smith, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951.

We had 18 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books and audiobooks to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – If you can’t be positive, at least be quiet.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  5 Responses to “The Truth About Veterans”

  1. lies fly 90%! no one likes the truth-
    You are spot on with the military- they do have a section 8! and Leavenworth is real!
    I worked behind or should i say in front of a radar screen 8 hrs a day – with army and air force headphones (yes air force had better ones- they were stereo for matching signals) – located a spy in Copenhagen and drank more beer than i can think of in Germany – hash was plentiful and the women fine as wine!
    oh… and my ‘x’ wife told me, when she wanted to divorce me – (even though we had children to say the least) WE HAD NOTHING IN COMMON AFTER 18 YRS.
    1968 huh? 8 track maybe – CD- he is ‘fast-forwarding a bit’

  2. I am retired military, Army and Marine Corps; reservist with nine years active duty. I must agree with your comments on veterans. I am proud of my service, but in no way a “flag waiver” wearing all kinds of military paraphernalia. When I go to the VA, I purposely do not wear my Marine Corps hat or tee shirt. I do have Marine Corps license plates on all my vehicles.

  3. Thank you for the clarification, Nick. I was a Quartermaster (navigation) in the Navy, and I don’t think I could have seriously injured anyone with my sextant, or strangle someone with my nautical charts. 😉

  4. Nick, you nailed that one! I am a military retiree with 26 years of active service and I had the pleasure of knowing many fine people, I did know a few bad apples. I had a young guy in my unit who always seemed to be on our commanders bad boy list, one Friday my commander called me and said that he was on the verge of moving forward with discharging this fellow as unadaptable to military life. I pleaded with the commander to give me more time to bring the bad boy around, I told the commander I really think the boy is making an effort to do better. Well, you probably can guess where this story is headed. Yep, that very weekend my bad boy was arrested after robbing a convenience store, which netted him about $100. Needless to say, my commander didn’t ask me for my recommendation on discharging the trouble maker after that. He immediately started the discharge process and the bad boy was gone very quickly.

  5. I read daily but forget to thank you often enough for your books and the humor we read many days in the blog. You probably have plenty to talk about over the dinner table with all the strange emails you must get. 🤪 Thanks again.

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