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Let Us Not Forget    Editors Vurlee A. Toomey, Helen Kay Polaski & Margaret Marr order for
Let Us Not Forget
by Vurlee A. Toomey
Order:  USA  Can
iUniverse, 2002 (2002)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

The patriotic fervor that has gripped the United States since September 11, 2001 has been remarkable, in the light of the previous casual disinterest toward the whole subject. Red, white and blue are seen everywhere, especially on clothing items. However, in the several years preceding September 11, a more thoughtful and respectful attitude toward veterans had been slowly gaining momentum; hence the fairly recent Vietnam Memorial and the World War II memorial currently in the works. Let Us Not Forget, an anthology of stories about veterans from various conflicts of the 20th century, was born of this growing desire to turn away from the disillusionment of the years after Vietnam and give honor and recognition to all who served during wartime.

The stories come from veterans, from their family members, from anonymous sources. Some are poignant, some funny. Many relate tragic things in a matter-of-fact tone, much as if in a letter telling the latest news from the familiy. Readers will be struck by the extremely young age of most of the veterans - we tend to forget that it's usually the young who go to war. My favorite story was about the North Platte Canteen, a canteen run purely on volunteer labor and locally donated goods that served free food to servicemen and women leaving and returning from duty during World War II. It was amazing how something as simple as a homecooked meal, a few presents and a cake for birthday celebrants made such an impression upon so many, that they still remembered that one stop decades later.

The stories are separated into groups by wars: WW I, WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. The final section is devoted to peacetime stories of the military. Most are by non-professional writers, but the quality of the material is generally quite good, with only a couple of mediocre entries. The majority of the work reflects the care demonstrated in being chosen for inclusion. Bob Dole and Bob Kerrey each give a short introduction at the beginning of the book, as does one of the editors, Vurlee A. Toomey. 100% of the proceeds from the book sale are designated toward the 20th Century Veterans Memorial in North Platte, Nebraska, which is currently under construction. More information on this anthology and the memorial can be found at

I've never been a big fan of anthologies, preferring novels over short stories, but I was mesmerized by the tales told here, maybe in part because I'm a big history buff. However, history aside, these stories are fascinating to read. I remember the extreme difficulty I had getting my father, a WWII and Korean War veteran, to talk about his experiences during both wars. Some of these stories, related by family members, reflect the same lack of information and accompanying sadness at the dearth of personal facts about a loved one's participation during a horrific time. Many stories are told by the veterans themselves, and provide insights of ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances.

All of the stories are written from an American perspective, so may not appeal to other nationalities, but readers from countries who participated in these conflicts will probably enjoy them as well. History enthusiasts may also benefit. And Americans, of course, will definitely find much of interest here. A worthwhile read that will enrich the reader.

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