A Family Odyssey
Publication Year: 2000
Published by: University of Washington Press
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I want to express particular gratitude to all the people who so graciously agreed to be interviewed. I was often touched by the reception I received from former military officers and Vietnam veterans despite my stand as a conscientious objector. I certainly had not expected this reception, which is one of the main reasons why this...
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I am trying hard to remain the reporter as I stand at my grand, father's grave for the first time, twelve years after his funeral, that elaborate military ceremony attended by everyone in the family. Except me. Now, a raging controversy has brought me here, and so I start to fill my notebook with the details that sixteen years...
1. Detroit Years
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I KNEW HIM, or I thought I knew him back then. My grandfather was famous, I certainly knew that, and that had a tremendous hold on me when I was a child. I was not just John Marshall, I was the grandson of S. L. A. Marshall and that made me more important, truly special, at least in my own mind. I did not go...
2. Setting Out in September
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MY COPIES OF MY GRANDFATHER'S OBITUARIES from national publications had long remained buried in a folder marked "SLAM." I seldom removed the folder from my file cabinet over the years; there seemed no point in dredging up such bad memories. But now, in the wake of the controversy about my grandfather's...
3. Liberating Paris
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OREGON GIVES WAY TO IDAHO, Idaho to Utah, Utah to Arizona, the trip picking up definite momentum, 342 miles one day, 559 miles the next, 329 miles the day after that. The vastness of the West fills the windshield, all these cowboy movie panoramas of broad blue skies, brute mountains, red buttes, barren...
4. Under Fire
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THE SUN COMES UP hot and intense in Tucson and the Westovers are early risers, full of cheer and purpose. John has already dispatched some bills and letters by the time I return from a half-hour run. Eloise, a University of Missouri journalism graduate, is all set to perform the duties of a short-order...
5. Military Heritage
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THE WIND BLASTS DOWN from the Mazatzal Mountains, tears over the treeless country of northern Arizona toward the land of the Navajo. This is not a wind which comes and goes in gusts; this is a relentless blow; it scours the ground and sends clouds of dust streaming across the highway. The wind slams...
6. El Paso Roots
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BACK ON THE INTERSTATE, next stop: EI Paso. My mind flashes back to my visit there six months ago. EI Paso is the place where my grandfather grew up, attended high school, became a family man, then left until he returned to retire. He had visited most of the world by then, walked the streets of...
7. Research Partners
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NOW I AM SPEEDING through downtown EI Paso again on my way to the airport, only this time I do not have a plane to catch. I am heading to meet a plane and pick up someone and my mind is filled with a prickly uncertainty. Because that someone knew S. L. A. Marshall far better than I ever did. That someone...
8. Uncharted Territory
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THE PROBLEM AT NIGHT is letting go. Spending so many hours at the library reading so many documents produces a strange state of exhaustion and delirium. My father and I are so caught up in the fever of the hunt that we return to the motel room and, like a couple of punch~drunk fighters in the late rounds, we still...
9. Across Texas
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THE LAST GLIMPSE OF MY FATHER in EI Paso is outside our motel. He has taken a picture of me standing beside the car, then we share a few parting words and I pull out of the parking lot, relieved in some ways but more sad than I could ever have anticipated, as my father becomes a figure disappearing in the...
10. Return to Victory Drive
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But now I am back in the morning rush-hour traffic heading up Victory Drive in Columbus, past the pawn shops, the topless dance clubs, the well-worn motel rooms that have served thousands of soldiers. And then I pass a giant billboard with an American flag and the words: "Love It or Leave...
11. A Protege's Allegations
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FOR THREE STATES the landscape has been unchanged. There have been pine forests, rolling hills, red dirt, car dealerships owned by guys with first names like Bubba. Billboards have carried messages with conservative fervor ("In case of nuclear attack, the ban on school prayer will be lifted" or...
12. Westy & Slam
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THERE IS NO MISTAKING William Childs Westmoreland. Seventeen years after his retirement from the service, now attired in civilian clothes, Westmoreland still looks like the man in command of United States forces in Vietnam, the general from central casting glimpsed so often on the TV news, the...
13. Passing through Eden
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THE HISTORIC CHARLESTON STREETS are piled high with rubble, huge mounds of debris, mammoth tree trunks, large branches, pieces of roofing, decorative plants torn from formal gardens, remnants of wood shutters that once graced the windows of mansions. And the streets echo with the cacophony...
14.The Demise of Coats & Ties
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THESE ARE STAIRS I climbed many times as a college student, stairs up to the fifth floor offices of the Cavalier Daily. I first entered this hubbub early in my first semester, a hesitant lad in new college clothes who inquired as to whether I could write for the student newspaper. I had been put to work that very...
15. Rising Star
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CHARLOTTESVILLE GIVES WAY TO GUM SPRING and Sandy Hook, back on the Interstate once again. I am on the way to Fort Monroe, this Army headquarters which is in the process of publishing an official book detailing S. L. A. Marshall's influence on the Army. I am thinking about my grandfather and our...
16. Tempting Trouble
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DAYS PASS IN RESEARCH, evenings in interviews, nights listening to Burt talk, and sometimes sing, one night when he stands in the comer of the living room and belts out childhood songs, also operatic arias, all a cappella, loud enough for the stage. Some of these he sings in his own singing...
17. Bedrock for a General
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THE NIKE RUNNING SHOES on the front stoop belong to Lt. Gen. Sidney B. Berry, retired. Berry greets me at the door of his hand, some brick home in Arlington and this sixty-three-year-old man looks much like he did the last time I saw him, back at Fort Benning when I was a lowly second lieutenant and he was a brigadier...
18. Elegy at the Wall
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I first visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial a year ago and it had not been a time for much reflection. The September day had been a late blast of Washington's steambath summer, and Anne and I had been trying to complete a whirlwind tour of the city's tourist sites with a one-year-old in a stroller...
19. His Brother's Witness
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MY TIME IN WASHINGTON is almost finished. I have been with Burt and Betty for a week, have called their home my home, have grown accustomed to the habits and rhythms of their lives, breakfast at the same hour around the kitchen table, dinner in the dining room, accompanied by one glass of wine, a cheese course...
20. Brothers in Conscience
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WE MET OUR FIRST YEAR at Virginia on the soccer field during phys ed. I teased Jackson Lears about his "cat-like movements" and we soon became fast friends. We had many classes together over the next four years, including Harbaugh's History of the United States in the 20th Century. We shared all-nighters...
21. In the Wake of the Six-Day War
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THE FREEWAY KEEPS WIDENING, adding new lanes every few miles, this vast swath of asphalt, soon twelve lanes across. I see the first glimpse of Manhattan in the distance, several silhouettes on the horizon, the brute towers of the World Trade Center, the timeless elegance of the Empire State Building. The highway...
22. Questions of Fairness
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IT IS A LONG HIKE to the offices of American Heritage, another long hike over these Manhattan streets, maybe a couple of miles, but I am in no particular hurry. It does not matter at all when I arrive. Because I will not be meeting with anyone at American Heritage, not the editor, not the managing editor, no one. I am being shut...
23. Sunday in the Country
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I LINGER IN THE NEW YORK AREA for several days. Winter suddenly arrives, a severe storm riding the jet stream. Temperatures drop into the thirties, torrential rains fall, high winds cause several deaths, killer tornadoes cut through the South and the East. It is a week before Thanksgiving, and I feel growing apprehension...
24. Eisenhower's Biographer
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THE DARKNESS LENGTHENS, the weather worsens while I make my way west. These November days bring a new sense of urgency to all I do, and homesickness too, especially as Thanksgiving nears. Everything seems more acute now, the stops, the time, my emotions, everything that is except the vast stretches...
25. Days of Thanksgiving
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THANKSGIVING DAWNS CLOUDY AND COLD, with a couple of inches of snow on the ground. I look out my motel room at this white world and wonder how far I will get on the road this day. Cleveland had been my hope, then the car spins out on the motel driveway, a worrisome reminder of its terrible...
26. The Wreath
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THIS MAYBE THE STRANGEST MOMENT of the entire trip. I am nearing St. Louis, searching through the radio when suddenly the voice of a radio preacher starts reciting questions: "Are you on a consistent search for knowledge? ... Are you asking questions? ... Are you listening for answers? ... Will you commit yourself...
27. Racing December
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THE UNDULATING HILLS OF MISSOURI now wear their winter brown, the trees are stripped of their leaves. It is that brief respite between the seasons in the Midwest, fall definitely gone, winter coming on, the landscape and the people bracing for the worse weather sure to arrive soon. I know this place and this...
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A DECADE HAS PASSED since the road trip around America that is the centerpiece of this story. In many ways, the time seems much longer, with all the changes that have come in the passing years, some welcome, but others not, especially the deaths of many people who were crucial to my...
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About the Author
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Publication Year: 2000