More About the Author
Who am I--in a page? More than the mere sum of my experiences? You are probably reading this because of an interest in my book, "Fire in the Hole: A Mortarman in Vietnam," so I'll start there. My book is not a typical war story. While I do describe in detail the carnage and insanity of war, it's more a story of transformation of character--my character--as I came of age in the 60s. Vietnam was my rite of passage as I morphed in a few short years from Catholic seminarian to Marine to sailor in the Merchant Marines to college student to anti-war protestor. After surviving a year of combat and the loss of fellow Marines, I came home in 1970 to another battlefield-Kent State University, where the Ohio National Guard gunned down my classmates. The next year, I was in front of the US Capitol when fellow veterans, led by now-Senator John Kerry, protested against the war they fought by throwing their medals over the Capitol fence. I joined them on the spot.
My book is a deep reflection on my journey of tumult and tears. This is what my friend, the late Senator Paul Wellstone wrote about my book: "Orange has written a powerful book. . . . He has crafted a morally sensitive story that begs for discussion and demands that we remember those whom we sent to fight the Vietnam War--a war that continues to define the next generation."
In 1973, I married the love of my life, Cynthia, the woman I had met at the top of the Empire State Building five years earlier, and we raised our daughter, Jessica, with great love. My education involved earning a B.A. at Kent State and an M.A. in city planning at Minnesota State University, Mankato, but my most important classrooms were my thirty odd jobs that included auto assembly lines, railroad and home construction, roofing in the French Quarter, and driving school buses. Finally, I got my dream job as a city planner for the City of Minneapolis. Thirty-one years later, I retired from that fulfilling career to form my own consulting company with a focus on environmental planning, and to strive for the most honorable of all jobs--teacher. I now teach classes on the Vietnam War and sustainable city planning.
I'm still sufficiently fit to enjoy biking, cross-country skiing, yoga, and hiking. Fantasies of learning to paint and being in a rock band entice me still. Only problem is my voice can sound like a shaken box of rocks with an equally limited range, my guitar and keyboard skills are stuck at the apprentice stage, and my brain lacks the RAM to simultaneously play the instrument and remember the music. This would limit my ability to gyrate on stage, as would my arthritis.
Cynthia and I are embraced and loved by our incredibly supportive community of family and friends. We collaborate on each other's involvements, especially writing projects (visit her "Author's Profile" and read about her most recent, award-winning book, "Shock Wave: A Practical Guide to Living with a loved One's PTSD," http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-Orange/e/B001HD106C/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1271520099&sr=1-2-ent).
Thirty-three years after Vietnam, I finally mustered the courage to face the demons that lurked inside me all those years and get the help I needed. I completed nine months of therapy for my case of combat-related PTSD. As part of my ongoing recovery (there is no cure), I stay very involved with Veterans for Peace and befriend fellow vets with PTSD.
This is the most fulfilling period of our lives together, due primarily to being grandparents for Oskar and Quinlan, our identical twin grandsons who were born in 2006. They are joy personified.
So who are you--in a page? Try it.