Many times I have shared with friends what I consider to be the best opening lines of any book, ever.
In my view, you cannot read the introduction of Lloyd Pate’s book, Reactionary, without getting a sudden, eyes-widening feeling that you must know what happens next.
It opens like this:
“Just before I was born my father killed a man,” Pate wrote. “After that everyone was down on him, the law and even his family and friends. I knew this when I was growing up as I was made the butt of many jokes, and I made up my mind to show them our family was better than they thought. That was one reason I joined the Army before I was sixteen, and it took me to Korea and into the Chinese prison camps. That same determination brought me back.”
Now, tell me you don’t want to know how all that turns out.
I was honored and privileged to hear many of Pate’s stories about his time in a North Korean prisoner of war camp run by the Chinese during that godawful war. I met him about 10 years years ago at his Grovetown home, and bought a couple of his self-published books from him.
Like many such books, it could have been improved with professional editing – but not much. Raw and unfiltered, it has a degree of grittiness that would make an outstanding screenplay. It certainly makes fascinating reading, and a publishing company would do well to pick up the rights to it.
Besides: It is without question better than a lot of the junk that passes for literature these days.
With great sadness, I learned last week of the passing of retired First Sgt. Lloyd Pate, a decorated combat U.S. Army infantryman and a by-God war hero. He could have put all that behind him, but long after his service in the Korea and Vietnam wars, Pate still made it a point to speak up on behalf of the POWs and MIAs who never made it home.
In the epilogue to his book, Pate writes about what had since happened with some of the other POWs he introduced in the book, and he ends like this:
“Often I got with other veterans, and of course the talk always turns to war stories, and with our government in the sorry condition it is, the question always comes up: was it worth it? In the end we always come to the same conclusion: You are damn right it was.
No one will ever need to doubt whether First Sgt. Lloyd Pate’s time here on earth was worth it.
You’re damn right it was.
Rest in peace, Pate.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call (706) 868-1222, ext. 106. Follow at www.twitter.com/