Jeff Jardine

October 28, 2013

Jeff Jardine: Turlock veteran publishes book, wondering what happened to co-author

Vietnam vet Ronn Cossey of Turlock and an Iraq War vet from Ohio spent four years working on their book, “NamRaq: Letters That Heal,” which will be available online Dec. 20. But his co-author has vanished, possibly into the backwoods of the Appalachians.

From emails, voicemails and other sources:

HOT OFF THE PRESSES – In 2011, I wrote about Vietnam veteran Ronn Cossey of Turlock and the book he was co-writing with an Iraq War veteran from Ohio.

They’d met at a car show to benefit veterans, and Cossey saw in Marine Sgt. Zeb Lane a troubled young man experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder not unlike what Cossey has battled since coming home from Vietnam, where his unit engaged the enemy 87 of 91 days during the 1968 Tet Offensive. The Silver Star honoree wanted to help Lane, who has endured serious emotional issues since serving in a company that lost 23 men – 14 in a single explosion – in 2005. Lane was among the 40 survivors wounded in the fighting around Haditha.

“He is a bona fide hero,” Cossey said.

They began emailing back and forth, comparing stories and experiences: two men, two generations, two wars. Cossey hoped it would be therapeutic, and compiled the emails into a book they titled “NamRaq: Letters That Heal.” They finished it last year, and then Cossey began shopping for a publisher.

He found one: The Sacramento Public Library’s I Street Press self-publishing program. Cossey, who works for Foster Farms, credits his bosses and Ron Foster for supporting him throughout the project. He went to Sacramento last week to see the very first book come off the press.

“It was still warm,” he said.

Lane, however, was nowhere to be found because he is, well, nowhere to be found. Cossey cannot reach him. Lane has vanished, and Cossey believes he fled into the hills of Kentucky during a relapse of PTSD.

“I spent four years trying to help him,” Cossey said. “Nobody knows if he’s alive anymore.”

Cossey can only hope, and he set up a trust fund so that he could proceed with the book’s publication. “I hired copyright attorneys to see what I could do,” he said. “We’ve set up a trust fund.”

Half the profits from every book sold will go into the fund so that if Lane resurfaces, he will receive his share.

“NamRaq” will go on sale Dec. 20 through online booksellers.

SCOUT’S HONOR – Rose Marie Durham of Oakdale wrote to offer a story of the human spirit. In 1969, she and her husband, Chuck, were involved in Scouting, he as an assistant scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts, she as a den mother for a Cub Scout troop in Oakdale. Her den chief was a 14-year-old boy who had no father and loved to hang out with the Durhams. One day, he and the Durhams’ son, Scott, were playing baseball in the front yard.

“My den chief hit the ball and one of the front windows got broken,” she wrote. The boy wanted to pay for it, but he and his mother simply didn’t have the $15 needed to replace the pane. “Shortly after this, they left town and I never heard from him again.”

She later learned through friends that he’d continued in Scouting and became an Eagle Scout before his 18th birthday. More than 40 years passed. One day, Durham’s daughter received a message on Facebook. It was from the den chief. He told her he remembered the broken window. “It has always bothered me over the years and I know it may sound weird but I would still like to make this right,” he wrote. “I’d like to send money for this. Your parents were good to me and I was glad to work with your mother as Den Chief.”

Rose Marie Durham responded, thanking him for offering to pay for the broken window, “but that I’d prefer he make a donation to a worthy cause in my (late) husband’s name,” she wrote to me.

The boy went on to become a civil engineer, husband and father of two children in Florida. He donated $50 in Chuck Durham’s name to the Florida Methodist Children’s Home.

“I only wish there were more like him in these trying times,” Durham wrote. I suppose we just have to look in the right places. And sometimes wait 40-plus years to find them.”

SERIES FLASHBACK – The ongoing World Series between St. Louis and Boston brings back great memories for Modesto’s Ellen LaCore Curry. She and her first husband, the late Bud LaCore, attended a car dealers convention in San Francisco in the summer of 1967. They had to leave two days into the four-day event but later got a phone call from one of the tire companies sponsoring the event.

“My name had been pulled out of the hat for the door prize,” she said. The prize? An all-expenses-paid trip to the first two games of the World Series, destination to be determined by one of the greatest American League pennant races in history. The Cardinals won the National League title by 10½ games over the Giants. But the American League race came down to the final day, with the Red Sox and Twins tied for first and playing each other. A half-game back, the Tigers needed to sweep the Angels to tie the Boston-Minnesota winner and force a one-game playoff for the title. Boston won. Detroit beat the Angels in the first game but then lost in the second, and the LaCores were headed for Beantown. Or maybe not.

“The (company rep) called and told us that all of the hotels in Boston were sold out and they couldn’t find us a place to stay,” she said. “They asked Bud if we would take a week in Hawaii instead. He said absolutely not. We won a trip to the World Series and we were going to the World Series.”

A day later, the rep called to say they’d found the LaCores a room about a half-hour outside of Boston. They were given a limousine and driver, and could eat wherever they wanted – any restaurant. Arriving at Fenway Park for Game 1, their limo driver pulled into a line of vehicles that unloaded celebrities. Fans lined the street and sidewalk to see who would get out next. Bud LaCore had a St. Louis hat and wore it.

Someone asked their driver, Charley Carter, which VIPs he was driving.

“He told them it was the governor of Missouri and his missus,” Eleanor said.

The Cards and Red Sox split the first two games in Boston, and then the LaCores came home. The Cardinals won it in seven.

So what’s happened this year? The teams split the first two games at Fenway. The rest will be history.

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