We have another published author in our midst. Betsy Reese Grant has written a loving tribute to her late husband, Vernon Grant, a talented cartoonist and humanitarian. "The Adventures of Point-man Palmer in Vietnam" is part biography and part cartoons, showcasing his talent in capturing the human aspects of war in a gentle, witty way.
I wondered who a point-man is in war and found out it is the soldier who leads a squad, usually of eight men. It is the most dangerous position, the person attacked and often killed first. The position is rotated. Vernon, in his cartoons does not emphasize the grime and grit of war as did Bill Mauldin in World War II, nor does he criticize our involvement in Vietnam as did Gary Trudeau and Heb Block, instead he creates with comic relief, the grunt, who deals with the danger of combat and the daily tedium of army life.
A series of cartoons, for example, deal with the need for radios for foot soldiers. These Vernon sent to the general who was the Commander in Chief of Strike Command. He responded by saying he looked through the “brochure several times, each time with a chuckle.” My favorite cartoon is in “Grant’s Grunts.” A Vietnamese soldier aims a handgun at a tank in position to fire. “All right, you in the tank, come out with your hands up.”
The biography that Betsy reveals is of the man who was her best friend, and whom she loved because of “his modesty, integrity, wisdom and generous and loving heart.” She tells of his joining the army at the age of 23 in 1958 “to gain secure employment, serve his country and travel the world.” He served for 10 years, being invited to Officers Training School even though he was not a college graduate. This was contrary to what was then accepted. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the infantry and rose to the rank of Captain.
All the while he was drawing cartoons, many of which were published in Stars and Stripes and in his OCS Classbook. In 1968 he published three books about army life and one about Japan, which Stars and Stripes assisted in shipping to soldiers and to military bases throughout Southeast Asia.
Vernon finally did go to college and received his undergraduate degree at Sophia University in Tokyo where he and Betsy met. He loved to run and convinced Betsy she needed to learn to run in case of an earthquake. Their love of running continued after they returned state-side to Cambridge, Massachusetts. They entered many Boston Marathons as well as other competitive races. Vernon ran his 33 and last Boston Marathon at the age of 61.
Betsy tells of Cambridge being a good place for a racially mixed couple to live. Their experiences there were mostly peaceful, although they were ever mindful of possible rejection.
The book, besides containing a complete biography of Vernon and of Betsy and their relationship, also includes many photographs and some writing by Vernon. The last portion of the book contains single panel cartoons from 1969 in "Stand by One" and introduces the reader to point-man Palmer who is a short, bespectacled private who has an invisible girl friend, Paula Pepermint.
Having read the book and enjoyed the cartoons, I think I would have liked Vernon Grant. I am glad that Betsy introduces us to him, and I know that you will like him too.
Betsy will have a signing at the Kilbourn Library on Tuesday, Nov. 18, from 5:30 -7:30 p.m. Books will be discounted for this signing to $14.35. For those who have served in the military the price will be $12.75. Refreshments will be served.
Gisela R. Hamm, Friend of the Kilbourn Public Library