HERE'S A

THOUGHT:
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About Terry


Welcome to my personal website. I’m Terry, of course, and I write novels, short stories, articles and poems. Most of my work is available on Amazon in book form and includes war stories as well as what I call antagonistic fiction. I welcome all comers, but here’s the deal, I am primarily a literary fiction writer. I’ve said this before, more than once probably, but I think it’s still worth repeating: I am fiction personified. I like to make stuff up, but I also like to say something important at the same time, something lasting. I think that’s what we call literature. I also want to antagonize readers, spur them to think, perhaps even to act. However, I want participants here (bloggers, for instance) to take anything I say with a grain of pepper, for this should be dialogue not lecture.

I was born in Oklahoma and spent my early youth in upstate New York. In 1965, I graduated high school, started college that same year at the University of Oklahoma (OU), then dropped out (flunked out, really) and joined the Marine Corps in early 1966. I served a tour in Vietnam as a “grunt” from October 1966 to November 1967 assigned to Golf Company of the 26th Marine Regiment and was wounded in May 1967. In December 1969, I got out of the Marine Corps and immediately re-enrolled at OU where I graduated with an English Literature degree in 1977. After that, I completed two years of graduate-level literature studies, then went to work at OU until 1996.

I’m a member of The 26th Marines Association and Flinch Forward, as well as a life member of The American Legion, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, The Disabled American Veterans, and The Khe Sanh Veterans Association. I have several military awards which are listed in my Toots section, as well as an honorable discharge (not all that easy for a thinking individualist, by the way). In that section, you will also find that in 1977 I was awarded the University of Oklahoma’s Vernon L. Parrington Writing Prize. Currently, I’m a writer (an author mostly) living in Estes Park, Colorado. The Second Tour: Soul Injury, my first novel, was begun in 1984 and took almost twenty-five years to come out with the first edition. My novel, Suffering Seacil: For Better or For Worse, was begun in 1995 and finished in 2013. It’s what I call Antagonistic Fiction, a work whose main character is the antagonist. Three excerpts from Suffering Seacil were previously published in online journals.

Turning more deeply into my writing, my work, how do I even begin to define it without defining myself, without narrowing down who I am? Nicknames perhaps exemplify this. In grade school they called me Skip, Skipper or Skippy, I guess because I liked to skip everywhere and was better at it than even the girls. In high school they called me Rock. Don’t ask why; it’s a long story and a misnomer anyway. In Vietnam I was Rootie, mostly because a friend there couldn’t say Rizzuti. After that I was Roscoe & Rizzo for several years, then Tooto in graduate school. Now I’m pretty much just T or T-Man.

I think what this says is that others have had trouble defining me, too, and have thus boiled me down to one letter, the least common denominator of written language. And I think this is true also of my writing which has led to difficulty finding traditional publishers. After all, how do you define that which refuses to fit within a single genre or standard category? So I usually just call my stuff literary fiction because that’s what I strive for — a sense that what I’ve created is literature as opposed to “just a story” or “just a novel” — the distinction being that literature not only entertains but through metaphor achieves a didactic function as well. I therefore first and foremost seek that mysterious interface between form and function, i.e., the relationship between the structure of a piece and its message, with the hope that this leads to advancing the craft.

And, if showcased in one place like it is here, I’ve always wanted all my work called Food for Thought Fiction, because hopefully each piece makes you think. Additionally, I’ve titled an anthology of my short stories Heads or Tales because when you try to pin one of my stories down, label it, it’s a toss of the coin whether you’ve selected the right category.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned poetry. That’s because I’m ashamed to admit that my “stuff” is so weak, so amateurish, it doesn’t even rate mentioning, but now that I have mentioned it, note that I’ve collected most of my poems in one place and made them available on Amazon under the title Crap Shoot. Nevertheless, I plug away at poetry hoping someday I’ll improve. I forget who once said (but I think it was Faulkner), that a novelist is a failed short story writer, and a short story writer is a failed poet. Could be some truth in that, but I don’t believe it for a second. I think we all write in whichever form best speaks through us at any given moment, whichever form best matches our immediate voice.

Anyway, perhaps it’s relevant that I was raised Italian-American in upstate New York, which gave me a strong sense of what it feels like to be discriminated against. And perhaps four years in the Marine Corps, including one in a warzone where I was wounded, gave me some further sense that all is not right in the world, that all these centuries later we shouldn’t still be killing each other with such glee and abandonment. And certainly my study of literature clarified for me a desire to write about war, especially its effects on “the little guy,” and particularly my psyche. But it wasn’t until some 20 years later that I found myself drawn to other subjects, for example veterans’ issues, strong women living difficult lives, and even children’s stories.

And maybe it’s relevant that my major literary influences have been the mid-19th century writers like Thoreau, Hawthorne and Melville, as well as the 20th century works of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. I’m especially drawn to anything with dark humor and contemporary writing aspects. My absolute favorite writer is Cormac McCarthy, whose command of the English language supersedes that of anyone writing today. I’m so glad he finally got a Pulitzer, and that maybe now his masterpiece Blood Meridian will get the recognition it deserves.

It could further be relevant that over the past 25 years, I have become a big believer in therapeutic art (i.e., art as therapy), whether that art takes the form of writing, music, painting, wood working, or any other creative means of channeling negative energies into positive outcomes. Specifically, what I’ve discovered is that writing can add a layer of fiction between its creator and his “real” or actual experience, that that layer of fiction creates a buffer zone within which the writer can “play around” with the experience in ways that are therapeutic. In essence, I’m saying my writing has become for me a lifeboat in an otherwise inner tempestuous storm of intrusive thoughts and feelings, and a legacy I can be proud of. That’s not to say that art erases the turbulence, not by any stretch, but rather that it provides a means of psychic survival. I’m very thankful for that, personally, and I hope my work can provide some similar value for readers.

As I've said, my work is difficult to categorize. It’s all over the map. I’m a literaturist, a word that isn’t but should be. (See, I like to make stuff up.) I have written and will write about anything, but my specialty is war. And to me, literary war novels are the essence of great literature. They’re born under fire and speak to us about the unspeakable; they give us some of our deepest lessons about the human condition by bringing us our villains and, more importantly, our heroes.

And for those of us that create war fiction based on personal experience, it often functions as self-therapy, becoming part of that body of work some call therapeutic art. But it does something else, too. It provides some of us a door through which to re-enter humanity, however socially disadvantaged we might be; while for others less confident in ourselves, it provides a window, a peephole for pretending we’re participants in a civilized world unlike the one we’ve left behind, the one we’ve thought of as pure hell on Earth.

Time will tell, of course, but I think my best work is probably my war novel, The Second Tour: Soul Injury. It has been taught at five universities and one other institution: it’s been taught in an honors seminar called Stories From Wartime at Regis University in Denver; it’s been taught in the Behavioral Sciences and the English departments at the US Air Force Academy; it’s been taught in a Political Sciences honors course at the University of Kentucky; it’s been taught in English Literature classes that focus on Trauma topics at George Washington University; it’s been taught in the English department at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, Washington; and it’s been taught in a Fiction Reading group of psychoanalysts at the George Washington Psychoanalytic Institute.

All that said, Suffering Seacil: For Better or For Worse, is not a war novel at all, even though several combat scenes are interspersed throughout. Instead, it’s what I call Antagonistic Fiction (more evidence of making stuff up), stories whose main character is the antagonist, a bad guy representing one of society’s major ills — in this case the antagonist is a perpetrator of toxic relationships. In effect, Antagonistic Literature serves as a catalyst, a call to action, so please join me in the fight to raise our children in a culture that respects all people regardless of differences.

My most recent novel is called The Triplets: As They Lay Dying. It’s contemporary, experimental fiction, a collage of short stories, poems, miscellaneous thoughts and feelings woven into a short novel spanning several generations. The Triplets showcases the disparate lives and deaths of three siblings individually struggling to survive intersecting political and viral pandemics. The subtitle is a takeoff on my favorite writer, William Faulkner, who wrote As I Lay Dying, the single book that influenced me as a student of literature, as well as launched my entire writing “career.”

I also have a book called Dear Me: An Honorary Ph.D. in Letters. It’s a collection of about 170 letters I wrote to my high school sweetheart between 1964 and April 1969. They tell a one-sided story from the perspective of a concussed, homesick Marine that can be grouped into five major parts: 1) one letter written in high school and a few in my first two semesters of college just before joining the Marine Corps; 2) several letters written from Marine Corps boot camp, as well as Infantry Training; 3) several letters written aboard the USNS Barrett, a Merchant Marine ship taking approximately 1,500 soldiers and 500 of us Marines to Vietnam; 4) numerous letters written from Vietnam; and 5) several letters written post-Vietnam. The letters mostly show an attempt by the writer to establish and maintain a lifeline with home, and thus normalcy. For the most part they are rather “typical” of chatty love letters, but every now and then there’s a jewel that reveals just how difficult things had become for the writer, but even more so just how juvenile, immature and sometimes downright obnoxious and inconsiderate I was. The letters in this book are provided warts and all, with political and other incorrectness, as well as misspellings and other language issues.

Let me add just a few final thoughts:

Accomplishments: I have 5* Book Reviews from sources that include AllBooks Reviews, Midwest Book Review and others that can be found here on my website and at Amazon. I have been published by Greenwood Press, and in the following print/on-line journals: War, Literature & the Arts, Eclectica, Unlikely Stories, Octopus Beak Inc, and Connecticut Review. And like every fiction writer I’ve ever met, I look forward to the day I’m awarded a prize for the latest Great American Novel.

Copyright: This website and all its contents are copyrighted by Terry P. Rizzuti. This opens me up to fraud and plagiarism, so I’m trusting in everyone’s honesty. Please ask my permission through my Contact form before copying. Thank you.

And, for a closing thought: I like to think I was born a warrior with the fighting skills of a stuffed toy — so here’s hoping my pen is mightier than a sword.


I thank you all for your interest in my work, and I hope you enjoy my website.

Terry's Books and Remarks


Novels

Novels

1) The Triplets: As They Lay Dying, self-published in May 2020, is contemporary, experimental fiction, a collage of short stories, poems, miscellaneous thoughts and feelings woven into a short novel spanning several generations. The Triplets showcases the disparate lives and deaths of three siblings individually struggling to survive intersecting political and viral pandemics. The subtitle is a takeoff on my favorite writer, William Faulkner, who wrote As I Lay Dying, the single book that influenced me as a student of literature, as well as launched my entire writing “career.”

2) 119 “Quotes” From American Legion Post 119, self-published in July 2018, is a short humorous collection of sayings overheard in the Social Club (the bar) of American Legion Post 119 in Estes Park, Colorado. Two fictional characters provide the story line.

3) Suffering Seacil: For Better or For Worse, self-published in March 2013, is an Antagonistic Novel, a story whose main character is the bad guy representing one of society’s major ills — in this case, he’s a perpetrator of domestic violence. In effect, antagonistic literature serves as a catalyst, a call to action, so please join me in the fight to raise our children in a culture that respects all people regardless of differences.

Suffering Seacil addresses the contemporary dysfunctional relationship between Seacil, a college professor and abusive husband; Molly, Seacil’s professionally-employed wife; and Bobby, their high school classmate and eventual Vietnam War veteran. Seacil isn’t so much a closet monster as he is the American male exposed. The story is not unusual except for local particulars. It is chilling because you meet his character-type each and every day. He’s the guy next door, the star halfback, your coffee buddy at work, your boss, employee, preacher, traffic cop, doctor. And yet, this is also the story of Seacil’s ex-wife and her friend, a Vietnam War combat veteran. It’s a story about their embracing and rising above their respective post-traumatic stress disorders. It’s a story about courage, hope, love – and our future. Suffering Seacil is available through Amazon or at Buy Books on the Web.

4) The Second Tour was self-published in Nov 2008; the 2nd edition was released in May 2011; the 3rd edition was released in October 2016; the 4th (current) edition was released with the subtitle Soul Injury in May 2020. This is a literary novel written in the Modernist tradition that explores the full range of the human condition, everything from the ultimate altruism (guys charging machine gun nests to save their buddies) to the ultimate evil ( guys killing innocents because they enjoy it). It’s a story about a two- or three-year-old Vietnamese girl whose murder haunts the narrator. And it’s a story about that narrator, a low-level Marine, about his descent into spiritual darkness and his life-long struggle to regain some semblance of a meaningful life.

The Second Tour has been adopted for coursework at the following academic institutions:

     Regis University in Denver, CO, by Nathan Matlock and Dan Clayton, professors of history and directors of the Center for the Study of War Experience, for their interdisciplinary course titled Stories From Wartime;

     The US Air Force Academy by Dr. Wilbur J. Scott, professor of behavioral sciences, for his course titled Military & Society. The book is a case study of PTSD in the making, and was used in his course section called “Aftermath.” Dr. Scott is author of the book Vietnam Veterans Since the War: The Politics of PTSD, Agent Orange, and the National Memorial;

And by Dr. Claudia Hauer, distinguished visiting professor, English & Fine Arts department, for an English 411 class focused on the moral and intellectual aspects of war.

     George Washington University by Dr. Marshall Alcorn, professor of English and Director of Undergraduate Studies. The book was adopted for his graduate course titled Literature & Medicine, and his graduate course titled English 4040: Honors Seminar. Dr. Alcorn also taught The Second Tour in the March 2012 monthly-held book group at The Washington Psychoanalytic Institute in Washington, D.C.; and

     The University of Kentucky, by Dr. Peter Berres, professor emeritus of political science, for use, previously, in an interdisciplinary course titled Vietnam: The Interplay of War & Culture. The course was offered in the University’s Discovery Seminar Program, a premier offering for undergraduate students along with the Honors Program.

     Big Bend Community College, Moses Lake, Washington. The Second Tour was taught in the English department to undergraduates.

5) The Life and Times of Bubba Lee Boatbum was self-published in Aug 2010. It was co-written with my good friend R. E. Armstrong. We wrote the book over a period of about one year by emailing chapters back and forth. Bubba is an adventure story about a chauvinist, yet lovable character who is hopelessly in love with his ex-wife. It is a wacky, fun-loving world where the narrator’s viewpoints on women, war, politics, religion and sex are shared unabashedly. The setting is mostly the Gulf Coast region during the year leading up to and immediately preceding the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. Bubba is available through Amazon or the publisher (Lulu).

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Short Stories

Short Stories

Heads or Tales is an anthology of most of my published and unpublished short stories written over the span of about 25 years. I’ve tried, as best I could, to present them here in some “logical” order. Unfortunately, in attempting to do so, I discovered that categorizing or otherwise grouping the stories could have just as sensibly been accomplished by coin toss. I therefore suspect readers will point out my failure and, to be honest, I’m counting on that. In fact, please see the Notice to Readers at the end of the book.

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Poetry

Poetry

Crap Shoot is my foray into the realm of contemporary poetry, rather amateurishly I am ashamed to admit. Put simply, the book is a hodgepodge of my thoughts and feelings over the span of many many years.

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Nonfiction

Nonfiction

1) Dear Me, was published in 2020. This is a collection of about 170 letters I wrote to my high school sweetheart between 1964 and April 1969. They tell a one-sided story from the perspective of a concussed, homesick Marine that can be grouped into five major parts: 1) a letter written in high school and a few in my first semester or two of college just before joining the Marine Corps; 2) several letters written from Marine Corps boot camp, as well as Infantry Training; 3) several letters written aboard the USNS Barrett, a Merchant Marine ship taking approximately 1,500 soldiers and 500 of us Marines to Vietnam; 4) numerous letters written from Vietnam; and 5) several letters written post-Vietnam.

The letters mostly show an attempt by the writer to establish and maintain a lifeline with home, and thus normalcy. For the most part they are rather “typical” of chatty love letters, but every now and then there’s a jewel that reveals just how difficult things had become for the writer, but even more so just how juvenile, immature and sometimes downright inconsiderate he (I) was. So, warts and all, political and other incorrectness, misspellings and other language issues, here they are.

2) The American Veterans Cookbook: A Collection of Recipes from Veterans and Their Families was self-published in 2005. It was co-written by email with my good friend R. E. Armstrong. It can be ordered on Amazon or the publisher (iUniverse).

3) Veterans Benefits: A Guide to State Programs was published in 2001 by Greenwood Press and was also co-written with my good friend, R. E. Armstrong. We spent two years researching and gathering the data. It was the first single-point source for State information on veterans benefits, but as soon as the Veterans Administration (VA) got wind of it, all the State information appeared on their website free of charge. Thus, our dreams of a publishing a best-seller fell through the floor.

To be honest, this book is extremely overpriced, and the information in it is very dated. The publisher, Greenwood Press, was bought out in 2008 by ABC-CLIO, which makes ebook and Kindle versions available. The ebook and Kindle are also overpriced. The latest, most current State and Federal information is all accessible for free through the VA website. However, if you decide you want this book to use as a handy starting point or historical reference, I recommend you buy the ebook or Kindle version. It is available on Amazon or from the publisher (Greenwood Press).

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Memorial Day Remarks and Reflections

Memorial Day Remarks and Reflections

Memorial Day Remarks and Reflections

Copyright, Terry P. Rizzuti

Estes Valley Memorial Gardens

May 28, 2018, 11:00 A.M.


Welcome to Estes Valley Memorial Gardens. I’m Terry Rizzuti, Commander of American Legion Post 119 here in Estes. In about 30 days, I’ll be the Past Commander, and Loren Shriver will take over as Commander. Loren is a former astronaut, so we’re excited about our future.


First let me say thanks to Pat Newsom for inviting me to speak. She took a huge risk. I said Pat, I’d be happy to speak, but I have to give the same speech I gave five years ago because I don’t have time to write a new one. She said TERRY, nobody will remember what you said five years ago. I laughed about that, but then when I got home I wondered if she meant I was unmemorable, or did she mean we’re all so old here in Estes that we can’t remember what we had for breakfast this morning.


Anyway, let me welcome all our guests and thank you all for being here, especially our WWII and Korean War Vets. I understand in addition to the more than 200 flag-marked graves behind me, we have a few distinguished veterans present: Art Blume, Bob Brunson, Bill Burcaw, Larry Carpenter, Les Foiles, Bill King, Hugh McTeigue, Dan Scace, and Jim White.


When I was a little kid, my parents made a point of attending Memorial Day services such as this one. My dad would pile us in the car and take us to St. John’s Cemetery in Rome, NY, where I grew up. St. John’s is located in East Rome, the area of the town that was home to most Italians when I was a kid. All of my deceased relatives were buried there within about 50 yards of each other. It was a very solemn occasion, and I learned from my dad at the time that Memorial Day was a day to think about all your dead relatives, that if it weren’t for them, we might not be here. I didn’t really understand that at age six, and it was several years later before he explained to me other reasons for attending Memorial Day services, reasons having to do with our nation’s heroes.


My dad was a WWII vet, an Army forward observer. I remember growing up looking in his eyes and seeing something different from the other men in his life, including my uncles, his brothers, and I remember when I was about 10 or 11 years old, one of his buddies showed up in a surprise visit, someone who served with him in Italy with the 45th Infantry Division. I remember how they looked at each other, how they hugged, shook hands differently, talked seriously, how they laughed and laughed. And how they cried – I’d never seen my dad cry before.


There was something different about this man, too – this stranger in our home who became an instant friend – something different in his eyes. I remember how he had that same look as my dad, and I remember thinking that, whatever that look meant, it had to be connected to their war experience. And I remember thinking that I had to know, I absolutely had to know what my dad knew that I didn't. So at a fairly young age I had the sense that I was destined for a military experience.


In fact, when it comes right down to it, my heroes have always been soldiers. One of the very earliest pictures I have of myself was taken when I was about three years old. I’m standing by the Xmas tree in Teddy-Bear pajamas wearing a big grin and proudly holding a toy Thompson Submachine gun.


And I remember hours and hours of playing with toy soldiers, even up into my early teen years. I owned hundreds of toy soldiers and military equipment pieces. Me and my friends would split them up on opposite sides of a room, then shoot rubber bands at them. Whoever had the last man standing won the war. Sometimes a war game would take hours. By the time I was 10 years old, we had taken the game outdoors and were using sling shots with acorns. We lived in the country then, and by age 11, had graduated to BB-guns. That got a lot trickier in terms of safety.


One day in our infinite wisdom we decided we didn’t need toy soldiers anymore, so we started shooting at each other. And one of the kids got hit in the face and started bleeding. He ran home crying to his mother, and pretty soon all the moms got together and took away our BB-guns for the rest of the summer.


This memory now serves for me as a kind of metaphor concerning the escalation effects of war, as well as the wisdom for restricting the use of certain arms:


From rubber bands to BB-guns,

From sticks & stones to bombs & drones.


Wouldn’t it be nice, I mean wouldn’t it be nice if all the moms all over the world got together one day and took away our weapons – even if for only one summer.


In April 1966, I joined the Marine Corps and was sent to Vietnam in October. Two months later, December 8, 1966, marked the day I knew exactly what my father knew, but I wished to god I didn’t. A year later, in November 1967, I came home, but I came home damaged, not so much from the physical shrapnel wounds I had received, but from mental and spiritual scars.


I came home angry, angry at myself, angry at the Vietnamese, angry at the military, angry at my peers, angry at god, angry at my father for not telling me the truth about his war experience, and angry at his generation, at my country for sending me to that godawful place to see and do things no twenty-year-old should ever in a million years see or do.


I came home so angry that I couldn't attend functions like this (Memorial services, parades, funerals, or even football games) because I couldn't hold my hand over my heart during the National Anthem or Pledge of Allegiance, couldn't even look at our flag, the flag of the United States, without practically growling at it because it symbolized for me everything that seemed wrong in the world.


But you know what, I’m a little better now – years and years of self-reflection, years and years of mental therapy, and years and years of writing stories about my war experiences have changed all that, have given me new insights, new appreciations, not just for flag and country, but for life itself.


And I owe a lot of my new-found insight to my wife, Mary Banken – God bless her she’s a breath of inspiration, day in and day out, with nothing but a positive outlook on life. I have absolutely no doubt that were it not for Mary I wouldn’t be here speaking today.


But I also owe an ol’ boy in Oklahoma where we used to live. His name was Thom Cook. He’s deceased now. He was a highly decorated, two-tour Army special forces Vietnam Vet, a medic who served with the 173rd Airborne. He was Commander of one of our local VFW’s, and he was also the Veterans Service Officer. He chose me as his unofficial assistant and called me the Mafia Marine.


One day during an official Post meeting, Thom noticed I wasn’t putting my hand over my heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, that I wasn’t saying the words, and he demanded to know why, so I told him, right in front of all the other officers and general membership. He listened to the anger in my voice, and even though he understood exactly where I was coming from, he said “Mafia Marine (he had one of those really deep gravelly voices), Mafia Marine, you need to put the flag out – every day,” and then he changed the subject. It was almost like it was an order: “Put the flag out, Marine.”


This was in 1998 or 9, and for a couple of years that statement weighed on me. And then Sept 11th, 2001, changed the world for me. We used to have a saying in Vietnam whenever we’d get disgusted with the situation there. We used to say, it’d be different if they were coming across our own backyards. Well, they came in our front door that day, so I started putting a flag out in the morning, and taking it in at night. And over time, I started to notice a slight hesitation each time I did so, a slight pause. It started with me thanking Thom, and eventually grew to me thanking the creator. And now it’s become a brief prayer of gratitude for this great nation of ours, this nation we call the United States of America.


But let me stop here and shift gears, because you know what? Today isn't about me, or even people like me. It's about our dead, our dead heroes. It's about the more than one million men and women (more than 6,000 of whom were Coloradans) whose lives were taken too soon, about those who died serving this country before they had a chance to be damaged, before they had the luxury of living to my age, before they had received the gift of truly experiencing this great country of ours, flawed as it may be, and it is flawed, and before they had a chance to hold their children and their grandchildren, a chance to rock them in their laps, to hear them laugh, cry or giggle, a chance to live their lives as we do.


Today is about people, heroes, like Lance Corporal Richard Wayne McVay of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who was killed in action on Dec 9, 1966.


It’s about Private First Class Marion E. Patrick, of Rossville, Georgia, who was killed in action on May 2, 1967.


It’s about Lance Corporal Charles W. Bricker, of Rushville, Illinois, who was also killed in action on May 2, 1967.


It’s about Private First Class Percy E. Watson, of Selma, North Carolina, who was killed in action on May 10, 1967.


It’s about Lance Corporal Raymond Martin Sieger, of Chicago, Illinois, who was killed in action on May 25, 1967.


These five men, all close friends of mine, were so severely wounded, they came home in closed caskets. Bricker was turned into hamburger meat by a boobytrap, so too were Patrick and Watson. McVay was shot in the face, his lower jaw completely blown off. Sieger was decapitated by an RPG.


So for me, today is also about the families and friends of those of our heroes who returned in closed caskets, because for them (the families and friends), there’s a deep, deep-seated sense of loss and pain that comes not just from a life-lasting final memory of watching flag-draped wooden boxes lowered into marked graves, but also wondering, questioning whether their loved ones are truly inside those caskets, whether their government, their military, was pulling a fast one on them.


So, by way of example, earlier I mentioned the death of Lance Corporal Charles W. Bricker, who was killed in action on May 2, 1967. Nearly 42 years later, in January 2009, I was contacted by his sister, Linda Sample. Linda begged me for the true story of why her brother’s casket was closed.


A year later, I was contacted by the parents of Bricker’s best friend, people who thought of Bricker as a nephew. They too wanted answers to that question. And the answers were difficult to give because Bricker had been so severely wounded when last I saw him. Recalling that image and describing it to his sister and his friends led to a river of tears and flood of guilt.


I also mentioned the death of Lance Corporal Richard Wayne McVay who was killed in action on Dec 9, 1966. Forty-five years later, in December 2011, on the eve of the anniversary of his death, I was contacted by Joan Tomich, his high school girlfriend. Joan also begged me for the details regarding the closed casket. Again, this was not an easy story to share, because McVay’s face had been obliterated. But she insisted on knowing the details.


But the really unexplainable thing to me is that Joan, a married woman with children, who lives in Arizona, joins McVay’s twin brother Robert and has visited his grave in Pittsburgh every single year since 1967. Can any of us here imagine, let alone fully understand, what it must feel like for Joan’s family (her husband and kids), knowing she’s still in love with a ghost that’s been dead for more than 51 years.


Summing it up, for me at least, but hopefully for you too, today is a day to focus on the fact that there are people in our country that evidence the greatest altruism, men and women who give all that can be given – their very lives – and those who give their sons, their daughters, their sisters and brothers, to the government when it issues the call.


And you know what? I can’t remember who said it, maybe Jim Webb, perhaps John McCain – “Honor can’t be found in choosing your battles; it’s found in answering the call.” He was talking about us Vietnam War veterans, about the fact that in spite of a war’s controversy, all men and women who serve our country deserve our respect, our admiration.


These men and women we honor today – they not only answered the call, they paid the ultimate price. So we gather here today to not only respect that altruism, but also that sense of honor, and pass that understanding down to our children and their children, the way our parents passed it down to us. We gather here today to cherish that honor and altruism, to salute it and salute them, our heroes.


So I ask you to join me in a brief salute, a salute to our flag as one of the symbols of all of our fallen men and women. And I ask that as you do so, to simultaneously whisper a short prayer to yourself, a simple, brief thank you for their sacrifice, and a thank you for the sacrifice of their families and friends.


And now I thank you all for being here and listening, and I ask that you now please join me in a salute to the flag of our United States of America. Thank you.

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Terry's Interviews


1) Infinity Publishing Interview (2013): Suffering Seacil: For Better or For Worse

Here’s your chance to market your book. Describe it. And why readers should pick it up?

Suffering Seacil: For Better or For Worse is what I call antagonistic fiction, a story whose main character is the antagonist, a bad guy representing one of society’s major ills — in this case, a perpetrator of domestic violence. In effect, antagonistic literature serves as a catalyst, a call to action, so please join me in the fight to raise our children in a culture that respects all people regardless of differences.

Suffering Seacil addresses contemporary dysfunctional male/female relationships. It tries to answer questions like: “Why does a woman stay in an abusive relationship?” “How can a woman rise above such a relationship, gain self-reliance, achieve freedom and find enough trust in other men to once again allow herself to be vulnerable?” “How can a women break the generational chain of abuse that occurs between abusive men and their sons, i.e., raise a son that learns to respect women?”

Several types of readers can gain insight by reading this book. First and foremost, young women can learn to recognize the “early warning signs” of such a relationship. Men can learn how not to treat women (and why). Additionally, social workers, sociologists, psychologists, attorneys, judges, politicians and police officers can benefit from reading this book.

• How did your book come to life?

It started around 1994. I was struggling with the issue of PTSD, specifically whether or not single-incident trauma experiences could induce symptoms of PTSD every bit as troubling as those found in combat veterans that experienced multiple trauma incidents. I couldn’t see how that might be so, but my reading led me to theorize that women in long-term abusive relationships probably could share symptomology, so I wanted to examine that possibility from a fictional perspective.

• Who is your favorite character in your book and why?

That’s not a fair question. Every good fiction writer “becomes” his characters as he or she writes. We must temporarily step into and live in their shoes, see the world through their viewpoints. So in a sense they’re all our favorite characters, but in this case, it’s easier for me to discuss Seacil because he’s my least favorite character. Pure and simply, I don’t like Seacil. He stands for every aspect of human maleness that I detest. He’s arrogant and obnoxious. He’s manipulative and self-serving. He’s weak and cowardly. In short, he’s honor-less. And yet, he’s a product of his upbringing in a male-dominated culture that overall still sees and treats women as subservient, as objects to be owned.

• How did you name your characters?

I don’t remember how I came up with the name Molly. Bobby, short for Robert, is one of my favorite male names. Seacil is a variant of the more common spelling of Cecil. I wanted a name that was unusual, memorable, yet suggested weakness, so a friend of mine asked me to “think of Cecil in gym class,” which immediately, for me, conjured the image of a 97-pound weakling. (Note: all you Cecils out there, please don’t hit me!)

• Are the characters in your books based on people you know?

I think there’s truth in the statement that it’s impossible to separate one’s writing from one’s experiences, but with the slight exception of Bobby, who’s loosely, very loosely, based on me, i.e., my own experiences, the characters are mere figments of my overactive imagination.

• Why do you think your readers are going to enjoy your book?

It’s going to reveal a world too often swept under the rug, that of abused women and combat veterans suffering from stress disorders, while simultaneously point them in the direction of the kind of hope and happiness that can only derive from love between people who simply let their partners be themselves.

• Are your characters’ experiences taken from someone you know, or events in your own life?

Bobby’s experiences are fictionalized versions of my own.

• How long did it take you to write your book?

I started Suffering Seacil in 1995 and worked on it for about four years. Then I set it aside for about four years, then came back to it for a few months, then set it aside for about four more years and came back to it again for a few months. During that time, however, I kept carving out excerpts and sending them to print and on-line journals. Three excerpts titled The Redwing BlackbirdWalls and Crossing Over were respectively published in War, Literature & the ArtsConnecticut Review, and Octopus Beak, Inc. Then, in the summer of 2012, I picked up the manuscript once more and did my final revisions over several months.

Who designed the cover?

I came up with the concept and Infinity Publishing designed the cover.

Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected? (What was it?)

Yes, I learned that it was very difficult to come up with a satisfactory ending, so I wound up with two endings. I also learned that there’s a direct relationship between abusive men and their interest in sex, particularly pornography. And I learned that abusive men are themselves often victims of abusive parents.

• How do you start writing a new book? What comes first? The characters? The story?

Typically, a single character comes first, and perhaps even a name for that character; or I get a feeling, a very strong feeling that grabs me in the gut and won’t turn loose. Then I simply let the story take me where it wants to go. Some would say the muses take over, and I would agree with that.

• Do you like to write series? Or single titles only?

Single titles only. I don’t typically like serial novels, although Lord of the Rings was exceptional. I’m a slow reader with limited time for reading. I want to get to as many stories and writers as possible and not get bogged down in some personal relationship with a specific writer and their never-ending story. Most novels early in a series don’t have satisfactory endings; they have unanswered questions and “hooks” to get readers to buy the next novel in the series. I think today’s interest in serial novels is because publishers like them. They’re a marketing ploy, one that contractually locks-in young writers (and readers) with the same publisher for life.

• Can you describe your main character in 3 words?

Seacil is intelligent, charismatic and witty.

• Can you describe your heroine in one sentence?

Molly is strong intellectually and emotionally, a professional woman and survivor of life’s hardships.

• Can you describe your hero in one sentence?

Bobby is a combat veteran and excellent male role model.

• Without giving away details, can you describe one interesting scene in your book in less than two sentences?

If it’s fewer than two sentences, that means one, so here goes – Molly blames herself for the death of a young girl she was employed to babysit, and struggles to rise above her feelings of guilt in order to reach out to the girl’s grieving mother.

• In two sentences or less can you tell readers something unique about your book?

Molly and Bobby turn to art as a form of self-therapy, she to weaving, he to writing. Her “masterpiece” suffers one fate, his another.

• List three adjectives that describe your book as a whole:

Graphic, Realistic, Metaphorical

• Where can a reader purchase your book?

Infinity Publishing Bookstore
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Through local bookstores.

• What other books are most similar to yours?

Black and Blue, maybe?

YOUR WRITING

• Who inspires you?

My wife inspires me with her work ethic, her push to accomplish something, anything, every single day, and she inspires me with her praise of my work and what I’ve accomplished through that work.

• Where do you find your ideas? Does something trigger them? Do you carry around a notebook in case inspiration strikes?

I don’t find my ideas, they find me. Often something triggers that. I used to carry a notepad, but now I type them in the Notes app on my phone.

• How do you research your books?

Typically I don’t research books; I work strictly from imagination. However, in the case of Suffering Seacil, I had to research the male abusive personality because there was nothing in my upbringing that led me to an understanding of the kind of man that could beat a woman and back-stab all those around him.

• Have you written your entire life? Have you always considered yourself a writer?

I started journal writing at a pretty early age but didn’t consider myself a writer until my first piece was published in 1996, an excerpt titled Fragments from my novel titled The Second Tour.

• Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do?

I write for therapeutic reasons. In a sense I have to write. I’m driven to it. It keeps me off the streets, out of trouble and sane. I see the creation of art (any genre of art) as a means for instilling personal pride, and as a gateway to maintaining sanity in our modern and often chaotic world.

• What is your writing process?

I’m a morning person. I do my best work then, so I start right after I’ve had my coffee, something light to eat, and have showered. It helps a lot that I have a certain workspace that’s all mine, a place free of interruptions and distractions. I set aside X-amount of time to write – say two hours – and then I just crank away. It doesn’t matter what I write, I just write. The next day, I start by reading what I wrote the day before, revising as I go. That could mean deleting everything and starting over. The third day, and so forth, I start reading from the very beginning to get into the flow, and then continue writing. At some point in the process I notice that I’m no longer revising the first 5, 10, 50 pages, whatever. That tells me I’m satisfied with that portion, so I start reading and revising from that point forward. Once I’ve finished a piece, I start over from the very beginning and go through the whole manuscript. Finally, I do one last run through looking for ways to reinforce metaphorical meaning. I’m not suggesting this would work for every fiction writer, but it works for me. As for non-fiction writing, my process is similar but includes time for research, note taking and outlining.

• If you could visit a place for research, where would it be?

The Library of Congress.

• Where do you want to go with your writing career? Where do you see your writing career in five years?

I’ll be surprised if I’m still a writer in five years. My guess is I’ll be an author at that time.

• What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.

I don’t like to talk about or show works in progress for fear they might get jinxed or wind up incomplete.

• What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?

I think every writer should give traditional publishing their best shot. After say, six months’ or a year’s worth of rejection followed by serious and honest introspection about the value of one’s work, I recommend going the self-publishing route.

• If you were told your stories were unbelievable and not written very well, would you continue to write? What would your response be?

I would continue to write because that’s what I do and who I am, but I would look closely at who said exactly what to me about my writing, and investigate whether that assessment was based in fact. If I agreed that it was, then I’d look at the possibility of enrolling in literature classes (not writing seminars). I believe our best writers are first and foremost excellent readers. They’ve studied the works of those who’ve preceded them. They don’t sit in seminars studying formulaic forms of writing. They don’t go to college to learn how to write, they go to learn how to read.

• Would you ever consider converting one of your stories/published books into a screenplay? And if you could corroborate with someone, who would it be?

Yes, I would consider it but wouldn’t have a clue who to corroborate with.

• Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

My mother, my high school English teacher and several college professors inspired me to write.

• While writing how many times do you go back and rewrite a plot?

I have a degree in English Literature and have worked as a technical writer/editor, so I have a pretty good understanding of the importance revision plays in the writing process. In other words, I revise as many times as it takes to bring the story to my level of acceptance.

• Which do you prefer to write – full length novels or short stories?

I used to prefer novels, then short stories, then flash fiction, now poetry. I think something to do with aging has led to a drop in my attention span, and that has led me to appreciate shorter and shorter works.

• Do you have a specific writing style?

Yes, my style is a form of stream of consciousness. I strive to find that mysterious interface between form and function, between the structure of a piece and its message. I try to read that way, too.

• What are your strengths as a writer?

I think I am best at creating realistic action-packed scenes. I don’t get bogged down in detailed descriptions of setting. I’m much more interested in who’s doing what and why.

YOUR PERSONAL LIFE

Where did you grow up? How did your hometown (or other places you have lived) inspire your writing?

I was born in Oklahoma but raised in upstate New York. There’s a lot of Revolutionary War history in that part of the US. It’s also beautiful, with mountains, woods, swamps, lakes, canals and rivers. And it’s familiar territory, so I used it as the backdrop for Suffering Seacil.

But I also recognize that I “grew up” in Vietnam as a young, dumb, low-level combat Marine. War taught me everything I know about the human condition, revealing to me everything from the ultimate altruism to the ultimate evil, the stuff from which great literature is born.

• Do you like to travel? If so where is your favorite city?

I like to travel by car, and have crisscrossed every state but Maine and Hawaii. I hope to do Maine this year. My favorite city is probably San Diego, followed by Washington D.C., but to be truthful, I’m not crazy about cities – I like country.

• What is your favorite food? Do you have a favorite restaurant you’d recommend if we ever visit your city?

I like seafood best, and recommend Twin Owl’s Steakhouse if you find yourself in my neck of the woods.

• Does your family support you in your writing career? How?

Absolutely! My wife is my biggest fan and never tires of telling me so . And even though I don’t make a profit from my work, she always urges me to press on.

• When you go into a bookstore, where do you go first?

I head straight for the fiction section or military section first, then wander over to wherever the best sellers are. After that, I usually head to the writing section.

• How many books in a month do you read?

I read one to two books per month, usually at the same time.

• What are you currently reading?

I’m nearly through reading Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain, and The Liberator, by Alex Kershaw. I’ve also just begun Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.

• What is the best book you’ve read?

Hands down, Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy, is the best work of fiction I’ve ever read. I think it’s a masterpiece, and I think McCarthy’s mastery of the English language puts the rest of us to shame.

• What is your favorite genre?

Without a doubt I like fiction best but often venture into so-called nonfiction. Within fiction, I gravitate toward literary fiction, particularly realistic fiction. I’m also now into what I call antagonistic fiction, a subgenre within which Suffering Seacil falls. Antagonistic fiction are stories in which the main character is the antagonist. I don’t like to be merely entertained by what I read; I like to be taught something new (through metaphor) about the human condition.

• State 5 random facts about yourself.

I am male. I am Italian-American. I am a Vietnam Veteran. I am a writer. I am old.

• If you had to choose, which writer would you like to have mentor you?

William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy would be in the running, but I think I would have to pick Faulkner for my mentor because I would absolutely not want to change my writing style, which most closely matches his.

• What books or authors have most influenced your life?

Thoreau’s Cape Cod, Hawthorn’s The Scarlet Letter, Melville’s Moby Dick, Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.

• In all the books you’ve read. Who is your most favorite character and why?

Jewel in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, because he’s the only sane character in the novel, the only one that makes any sense, and yet he winds up in an asylum.

• When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

Reading, Golfing, Cooking.

• If there were one wish you could ask the genie in the bottle to grant, what would it be?

Assuming my answer should be writing-related, I would wish for this: that I could make more money from my writing than I’ve spent on it, including my time factored in at say $25/hour and grandfathered in all the way back to 1984 when I first starting writing in earnest.

• Have you ever sat and just watched the people go by?

Every chance I get. Fiction writers have to be people watchers and listeners. It’s a major part of our job description.

 

2) Spintinglers Publishing Interview (2008): The Second Tour

Have you seen or read any other work that represents Vietnam as you experienced it?

Terry P. Rizzuti: I think the one book that represents the Vietnam War the way I experienced it is Michael Herr’s Dispatches. The one movie that comes closest is Platoon, although I really like The Deer Hunter, especially from a literary perspective, and from pre- and post-war perspectives.

Was there any patriotism or did everybody become cynical about the war?

Terry P. Rizzuti: I think there was a lot of patriotism during the early years of the war that continued throughout small-town America and military families for the remainder of the war, but I think the majority of America turned against the war by early 1968 and became extremely cynical by 1969.

Have you, or do you want to, visit Vietnam again?

Terry P. Rizzuti: I have never visited Vietnam since the war, and have no intention to ever do so. However, if someone were to provide me a free opportunity to visit some of my old “stomping grounds” there, I’d have to give that some careful consideration.

Do you regret having signed up to go to Vietnam?

Terry P. Rizzuti: No, never. Although it was a horrendous experience, it shaped me into the person I am today. It’s hard to imagine myself as any other personality. Somehow I managed to survive an ordeal that the average American can’t even begin to cope with. I’m very proud to have been a combat Marine during a war that few people understood or care to understand. Not very many people, particularly Americans, could withstand the living conditions and terror of such an ordeal. Additionally, the war provided me a wealth of material that sparked the energy required to become a novelist. An interesting result of my having written about my Vietnam experience is the effect the writing has had on my life. I still reflect on the original incidents, but what happens a lot more often now is that I reflect upon the book and other works of mine, i.e., the way I’ve described the incidents, and ways to describe them “better.” I’m not sure what this means, except that writing about the experience has added a fictional layer between me and the actual war experience. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it’s much more fun than experiencing “real” flashbacks like I used to.

How has your Vietnam experience affected you in your daily life?

Terry P. Rizzuti: In several ways I’m a better person for having served in the war. I usually stand up well under pressure. I have a tremendous will to live and the self confidence to survive. I have a great deal of respect for blue-collar workers, the lower class and minority groups. I am very introspective, with deep insight into issues of good and evil and the capacity for both that exists within each individual. I have a good understanding of fear, terror, heroism and cowardice. I have strong leadership and managerial skills, coupled with a laid-back attitude, timidity and humbleness. I attribute all of this and more to my Vietnam War experience.

All that said, however, I’m very ashamed about certain incidents involving the breakdown of my moral character. Additionally, I lost my outgoing personality. I lost an appreciation for rain and physical fitness. I lost trust in organizations and institutions. I lost trust in my ability to verbally and constructively communicate anger or frustration for fear of becoming mad to the point of violence. I lost the ability to party, to have fun. I don’t concentrate well at all, largely due to what seems like memory problems. I lost faith (in the Christian sense). I lost a good portion of my hearing in Vietnam, which interferes with everything I do. I have very little patience with things I consider petty, even though they may not seem petty to others. I lost interest and drive and enjoyment. I lost respect for authority at just about all levels. I have a hard time turning my back on Asians, even though I’m about as far from racist as you can get. On top of everything, I have a tremendous sense of paranoia. There was a time when I thought I was crazy, but I have come to know that this isn’t so, and that much of the time I can laugh at myself and these things I’ve described. But each problem is a direct result of my war experience, and together they have become aspects of my life requiring constant attention and control.

Who has influenced you stylistically and why?

Terry P. Rizzuti: William Faulkner was probably the greatest influence on my style. His novel As I Lay Dying was a real eye opener for me when I read it in the 1970’s. The whole notion that you could tell a story non-linearly and from different points of view was something I had never previously encountered.

How would you describe your novel The Second Tour?

The Second Tour is a literary novel written in the Modernist tradition that explores the full range of the human condition, everything from the ultimate altruism (guys charging machine gun nests to save their buddies) to the ultimate evil (guys killing innocents because they enjoy it). It’s a story about a two- or three-year-old Vietnamese girl whose murder haunts the narrator for the rest of his life. And it’s a story about that narrator, a low-level Marine, about his descent into spiritual darkness and his life-long struggle to regain some semblance of a meaningful life.

What would you say to soldiers going to Iraq and Afghanistan today?

Terry P. Rizzuti: I would say “Thank you very much for doing what you’re doing.” I would say “Keep a journal, write lots of letters home (real letters, not email) and ask the recipients to save them for you.” I would say “If you have any medical problems, be sure to get them documented, and get copies of the records.” And I would say “Please come home alive.”

3) Independent Author Showcase Podcast Interview w/Danek Kaus (2013): The Second Tour

I was interviewed Mar 15th, 2013, about my novel The Second Tour by audio host Danek Kaus for his Independent Authors Showcase. If you could still click on their link, you could listen to the short audio podcast, and hear me trip over my tongue now and again.

4) BlogTalkRadio, Radio Interview w/Ms. Phyllis Zimbler-Miller (2009): The Second Tour

I was interviewed regarding my novel, The Second Tour, on the BlogTalkRadio program Your Military Life by Ms. Phyllis Zimbler-Miller on 11/4/2009. It was a taped program.

Excerpts From Terry's Works


TERRY’S PERSONALLY SELECTED EXCERPTS

 

1) From Suffering Seacil: For Better or For Worse, by Terry Rizzuti

Excerpt From Chapter 1:

Seacil was born to third-generation German parents, Butch and Yolanda Mallard, and grew up in a dilapidated two-story on what had once been the family dairy farm. Poor business decisions and alcoholism had long ago driven Butch into near bankruptcy, but eventually he found and maintained menial labor in town at Revere Copper & Brass. Yolanda named their son Seacil mostly to get back at Butch for their financial difficulties, but also because Butch had landed himself in the hospital the very night she had given birth, January 11, 1952.

Yolanda laid there in bed squirming against propped pillows, her hair done up in something resembling a deserted beehive. Drugged out and barely awake, she was trying to respond to the nurse’s question “How do you spell that, Mrs. Mallard?”

Thinking “Seacil,” would stand out better on paper, Yolanda chose the variant spelling for the birth certificate. Butch wanted his son called something masculine like LeeRoy, Max or, better yet, Butch Jr., but Yolanda figured “to hell with you, buster, knockin’ me up and then seeing to it that you’re not even here to help out with the pain. I ain’t namin’ him no LeeRoy nor Max, and certainly not Butch Jr. I’m namin’ him Seacil, by God.”

Of course, mean as Butch was, Yolanda never said this to his face. Instead, “I like the name Seacil,” she said, “it’s different, distinctive even. He’ll grow up to be a doctor or something.” “Brother,” Butch mumbled, exasperated, “you’re such a yo-yo,” to which Yolanda, hearing only the word “brother,” replied “No more kids, Butch, not now, not ever.” So Seacil was an only child, but hardly what you might call one of a kind.

Some wondered how Butch wound up in the hospital that Friday night Seacil was born. Truth is, he had rushed Yolanda to the hospital, and then to calm his butterflies, had rushed right out to enjoy a beer or three with a couple of World War II buddies he knew would be hanging out at Coal Yard Charlie’s down by the tracks. He walked in the bar wearing baggy pants and work boots, his untucked shirttail flapping in back as he walked. His brushcut was slicked down almost flat with fresh hair cream.

During his fourth beer, a knife fight broke out between two mean-lookin’ women. Butch, being a self-proclaimed ladies man, stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and wound up staggering out of the bar wearing nothing below his shirt except a whole bunch of blood. The knife that got him was so sharp it had cut clear up from the inside of his right thigh, to and through his narrow web belt and across the button at the top of his fly, dropping his pants and skivvies down around his ankles. His big Revere Copper & Brass belt buckle clunked loud as a door knocker against the concrete, calling everyone’s attention to the fact that he wasn’t wearing anything below the waist, although they probably would have noticed anyway since his thighs and buttocks displayed several strategically placed tattoos of naked women. It would have actually been funny had he not hit the pavement so darn near dead.

Butch started flashbacking immediately, thinking it was D-Day or something, flailing his arms at shadows and yelling “Krauts in the wire, Krauts in the wire,” at the tops of his lungs. The paramedics had to shoot him up good with a tranquilizer before they could get him settled and into the ambulance. Butch swore he’d kill them all as soon as he got back from the rear, “ever muther one a ya,” as he put it.

Yolanda figured that without a father any smarter than Butch, life was gonna be tough on the little tike so she wanted Seacil to learn early on how to take care of himself. She understood the importance of names, and knew the other boys would laugh and call him Sissy Seacil or something similar. She hoped to force him to fight back tooth ‘n nail. Seacil cowered in fear, instead, and by fifth grade had established himself as pretty much scared of his own shadow, so much so that he sometimes took to throwing up when facing fear. The kids laughed and called him Seasick all through grade school. Yolanda didn’t exactly boost his self-confidence by sending him mixed signals, sometimes swattin’ him upside the head, sometimes mothering him to death.

“I’m gonna swat you upside the head,” she’d say, “you don’t gitcher ass over here!”

“But Yolanda, I’m in a hurry.”

“Don’t talk back to me thataway,” and she’d cuff him upside the head.

“Yolanda,” he’d whine, holding his ear, “you’ll be sorry you did that. I’ll get you someday.”

“Oh come here, Seacil,” she’d coax, “you’re such a pain,” and she’d smother him up with a broad sweep of her arms and hold him there pressed against the cleavage of her big chest until Seacil thought he would somehow have to scream himself free or pass out from the odor of day-old sweat mixed with stale perfume. He’d have to scream himself silly, is what usually happened, the muffled vibrations sending sexual signals coursing through Yolanda’s body until the sweat beaded up on her forehead and ran down her face like tears.

To Yolanda, the apron strings between herself and Seacil were a logical replacement for the umbilical cord that should never have been severed in the first place. Butch sensed this and was angry, for it reduced him to number two male in his own home, so his anger found expression in such abusive phrases as calling Seacil a worthless sack of shit at every opportunity.

“You’re a worthless sack a shit, boy, just like your mother. You’ll never amount to a goddam thing, probably just some low-life queer.”

“Don’t say that, Dad, I’d never say anything like that about you.”

 

2) Excerpts From THE SECOND TOUR, by Terry Rizzuti

From throughout the novel:

Hill 602 took three lives the first time. Took Tommy Baker’s lower jaw too. I couldn’t look him in the eyes that saw so clearly through all of us to the horror we saw in his mangled face. No teeth bestowed upon him the look of a man made wizened with age.

__________

It was a round between the eyes, I think, because as I yelled in his face, it disappeared, replaced with a blood geyser and the sound of a .41 millimeter. His legs slid apart slowly at first, then crumbled in the true Cartesian split.

__________

Rootie! Rootie! Come closer Rootie.

I’m here, Benjie, I’m here, I said, clasping his hand on my arm.

Help me Rootie, my legs won’t move.

Aw Benjie, it’ll be okay Benj, I’ll give you mine.

__________

Our voices turned to whispers and our countenances to shame. We left as murderers, our tails between our legs, but it would happen again, inevitably, and each will take his memories to the grave. Life’s a bitch — and then you die.

__________

It was December, and I was thinking about how miserable Christmas was going to be. The air was cold, my teeth were chattering, the chow sucked. Chow? C-ration leftovers from World War II. The issue date on my box was 1944. This was 1966. We were smoking twenty-year-old cigarettes. Eatin’ meals older than we were.

__________

A foreboding shiver skittered the length of my backside, suddenly, from the top of my shoulders to the base of my spine. Scared, I dropped to one knee followed by the seven others behind me and began surveying my senses. Couldn’t hardly see a thing. Only the rain made sound, splashing off wet leaves. The familiar but rank body odor rose from deep inside my flak jacket and hovered about lip level, a smell not unlike musty mothballs mixed with mentholated sweat. I took a deep breath, sucking in the combined faint odor of burning leaves and betel juice.

__________

Her smile vanished, displaced by fear, more fear than she’d probably ever known in her life. It was my turn to smile then, and I took advantage of the power laughter has over weakness. The 26th Marines took heavy casualties at Khe Sanh during Tet in January 1968, and I wasn’t there to help them, but I’d be damned if I’d lose this war on the home front. I let out an evil laugh and stepped lively into the rain. It’s so easy to be a hero, I thought, when your weapons are loaded with blanks.

__________

She was stomping her foot, prancing like a white mare. Her mouth was moving. She was saying something urgent, lots of something urgents. I could sense that much. But nothing seemed urgent anymore. You wanna know what it was like? I thought. Huh? I’ll tell you what it was like. Nam wasn’t real. Not when I was there. Now it’s real. Now I can think about things like why we were there, what we were trying to prove to ourselves, why we did some of the things we did. I have time now to sort back through it all: the dead, the dying, the barbarism, the atrocity, through everything I can remember to help make sense of it.

__________

His name was John Blue and he had a chip on his shoulder — in fact, he once told me he’d rather fight than fuck. I believed him, yet there he was looking as though someone had stomped his ass bad. I couldn’t imagine that ever happening. Blue was a twenty-five-year-old full-blood reservation-raised Blackfoot who hated people, but for some reason liked me. All he said, practically without even stopping to say hello, was If you’re ever driving so drunk you see three bridges up ahead, don’t take the one in the middle.

__________

Nine men’s not enough, said Wiskey, never looking up from cleaning the big gun. I looked at him curiously, wondering what motivated him to say that. C-More looked at him funny, too, and sensed he was losing control of the squad. Square away, he said. You dudes call yourselves Marines or Swabbies? We owe ‘em. We owe all the others, like JB and Bursar and Seldom and Benjie and Lugar. Remember Lugar, Rootie, remember man? They blew the back of his goddamn head off. Stuffed his balls in his mouth and then sewed it shut. Remember man? Them muthers hung him by the thumbs from a fuckin’ tree.

__________

C-More screamed CHARGE suddenly and the whole squad moved out quickly, zigging and zagging and diving in holes and behind trees, spraying the area like fire fighters, chunks of lead and M-79 rounds exploding on impact. I leapt up too, then fell back down, jerked by Benjie’s tight hand on my arm. I looked at his swollen face, watched it turn ashen and then bluish purple as he held his breath fighting the pain and the inevitable, his whole head bloating out, then caving in quickly as his breath rushed out loud. Tears shot out my eyes I remember, rocking back on my heels looking straight up. Arrrrrrrr…… I clenched and screamed, but the wind swept the sounds to the mere decibels of silence.

__________

Charles Stricklyn is dead. With him are Watson, Wiskey, and Murphy. Everyone asks “Why Rizzuti? Someone upstairs must like him. But why him?” I don’t know why but I’ve got to know. Something’s got to tell me. I say something cause nothing human can tell me. The guys all think I lead some kind of charmed life. They hang around me like I’m a lucky piece, a Saint Christopher medal or something. Can you believe that? People are dying all around me, and these dudes think I’m lucky. It’s raining outside this leaky tent; artillery is firing and enemy mortar rounds are splashing in the mud. Why don’t I take cover? Cause I don’t give a damn. I don’t give a damn about anything. It just don’t mean nothin’ no more.

__________

I moved toward the front, one step at a time, slowly past staring eyes as frightened as my own, then froze solid again as Baker’s and mine locked in instantaneous telepathy. I looked away quickly, but not before registering one life-lasting color photo of his mutilated face, torn off from the nose down, shredded flesh oozing blood and saliva, dripping like melting cherry icicles, splattering off his flak jacket and boots, his eyes wild and glossy like someone speaking in tongues, his arms and shoulders limp, his hands wringing frantically at rosary beads, his sunken life’s essence hurling toward total completion — He knew it — I knew it — God knew it — everyone and everything abandoning him on this, the afternoon of his supreme and inevitable day.

__________

McKlusky, plastered, was funnier than shit as usual. Six foot seven, about 240 pounds, he looked like a genetic throwback to more primitive times, the kind of guy who’d wipe his ass on a tree trunk if he didn’t have no toilet paper, just back right up to it and rub up and down on the bark.

__________

She hadn’t looked back. I moved my eyes toward the window as their shadow passed by and then parted my lips. I opened my mouth to yell, to call her back, to tell her what Nam was like, but no sound came out, only a tremble and then a tear and then several tears and then convulsions followed by silence and that haunting single thought I’m alone again, I’ll always be alone. I know now it could never have worked out. I think I knew then I’d never see them again.

__________

I’ve come so far. To have it all end my last two months seems so meaningless — so much in vain. I can’t die now; it doesn’t make sense; I’ve got too many things to do. And yet death looks so close. It’s staring us all in the face like so many clouds. I can’t stand it. Everybody else is so new. Half of them have never even been shot at. They’re all boots, boots! Do you know what that means? It means they’re all gonna be looking for me to tell them what to do, to show them. I can’t show them, not anymore. I can’t show them without becoming some sort of John Wayne. And yet if I don’t they’ll think I’m a coward. I’m not a coward, but it’s time to play safe. It’s time to come home, but they’re all so innocent. They haven’t even lost their baby fat yet. I can’t let them down. I just can’t.

__________

It was important to us in Nam to always be men, to be brave no matter the cost. One of the most difficult things we faced was tight-rope walking that delicate ground between caution and cowardice. NOBODY wanted to be a coward, yet nearly everyone wanted to stay alive without having to be too brave either. It wasn’t enough to just keep going; courage couldn’t be found in the mere act of putting one foot in front of the other. Difficult as that was, we never really felt like we had any choice. And some things were just so intrinsically expected of you, like going out under fire after the dead or wounded; doing them didn’t make you a hero even though not doing them made you a coward.

__________

Another problem was that fine line that separates fear from rage. Sometimes fear rose to such uncontrollable, such unbelievable levels, suppression and sublimation only succeeded in converting it to anger — anger at your own blindness for placing yourself in such a predicament in the first place; anger at your country’s Madison Avenue sales approach to the military lifestyle; anger at the gung-ho lifers who don’t give a shit about anything except their own career advancements; and anger at the Viet Cong for providing what seems at the time like the only legitimate means of dissipating that rage. By the time I was down to EIGHTY DAYS I lived seconds away from a breakdown I felt certain was coming.

__________

Raven had his M-79 tucked up under his right arm like a shotgun. His .45 was in his left hand. He charged that .51 caliber nest Chesty Puller reincarnated, John Wayne himself, blooping and blasting and reloading one-handed like nobody and nothing I’d ever seen. His eyes were huge and bulging out like they’d pop any second, his mouth spread tight and wide, his teeth bared, his throat growling and gurgling and spitting and all the time alternately firing the .45 and the M-79.

Terry Toots His Horn



This is the place where I toot my horn. Well, I guess the whole website is, but this is my out-basket, my catch-all page, a place where I toot about accomplishments, awards, memberships and speaking engagements. (Headings are in alphabetical order; items are most-recent first.)

Accomplishments:

1) I had the good fortune and pleasure in 2017 of having my novel, The Second Tour, adopted by Dr. Claudia Hauer, distinguished visiting professor, English & Fine Arts department, for an English 411 class focused on the moral and intellectual aspects of war.

2) I had the good fortune and pleasure of having my novel, The Second Tour, adopted by Dr. Marshall W. Alcorn, Jr., professor of English, and director of Undergraduate Studies, at George Washington University in Washington, DC, for use in the 2012 fall semester in his graduate course titled English 4040: Honors Seminar. English 4040 is an Honors Seminar course open only to first-semester senior honors candidates in English literature. The course is designed to provide exceptional students in the major with opportunities to study literature, literary theory, and cultural criticism in a two-semester seminar format that culminates in a final Honors thesis written in consultation with faculty advisers. The program is particularly committed to developing thinking, writing, and research skills for students wishing to pursue graduate work in English or pursue other professional fields such as law or medicine. Beginning in the first semester of their senior year, Honors students take a sequence of two courses — English 4040 and 4250. Both seminars are writing-intensive; the first, English 4040, assists students in formulating plans for the thesis. In English 4250, students work directly with their advisors and finish their honors thesis by the end of the second semester of the senior year.

3) I had the good fortune and pleasure of having my novel, The Second Tour, adopted by the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute in Washington, D.C., a program of the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. This adoption was for a “study group” and on-going class titled Psychoanalytic Perspective on Literature in their advanced curriculum program. The class was led by Dr. Robert Winer; however, Dr. Marshall Alcorn, professor of English at George Washington University, was responsible for teaching The Second Tour. The course explores psychoanalytic perspectives on fiction, considering both what the analyst can learn about the human condition from the author and the understandings that psychoanalysis can bring to the text.

4) In 2012 I had the good pleasure of learning that a book review of The Second Tour was written by Mr. Joseph Yurt for Reader Views and posted on the Blog Critics website.

5) In 2011 I was invited to participate in war games at Fort Carson with U.S. Air Force Academy cadets being introduced to counterinsurgency tactics. I played the duo role of an Afghanistan tribal Police Chief and Omam. We made the news on the official Air Force website. (Click here for the article.) I’m the “Afghani” police chief in the background, second from right.

6) I had the good fortune and pleasure in both 2010 and 2011 of having my novel, The Second Tour, adopted by Dr. Peter Berres, professor of Political Science at the University of Kentucky, for use in an interdisciplinary course titled Vietnam: The Interplay of War & Culture. The course was offered in the University’s Discovery Seminar Program, a premier offering for undergraduate students along with the Honors Program.

7) I had the good fortune of having my short story Willis taught during the spring semester of 2010 by Dr. Byron Plumley in his class titled Foundations of Peace and Justice. Dr. Plumley is the Coordinator of Justice Education and the Director of the Peace and Justice Studies program at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. His class conducts personal interviews with homeless veterans. Willis, a story about the special relationship between a homeless Vietnam Vet and a police officer, can be found in my book Heads or Tales.

8) I had the good fortune to be videotaped and interviewed by The Center for the Study of War Experience at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, on October 14, 2010. The Center interviewed me about my life prior to and including my involvement in the Vietnam War as a low-level combat Marine, and about my post-war adjustment. The interview went very well and is available on-line here.

9) I had the good fortune in 2009 of receiving a personal heart-felt review of my novel The Second Tour from Mike Mullins by email, vice-president of the Military Writers Society of America. His “less than formal” review for the MWSA can be found below:

Rizzuti has pissed me off with his book.  He has brought back memories.  Although I have not had as bad a war experience as he had I had enough to know what he is feeling and remembering.  And what he cannot get over.  Whether you held someone while he died one hundred times or once, it is always the same. There is no difference.  Dead is dead.  Holding them, looking into their eyes, hearing their final words…or noises as the case may be…it is something you carry forever; it is the same.  Even if you buried the memories, every now and again something comes along that uncovers the grave.  Then the bones in the closet rattle and you open the door to the past.  The memories echo and you hear it all again.  Yes, Rizzuti pissed me off and in the final analysis there may be no better way to evaluate his book than to say that.

Michael D. “Moon” Mullins, author of Vietnam in Verse, poetry for beer drinkers.

10) I had the good fortune of having my novel The Second Tour chosen Best Book For 2008 by Reader’s Choice Reviews. The review itself was written by William R. Potter.

11) In 2008 I had the honor of having my novel, The Second Tour, awarded 5*’s on Amazon by reviewer Richard N. Larsen at Midwest Book Review. This was huge! MBR is one of the top reviewers in the country and one of few to give consideration to self-published books. At the time, MBR received 50 books per day between Monday and Saturday. Half were assigned to reviewers, but only one-third were actually chosen for review.

Awards:

1) On November 9, 2017, I had the honor of being selected the Katie Speer Philanthropist of the Year, a prestigious Estes Park, Colorado, award.

2) In 1977, I was awarded the University of Oklahoma Vernon L. Parrington Prize Winner, a writing award for my paper titled “Traces of Poe in Whitman.”

3) I have several military awards from having served in the Marine Corps between the years 1966 and 1970, including: Purple Heart; Combat Action Ribbon; Presidential Unit Commendation Ribbon; Vietnam Campaign Medal; Vietnam Service Medal; 2 Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citations (Gallantry Cross Medal and Civic Actions Medal); Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal.

Memberships:

I am a Life Member of The Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, The Disabled American Veterans, and the Khe Sanh Veterans Association. I am also a member of Flinch Forward, and the 26th Marines Association.

I served on the board of directors for the University of Oklahoma’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial Scholarship Association from 1985 – 1996).

Speaking Engagements:

1) It was through good fortune that my novel The Second Tour was adopted in 2017 by Dr. Claudia Hauer for a core curriculum course titled Language, Literature & Leadership at the US Air Force Academy and was invited to speak to her classes. Dr. Hauer was a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Academy’s English & Fine Arts department. Her background is in the Classics.

2) I’ve had the honor and pleasure of having my novel, The Second Tour, taught at Regis University each spring semester between 2012 and 2019 as part of their Stories From Wartime seminar offered through The Center for the Study of War Experience. The class is an honors course and features guest speakers every week who recount their war experiences and how their lives have been impacted. I was one of the Vietnam War Panel speakers. The class is taught by History professors. Local radio host Rick Crandall serves as moderator. I am particularly honored that my novel has been included among the following typical fine texts, as well as others:

Bao Ninh, The Sorrow of War; Andrew Carroll, Operation Homecoming; Dexter Filkins, The Forever War; Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning; Samuel Hynes, The Soldiers’ Tale; Alex Kershaw, The Bedford Boys; Phil Clay, redeployment; Karl Marlantes, What it is Like to Go to War; George Mosse, Fallen Soldiers; Helen Thorpe, Soldier Girls; Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried; Terry P. Rizzuti, The Second Tour

3) It was through good fortune that my novel The Second Tour was adopted each year from 2009 through 2014 and 2019 by Professor Wilbur J. Scott for a behavioral sciences course he taught titled Military & Society, and that each year I was invited to speak to his classes. Dr. Scott is a highly-decorated Vietnam Veteran and author of Vietnam Veterans Since The War. He structured the course into four parts and used my novel in Part 4, called “Aftermath.” This made me feel especially good because it meant the book was effective as a primer in the study of PTSD. It’s not often that you see novels used in college-level behavioral sciences courses. The following is a not-very-untypical comment from one of the cadets:

“Rizzuti superimposes his thoughts into the reader’s. The reader is not “reading” anymore. He is living them out; this is the difference between producing music and being music. Rizzuti doesn’t produce these ideas, he is them.”

4) I had the honor and good fortune of being asked to speak at our local Estes Valley Memorial cemetery in Estes Park, Colorado, on Memorial Day, May 27, 2013 and again in 2018. My keynote address titled Memorial Day Remarks and Reflections can be accessed in the Nonfiction section of this website.

5) I had the good fortune of being asked to speak at our local Rotary Club in Estes Park, Colorado, on January 10, 2013. My “invitation sponsor” asked that I address my time in the military, emphasizing my experience in Vietnam, and writing a novel about that experience, The Second Tour: Soul Injury.

6) I had the good fortune of speaking to a literature seminar at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on February 21, 2012. The course was titled Literature and Medicine and was taught by Dr. Marshall Alcorn, professor of English and director of undergraduate studies. I talked about my Vietnam War novel, The Second Tour, which was assigned to the class and compared with Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. My background is in English literature and I have read these other works, which I place in high esteem. I read The Heart of Darkness for a lit class my freshman year in 1970, got an A on my paper and was called into the professor’s office to discuss it. He was impressed with the paper because no one before me had compared The Heart of Darkness to one’s war experience. In 1979, Apocalypse Now was released, a Vietnam War film that uses The Heart of Darkness as its metaphorical backdrop. The Things They Carried is the Vietnam War novel against which all Vietnam War novels are measured. It was interesting to see how The Second Tour stacked up.

My background is in English literature so it felt a lot like being back in school. The students were bright, fully engaged and had obviously read and internalized the material. All in all, I thought the event was a huge success. In fact, the whole experience was an absolute honor for me personally, as well as a tremendous opportunity. It marked the first time I was welcomed into a speaking engagement as a writer, first and foremost, and then secondly as a veteran. That felt really good. I think The Second Tour was launched that day about as well as can be expected for a self-published novel, so I disengaged from it somewhat afterwards and have allowed it to sink or swim on its own. And that’s a good thing.

7) I had the honor of speaking to a history class at Regis University in Denver, Colorado on October 14, 2010. The course was titled The Cold War, taught by professors Dan Clayton and Nathan Matlock. I talked about my childhood during the 1950’s, including my memories of Cold War events such as “nuclear attack fall out drills” in grade school. I also talked about the effects of the Russian space launch of Sputnik in 1957 on the American conscious. And I talked about events leading up to and including my involvement in the Vietnam War, as well as about my writing of those experiences. I believe, based on feedback from the students and professors, that the talk went very well and may lead to other similar opportunities.

8) I had the good fortune of presenting a paper, Current Warfare: A Vietnam Connection, at the 2010 War Literature and Arts Conference. The theme of the conference was Representation and Reporting of America’s Wars: 1990 – Present. The conference was held September 16 – 18, 2010, and hosted by the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Department of English & Fine Arts. This was a tremendous opportunity for me personally, and for my book The Second Tour. The conference was a huge success. Several of the nation’s most gifted and talented story tellers, poets, novelists, photographers and film makers assembled before large and small audiences of students, faculty and other professionals. I can honestly say it was a one-of-a-kind conference, and an incredibly exhilarating, inspiring and humbling experience. I highly recommend this conference for anyone even remotely interested in the subject of war and its effects on individuals and cultures. I presented my paper to an audience of about 25 participants and received a considerable amount of positive feedback.

9) I had the honor of participating at the Twentieth Century Warfare and American Memory Symposium on November 13th & 14th, 2009, in Denver, Colorado. The event was hosted by Regis University’s Center for the Study of War Experience, and was co-hosted by Fort Hays State University and War, Literature & the Arts, an academic journal produced by the English Department at the U.S. Air Force Academy. I was one of the speakers on The Vietnam War and Memory panel.

Other

On February 2, 2018, I had the honor of debuting on our local TV Channel 8 in a video titled Our Town Unfiltered, American Legion Post 119: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x5CDYYOHQE

On April 12, 2014, I had the privilege of joining 58 other Colorado writers at the 2014 Longmont Library Festival in Longmont, Colorado. Each of us was invited to set up a booth and display/sell our books.

On April 20, 2013, I had the privilege of joining 53 other Colorado writers at the 2013 Longmont Library Festival in Longmont, Colorado. Each of us was invited to set up a booth and display/sell our books.

Terry's Blog


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