I'm not normally
one for book reviews, so the fact that I'm sitting down to write about
this book should speak volumes, no pun intended. The tome in question
is "One Day As A Lion." It's a local work, written by a McKinney
resident about local boys. But these subjects of the book form part of
a tragic sphere. The 21 subjects, who each command a chapter, were all
young men from Collin County who died serving their country in the
Vietnam War. That was the hook for me. I did a story on the author,
R.D. Foster, for a
Veterans Day story weeks ago. I didn't have to read this book, I
wasn't expected to, but my desire to learn more about this chapter in
America's history overwhelmed me. The truth is, I cracked open this
book knowing little about the war. Perhaps this is an indictment of
our education system, but I had never studied the Vietnam War, not in
high school, not in college. We spent weeks learning about England in
the 1500s, but not a single minute about one of the most tumultuous
periods in this nation's history.
So it was that I had a deeper mission in mind than just finding out
about local heroes when I opened "One Day As A Lion." Foster snagged
me in the first chapter. Ronnie Foster served in Vietnam, and it's
obvious early on that there was a greater sense of purpose guiding his
fingers across the keyboard in the creation of this work. A former
marine, Foster knows what he's talking about, and it's that inside
knowledge that really helps move this book along. When Foster talks
about life in the rice paddies, it's obvious he knows what he's
But the Collin County men who lost their lives in country are at the
heart of "One Day As A Lion." Young men like Royce Glenn Scoggins and
Charles W. "Bill" Bryan left their homes and family in McKinney to
willingly serve their country and never came home. Foster's purpose in
allowing us to get to know these young men is to bring the war home
and make it more real.
One word of caution here: "One Day As A Lion" is an unflinching look
at war. It gets up close and personal and pulls no punches. If you're
looking for a candy-coated collection of obituaries, look elsewhere.
Nearly every chapter deals with the life and death of local soldiers.
Their time in Vietnam is chronicled, as is the way each of them died.
At times, "One Day As A Lion" is a hard read simply because the reader
gets to know these young men as more than names at the beginning of a
chapter, yet their fate is already cast. "One Day As A Lion" is an
emotional roller coaster, but it is a must-read for anyone living in
or around McKinney or anyone wanting to know more about what happened
half a world away little more than 30 years ago. Well-written and
factual without being overly so, "One Day As A Lion" is an
entertaining and intriguing read.
Foster's work is a respectful tribute to the local boys who lost their
lives in Vietnam and, as such, worthy of your consideration.
Oh, and what of the title? It comes from an old Tibetan proverb: "It
is better to live one day as a lion than ten thousand years as a
By Alicia Pike
Monday, December 24, 2007 11:33 AM CST
Though Collin County resident Ronnie D.
Foster has been a professional songwriter and novelist for years, it is
his newest book "One Day as a Lion" that Foster is most proud of.
The book tells the stories of 21 Collin County soldiers who served in the
Vietnam War and never came home. Foster writes not only about their time
in the war, but also gives an idea of who they were before.
"My main reason for writing the book is because of my buddy Bill Bryan,"
Foster said. "A few years ago, I ran across an old friend from high school
and my friend told me he remembered Bill and me joining the Marines
together. Then he asked me what happened to Bill, and I had to tell him
that Bill died back in Vietnam. It's very important to me that I tell
these guys stories because I know they won't be forgotten. Really there
wasn't a lot to tell because they died so young, though. They grew up,
went to high school, joined the military and that was it. I didn't want to
just tell their war stories but a little bit about who they were before."
Foster was an avid reader and took an interest in writing while growing up
in the 1960s in Farmersville.
"When I was in grade school is when I really started reading. I've always
been a reader," Foster said. "In my mind, when I was a kid, I thought 'I
could do that.' One of the reasons why I joined the Marine Corps was for
the experience of history. It would give me something to write about for
my kids. How could I pass that up?"
Foster started thinking about joining the U.S. Marine Corps after reading
"Guadalcanal Diary" by Richard Tregaskis while he was in junior high
school. "After reading that book, something just hit home. The way
the Marines take care of each other and the pride that they have. I
thought, 'If I can make it to be a Marine, I want to do that.'" Foster
Though many young people in the '60s were trying to figure out how to
avoid the military draft, Foster and Bryan volunteered for the Marine
Corps when they were 18 years old and set out on what they considered an
adventure. "Most people were against the war. We got no support
whatsoever," Foster said. "We saw it as an honorable thing. We wanted to
be there. We wanted to be a part of it, a part of history. We considered
it a sense of adventure. We had never been anywhere, we were from working
families. When we graduated, we looked at each other and said, 'We don't
want to miss it.'"
When Foster decided to write the book, he began a five-year journey to
locate friends and families of soldiers who died. With help from his wife,
Trina, and friend Linda Phillips, he researched each soldier in the book.
"We would finally locate family members and we would do interviews all
over the country," he said. "What was really the hardest part about it all
was actually sitting down and reliving the day and the whole situation.
But it was also the most gratifying."
After watching many of his friends die in the war and trying to move on
with own life, Foster remained quiet about it until his chance meeting
with the old high school friend. "For 35 years I didn't talk about
it, even though I thought about it every day," Foster said. "It's not
something that goes away; it's always lurking, and at that moment, I
thought, I'm not going to try and forget this. I'm going to have them
remembered because having any of them forgotten would be a great sin."
Though the book graphically depicts war, Foster believes that writing a
book that involves real people and their lives should not be taken
lightly. "There is no point in trying to cover up what happened to
these guys," Foster said. "Back when I first started working on it, I
would get comments on how graphic it was. This is what war is like; this
is what those guys went through."
"One Day as a Lion" was written not only to remember the many people that
died in combat but also as a way to teach the younger generations about
what really happened in the Vietnam War.
"In history in school and college, they ignore Vietnam," Foster said.
"They talk about the '60s, but it's always about the music and the art.
The most turbulent time in our history besides the Civil War is skirted
over, and I wanted to give kids the chance to learn what really happened
and to let them know that it actually did happen."