Vold’s debut memoir focuses on the 30 years he devoted to the U.S. Air Force.
The author was born in 1940 and grew up on the eastern plains of South Dakota. His father was a farmer, but it wasn’t the most rewarding profession for him, especially during the Depression years. Vold says that he was deeply influenced by his father’s experience when he made the decision to chart his own course. After a brief stint in college at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, the author dropped out and enlisted in the Air Force. He was initially rejected because of his farsightedness, he says, but he successfully reapplied for an officer-commissioning program. After this point, the memoir largely chronicles his successful military career, which spanned three decades; he retired in 1989 as a chief master sergeant. During his service, he traveled widely within the United States and abroad, and was stationed in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The most dramatic elements of Vold’s tale take place then, when he worked as a boom operator, helping to refuel other planes in flight; on one particular mission, he recalls, flying over the Gulf of Tonkin he could see the North Vietnamese fire missiles at American aircraft. After his retirement, he went back to school at California State University, Chico, and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. Vold’s remembrance is filled with photos and he explains them with plentiful commentary, tracking the arc of his professional life, as well as his developing family. At its best, this autobiography is candidly thoughtful. For example, the author tells of how, as a young man, his horizons were broadened regarding race relations; he notes that he, a white man, had never met a person of color before he entered the military. Also, his accounts regarding his father radiate a heartwarming affection, as in a section in which he recounts various dreams that he’s had about him. However, Vold’s minutely detailed exposition of his military career—including the most quotidian parts—may not interest many general readers.
A sometimes-touching memoir that will particularly delight the author’s friends and loved ones.