Written by Paige McAtee Wednesday, 19 February 2014 00:00
Vietnam War author Phil Keith stopped by Farmingdale Public Library on Sunday, Feb. 16 for a book signing event organized by American Legion Post 449.
“As amazing as some of these events sound, they are not made up,” said Keith. “They actually happened.”
Keith has written two novels, Blackhorse Riders and Fire Base Illingworth.
“These books are linked in the sense that there’s one group of soldiers from Blackhorse Riders that ends up in Fire Base Illingworth,” said Keith. “It’s not a typical book and sequel. The books are two very different stories.”
Blackhorse Riders is a story about soldiers that made a split-second decision to rescue another group of soldiers that were in a bad situation. The army lost records of the battle, and it wasn’t until 35 years later that the men finally received recognition for their valor.
“The men from this story feel a very strong sense of pride for what they did,” said Keith.
“In Fire Base Illingworth, on the other hand, the men who fought feel different because they survived and many of their friends didn’t,” Keith explained. “They were put into a position as bait and exposed to danger as part of a strategy. The soldiers still feel very uncomfortable about it even to this day.”
In order to promote his books, Keith and his publisher decided to do an outreach to veterans groups. “The books really are about honoring veterans, especially those from Vietnam,” said Keith. “My editor agreed to take a couple hundred books, and donate them to a number of VFW and American Legion Posts in the Tri-State area. The American Legion Post 449 in Farmingdale was one of the first groups to respond.”
Commander of American Legion Post 449, Philip Strehl, read Blackhorse Riders in one day and was so impressed with the book that he got in contact with Keith.
“I would recommend Keith’s books to anyone who wants a better understands of what guys over there went through,” said Strehl.
“To me, what strikes this book as being different from a lot of books that I’ve read is that it’s not about a plot... it’s about people who were drafted and just doing their job.”
Keith wrote down the events of these stories in the words and in the feelings of the men who were involved. Keith was able to contact about 200 men who were a part of each action to help him put his books together.
“What’s interesting about the book is that it puts a name and a face on each one of the people,” said Strehl. “You actually are looking at the battle from that perspective.”
A veteran of the 11th Army Cavalry—one of the troops mentioned in Keith’s books—was in attendance at the book signing. Joe Carosella never read any of Keith’s books before, and found out at the book signing that the story line of Keith’s books had to do with some of the men in his unit in Vietnam.
“I knew that there was a Vietnam-related speech that was going to be given, and I was shocked when I saw that the story had to do with my unit,” he said. “I’m glad I came.”