"No matter how well the Army tried to prepare us for war, nothing they did could measure up to the nightmare I had just gone through. Up to this moment, I had been 'playing war' with no comprehension of its true horrors. Real war, I now saw, was a much more serious game, and one that I vowed to win," - Todd Lander, "Bound by War: A Memoir of Love, Friendship and Survival"
Todd Lander, of Bear Valley Springs, penned his first book, "Bound by War," a compelling memoir of his tour in Vietnam.
The book is a true account of the year Lander spent in Vietnam from July 1968 to July 1969 in the Army as a 2nd Corporal, or "as a grunt in the jungles and rice paddies," in Company C, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.
Finished five decades later, the chapters are filled with vivid and raw memories of battles and death that are forever "carved indelibly" in the Army veteran's mind.
"I’d start writing only to find it too painful to go on. Months later I’d try again, only to have to abandon it for the same reason. Many tears had to be wiped away, just so I could see the keyboard. After more time passed, I’d sit myself down at the computer to try again. Time does heal to some degree," Lander wrote in the introduction. It took him 25 years to complete the book.
Through the entire process, Lander's wife, Sandy, served as his "rock." The couple married just 21 days before Todd was drafted in December 1967. She was 18 and he was 20.
"Knowing his next assignment would be Vietnam, we decided to marry while he was home. June of 1968, two weeks after I graduated from high school, we said our vows in a small chapel in Hacienda Heights, California. Twenty-one days later, he left for an entire year.
"Saying goodbye at the airport was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do in my life. As Todd picked up his duffel bag to board the plane, I clung to him fiercely, while he literally had to pry my fingers from his shirt. Shamelessly, I bawled like a baby as I watched him walk away," - Sandy Lander, The Dream and the Nightmare, prelude to "Bound by War."
Lander dedicated the book to his 26 brothers who served in Company C with him "who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and to their family and friends who suffered their losses."
Said Todd, "The theme of the book is the 26 boys, their personalities, and driven with dialogue. You will feel their loss when things happen to them. There is a special comradery that happens between men, and now women, in combat. They become family."
After returning home, Todd said he was in denial for the first 20 years. After years of counseling, he says it has been a process.
"Those memories will never go away," Todd said. "Soldiers live with that their whole lives."
After returning stateside, Todd went to work for the Sheriff's Department as a deputy, retiring after 30 years. He and Sandy have resided in Bear Valley Springs for the past 19 years.
"Bound by War" can be purchased online at Amazon for $15.95 paperback, $23.95 hardcover, or $9.99 Kindle.
Amazon reviews include:
"Visceral yet thought provoking. Amusing yet emotionally draining. Hopeful in the midst of hopelessness. Painful yet punctuated by moments of joy. Todd Lander has written one of the best war memoirs I have read," - John Stanley (5 stars)
"BOUND BY WAR was a spectacular book on so many fronts. If you lived through the trying times of the ‘60s, you will certainly remember the Vietnam War and how it affected you personally. Todd Lander’s book about his personal experiences has captured a look into the past that too many had to endure, the bonds that were forged in that foreign land, the families and loved ones left behind, and a deep faith in God that carried them through," -Martin Hernandez (5 stars)
Lander's book can also be purchased on his blog site at boundbywar.com. An introduction and first chapter is available to read on the site.
Todd and Sandy Lander will be featured at a book signing event Sept. 27 from 1 to 5 p.m., with a presentation to be given at 3 p.m., at Dorner Family Vineyard, 18274 Old Ranch Road. The public is invited to attend.