Salute to veterans: Legion ball stalwart pens Vietnam book
MONTICELLO — As a youngster, Dick Fox's main passion was baseball.
As a 13-year-old, he was playing American Legion ball against players several years older, and claims there may be "no one in the history of American Legion baseball who played more than I did. I started straight from Little League and went right into Legion ball," where he played for over five years.
Now 67, the Monticello man has continued his love of baseball and softball through decades of coaching. But he has an equally strong desire to tell the story of Vietnam, where he served as a U.S. Marine during what many feel is America's forgotten war.
Fox has combined those passions by authoring a 515-page book, "The Domestic Vietnam — America's War of Confusion," and is donating the profits to the Piatt County American Legion baseball program.
One reason there is myth and mystery surrounding the Vietnam conflict of the 1960s and early '70s is that many vets simply don't talk about it. But they'll talk to Fox — they've been doing so on a show he has hosted on the Military Appreciation Channel for over a year.
Fox has also finished a four-year journey in authoring "The Domestic Vietnam," which will be released at a special event today at Monticello's Livingston Center. Beginning at 11 a.m., it will feature book signings, barbecue sandwiches and rides in a restored Model-T vehicle. The event is free and open to the public, and books will be for sale.
Proceeds from local sales will go to help support local Legion ball.
"Those are my two passions," said Fox, speaking of baseball and the military, "and I'd already written about one of them," referring to coaching books he has authored previously.
His book begins and ends in Monticello, starting with Fox's childhood as a "Wilson Street boy," and ending at a modern-day Memorial Day that features flags on the tombs of veterans at the local cemetery.
The latest book also reveals more details regarding the heroic efforts of PFC Robert C. Burke, an 18-year-old Monticello man who was killed in action in Vietnam on May 17, 1968. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Fox, a lifetime friend of the Burke family, studied the story of Burke and his 27th Marine unit for eight months while writing the book. It included a trip to a company reunion in Detroit to interview those who were saved by Burke's actions.
"I talked to the people whose lives he saved, and that's Chapter 3. People need to know about that," Fox said.
He estimates 15 from his Monticello neighborhood ended up in Vietnam, and felt it was time to write a book he hopes will help people understand the war.
"I truly enjoyed the local angle to it and his perspective 40 years later. It is enlightening, especially to those who did not live through it," said Marty Conatser, current commander of the DeLand American Legion and a former national commander.
"It's a way to get people to understand that a lot of people went off to Vietnam — a lot of local people."
Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican. For more, visit journal-republican.com.