Empty Branch by Marilyn Weisenburg

Empty Branch, Finding Hope Through Lament by Marilyn Weisenburg; 2017; $17.99; 270 pages; Credo House Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI;978-1-625860-79-8; purchased from the author at a signing;10/1/17-10/3/17

Why did I read this?  Marilyn is a good friend and we were on the edges of what was going on.

The week before I read this I was visiting with the author’s son and he told me that I was going to cry reading this.  He was right I didn’t make it to the second page before I couldn’t breathe because I was crying so much.  This is a story of unimaginable loss, as Marilyn and Jim’s son David was killed in Iraq on September 13, 2004.  This is the story of how Marilyn, her family and friends leaned on the arms of their eternal father. There are no simple answers given here, it is a story of extreme emotion and lament and how hope was found.  I don’t think that there is anyway I can convey the emotion that permeates the book.  As Marilyn said it is difficult to read when you are reading about people you love going through a difficult time.




The Wax Bullet War, Chronicles of a Soldier & Artist by Sean Davis

The Wax Bullet War, Chronicles of a Soldier & Artist by Sean Davis; 2014; $16.95; 287 pages; Ooligan Press, Portland, OR; 978-1-932010-70-1; checked out from Multnomah County Libary, Woodstock; 9/17/16-9/27/16

Why did I read this?  I saw that Marilyn Weisenburg had picked it up and that the author was in the same company as her son David in Iraq.

Sean Davis had been in the Army but had gotten out and then on September 12, 2001 he reenlisted in the National Guard. 3 years later he along with his company of National Guardsmen from Oregon he found himself in combat in Iraq.  This is his  memories of that time up until he was seriously injured by an IED while on patrol.  The rest of the book is his story of recovery, physically, which seems to have been the easiest part.  The difficult part was dealing with the death of his friend in the same incident.  Sean tried to  bury his feelings in alcohol and drugs, until he reached a point where he couldn’t go any lower.  He is an artist and finally returning to his art helped pull him out of his downward spiral.  This is the story of a man who fought for his buddies and friends and was not prepared to deal with the aftermath.  His Army and his country didn’t seem to do much for him after his experience in combat.

Grade A, a clear and gripping view inside the mind of a combat veteran.


I never feared the day…

Damn Few, Making the Modern SEAL Warrior by Rorke Denver, Former Head of Basic and Advanced SEAL Training, Star of Act of Valor and Ellis Henican; 2013; $27.99; 290 pages; Hyperion, New York, NY; 978-1-4013-2479-7; purchased from Multnomah County Library Title Wave Used Bookstore; 2/19/15-2/21/15

Rorke Denver went from being a competitive little guy who had to win to a high school and college athlete who had to win to being a Navy SEAL.   This is his journey from being so competitive as a lad that he dove across the finish line to beat another kid, not caring that he was diving onto the concrete sidewalk of his cul-de-sac to being a leader in the SEAL team and being an administrator in charge of training the next generation of SEAL warriors.  These guys are warriors and they train hard to get there, they do what they do because they believe in the principles our nation is founded on, they have a strong sense of right and wrong and above all honor.  The author tells of his life growing up, reading Winston Churchill and competing in athletics before becoming a SEAL.  It is an exciting and insightful read, he tells of battles fun and not so fun within the SEALS and against enemies foreign and domestic.  He is never arrogant about what he has done, but matter of fact.


Did I enjoy it?  Yes, I am always amazed at what these operators go through to become SEAL Warriors.  I am always looking for insight and I found much here that will influence my life going forward.

What is with the title of the review? It is from an epigraph at the start of Chapter 14 of the book.  It is either a poem or part of a poem by the authors brother.

I never feared the day

That death comes take my hand.

I fear the cries of my family

So I’ll live as long as I can.

—Nate Denver

Found something that he didn’t expect.

Lost in America, A Dead End Journey by Colby Buzzell; 2011; $24.99; 291 pages; Harper, New York, NY; 978-0-06-184135-4; 956.70443 B922L; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Midland;4/24/14-4/26/14

Colby Buzzell, is the author of My War and in this volume he tries to recreate Kerouacs’ On The Road.  Never having read On The Road I can’t make a comparison.  Colby is torn between staying on the road or returning to his wife and newborn son.  He stays in Detroit for a while and makes some friends, he explores what used to be a major city and today is one of the most derelict cities in the United States.  Just saw a Detroit suburb offering vacant lots for a dollar apiece today (5/1/14).  He encounters all types of interesting people as he travels across the country.  He says he is looking for America but what he is really looking for is himself.  As he encounters all kinds of people he makes a choice that will affect the rest of his life.

Did I like it?  It was a moving look at someone trying to put things in perspective, to figure out what his past meant, what he wanted his future to be.  It is well written and often brutally honest.


What is with the title of the review?  After the death of his mother and the birth of his son Colby Buzzell sets off on a drive across the United States looking for something.  He is not really sure what he is looking but I don’t he expected what he found.

Mohammed O’ Malley

Soft Spots, A Marine’s Memoir of Combat and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by Clint Van Winkle; 2009; $14.99;213 pages; St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, NY; 978-0-312-60296-3; 956.70443 V2853s; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Central; 4/20/14-4/21/14

Clint Van Winkle combines his tour of duty in Iraq with his travails through the Veterans Administration and his life with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  We see how the specific events of his tour in the war combine to contribute to his own PTSD, which wasn’t wanting to go hurt others or himself but were a feeling of rage, guilt and shame mixed together.  This is one of the best explanations I have seen of the effects of PTSD and the ineffectiveness of much of the Veterans Administrations Medical Departments.  He so effectively communicates that it is pretty close to walking alongside him.

Did I like it?  Yes it was very engrossing and compelling.  I often read more than I intended at a setting because it was so good.


What is with the title of the review?  While Van Winkle was on patrol one time they came across a light skinned red headed Iraqi child, whom they referred to as Mohammed O’Malley.  He stood out from all of those around him and I think sometime that is how vets feel about themselves, they are part of our society but they think they stand out.