The first book to be discussed by the new Carroll County Veterans Book Club, "Horse Soldiers," by Doug Stanton, is one with special significance for the club's organizer, Steve Yinger, the chairman of the outreach committee of the Carroll County Veterans Advisory Council. It was given to him by his father — they commonly share books back and forth — but this time, July 20, 2009, was extra special. It was the night before Yinger left for his first deployment to Iraq as an Air Force intelligence officer.
"On the inside cover he inscribed some words of wisdom that carried me through that deployment and throughout my entire Air Force career, so I have a special connection with the book. Not just the words written by the author inside, but also the words written by my father," Yinger said. "I really expect that's what we will see with a lot of these books, veterans will have connections that are deeper than just the words inside."
The first full meeting of the Veterans Book Club met at 7 p.m. at the Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library, and will meet there the third Tuesday of every month from here on out, according to Yinger, with the exception of November.
"That meeting is shifted to Monday, Nov. 14, because it is our meeting (near) Veterans Day," he said.
Eight veterans and a gold star father came to Tuesday's meeting, and as Yinger predicted, the conversation ranged from discussion of themes in the book to personal experiences in service to questions of just how ready, or not, America's military was to put boots on the ground in Afghanistan in 2001. "Horse Soldiers," after all, describes some of the first American troops literally fighting from horseback.
"The 'Horse Soldiers' takes place in Afghanistan and it was really about the events right after 9/11 and how we went to find the people who committed that atrocity," said Bill Fortin, who served with the Army in Germany in 1968 and '69. "These were special forces guys and they actually had to get on horseback and take the Taliban to task."
Fortin, who has written his own novel, "Red Eye," about Cold War Germany, said he loves reading anything with a military or war theme, and that's something Yinger said he had counted on.
"The connection veterans might make with military or veteran-themed books, as well as the connection we would have all getting together in a room and having some camaraderie and fellowship and sharing those stories," Yinger said. "There are about 14,000 veterans in Carroll County, and we wanted to take it as an opportunity to not only get out and talk to veterans about what we are doing as a council, but what are ways we can solicit input and make veterans' lives better here in Carroll County."
The chairman of the Carroll County Veterans Advisory Council, Frank Valenti, stopped by the beginning of Tuesdays meeting just to give those assembled a quick update on the council's projects — providing transportation for vets via the Mike "Mad Dog" Sater Veterans Shuttle program and a planned homeless veterans shelter — and to let veterans know they can always contact the council by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That email is a good way for anyone who is just interested in attending the book club to discuss the books to find out more as well, according to Yinger, although those interested can also just drop by the library.
"They can just show up and say, 'I would like to pick up the next book in the series' and they will check it out to you. Whether you have a library card or not, they will make that book available to you," he said. "Even if you are coming in a little later and you didn't make the first or second meeting, the discussion portion is open to everyone and you are welcome to pick up or leave whenever you like."
For more information, send email to email@example.com, go to www.facebook.com/carrollveterans or simply drop by the Finksburg branch and ask for a copy of the next book the club is discussing.