Fifty Years of Lessons Learned of a Michigan Outdoorsman book Trilogy

Since a very early age a strong sense of patriotism, self-reliance, duty, honor, and respect of my parents was continually instilled in me. My father, Joseph W. Lunkas was a proud WWII Marine who was on hand with the 28th Marines of the 5th Marine Division for the raising of the American flag on Mt. Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima. Upon my father’s death, I received his WWII 5th (FOLLOW ME!) and 2nd Marine Division (THE SPEARHEAD) battle history books presented to its Marines at the end of the War. This enlightening reading has helped me better understand why my father was so reluctant to talk about his war experiences. In his personal papers I also found the original hand-written and copied field-presented document presented on-site to participating Marines at Iwo Jima. It reads as follows:
28th Marines
5th Marine Division
(Picture of historic flag raising)
“To Rank with Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Tarawa….”
23 FEBRUARY, 1945
To the Officers and men of the 28th Marines:
Sixteen months ago recruits and battle-seasoned Marines were banded together as the 28th Regiment with the common purpose of meeting and decisively defeating the enemy. This purpose through months of training produced a regimental spirit wherein every officer and man subordinated (misspelled with an r before the b in original) himself for our common goal.
We have met and decisively defeated the enemy. There are those at home who have said that our victory will rank with the greatest battle names in our history. There are those in Authority who have said that the greatest picture of this war was enacted on the grimed and blackened crest of Suribachi.
We cannot know whether the fame of our victory will endure but we can look to the future with conviction that the spirit of this regiment and the traditions which our living and dead have written on Iwo Jima will endure and serve us well through time to come.
H.B Liversedge, Colonel, U.S.M.C
This document was evidently treasured by my father and was still encased in its original paper sleeve with Lunkas 5th Marine hand-written on it. It is treasured by me, his son as well! I also inherited a Japanese battle sword and break-down 7.7 Jap rifle procured by my father on some unknown south Pacific battlefield. I am proud of my father and what he stood for and passed down to me!
My own time to prove my worth came during the Vietnam War. I served honorably from 22 June 1970 thru 21 June 1973. This particular war was extremely unpopular at home for its duration. After a brief and extremely costly, in terms of lives lost, special assignment in Laos, (contrary to documented record…we WERE there!) the unmentionable things that Man does to Man in time of War are impossible to rationalize. For the sake of duty, honor, Country, and even sometimes vengeance, a soldier does what he has to do to survive and accomplish the mission. After all these years I continue to relive horrendous experiences too many nights in vivid nightmares (flashbacks). These episodes are often triggered by thinking or even reading about the Vietnam Wall or viewing realistic Vietnam War footage. Like my father, I rarely talk about these experiences! Ordered to not share my previous experiences with ANYONE, I was granted a short 15-day leave.
When my plane touched down at Detroit Metro airport in late November 1970, I disembarked and immediately fell to my knees and kissed the oil-soaked runway! Upon entering the terminal in my uniform I received no “welcome home”. Instead I was greeted by anti-war hecklers who tried to spit on me and had pretty young “honeys” who swore at me and stuck smelly flowers in my face. I maintained my composure, removed my uniform, donned a crew cut-hiding hat and slinked home to regroup. I was somewhat withdrawn when first seeing my parents and wife. I was not the same man that I was when I left. He didn’t return. Remembering my orders, I kept my true feelings to myself. The hardest person for me not to confide in was my father. Time went by too quickly and I was at Detroit Metro again…in civilian clothes!
I reached my first official duty assignment at Fort Hood Texas on December 7th, 1970. I was by this time a SGT E-5 (accelerated promotion) assigned to the 256th MP Company at the Fort Hood Correctional Facility. The very first night at the facility I experienced a full-blown prisoner riot! Disgruntled and troubled military inmates were overpowering their unarmed guards and setting fire to their barracks, bedding, and even removed clothing. It was chaotic to the extreme! Order was eventually restored and the instigators were segregated to a guarded nearby abandoned WWII barracks. As a newly arrived buck Sergeant, I was assigned with two other Sergeants and a half-dozen lower ranking MPs to “process” and securely incarcerate these “problem” soldiers.
Fort Hood was a main returning stateside destination for returning Vietnam War veterans. Upon their arrival they were usually assigned to the 2nd Armored Division or the 1st Calvary Division. After 13+ months of combat duty in Vietnam with often substandard military discipline and drug addiction problems, these “soldiers” could be a real handful for receiving stateside units. Under the UCMJ guidelines, a unit commander could order pre-trial confinement for up to 30 days before actually levying any official charges. These troubled soldiers came to our facility for US to deal with! Long before the allotted 30 days, many of these individuals would receive additional charges for misconduct toward MPs that kept them confined until they could be transferred to other more permanent confinement facilities like Fort Leavenworth Kansas. Others would be court martialed and receive bad conduct or undesirable discharges and sent home to an uncertain future.
In the Vietnam Era Army PTSD wasn’t even defined yet! Little help was available from the VA, especially for other than honorably discharged veterans. Compounding the problem was the fact that a large portion of our wartime army was comprised of draftees from all walks of civilian life that really did not want to serve in what they considered an unjust war. The RA (regular volunteer Army) was “watered down” by involuntary enlistees that had gotten in trouble with the law and were given the choice of hard jail time or enlisting in the Army. Such was the state of affairs during a time when there was a real shortage of combat soldiers to feed the appetite of a wartime standing Army.
After the “problem” inmates from the December 7th riot were “processed” and sent on, I was assigned as NCOIC of maximum security. In this controlled environment I was in a position to hear firsthand accounts of what some of these combat veterans had been through. I knew firsthand what these experiences could do to a soldier! Within a few months I was assigned as the NCOIC of training and education for both the 256th MP Company and the prisoner population. As part of my personal mission and also my own healing process, I confronted the task of trying to help as many of these troubled combat veterans as possible. Under my direction during the next 2 ½ years the return to duty rate for our inmates climbed from 5% to more than 60%. This was accomplished by providing psychological and drug addiction counseling, interpersonal relations training, and G.E.D classes taught by local civilian teachers. I am proud of my accomplishments. Upon my release from active duty on June 21, 1973 I received a Letter of Appreciation from the Department of the Army, Headquarters III Corps and Fort Hood. It reads as follows:
AFZP-BPM-STK 21 June 1973
TO: Sergeant Joseph Lunkas
256th Military Police Company
Fort Hood Texas 76544

This letter is in appreciation for a job well done as the Non commissioned Officer In Charge of the Training Section during your tour of duty here at the Installation Correctional Facility. During the period of 7 December 1970 to 21 June 1973 you have portrayed an exceptionally high degree of professional and technical ability in the accomplishment of any task entrusted to you. Responsible for the establishment and operation of a meaningful and comprehensive training program for both cadre and prisoners alike, you accepted this mission and applied yourself to the fullest in its accomplishment. The results of your success were apparent in the outstanding ratings received by your section in two major Department of the Army inspections.
Again I would like to thank you for your devotion to duty and sense of professional dedication which you displayed during your tour of duty at this facility.
I received my honorable discharge on 31 March 1976 at the completion of my six-year military obligation as an active reservist E-6 Drill Sergeant with the 3 of the 333 Training Brigade in Flint Michigan. My first active reserve assignment was shortly after I left Fort Hood active duty. I was an instructor at the Fort Hood NCO Academy presenting classes on the UCMJ and Strip and Frisk Search Procedures. My previous active duty comrades were surprised to see me back again so soon! After my Army years I went on to earn my Bachelors Degree in 1979 from University of Michigan (Flint) with the aid of the GI Bill and embarked on a highly satisfying career with General Motors Corporation as a Senior Vehicle Development Engineer at GM’s Milford Proving Ground. I retired in 2007 and resumed my dormant since the early 1980s outdoor writing career. In part to continue my efforts to assist past and present war veterans readjust to civilian life, I wrote and published my “Fifty Years of Lessons Learned of a Michigan Outdoorsman” book Trilogy during the period October 2011 and October 2013. Here is my most recent Trilogy Flyer:
Fifty Years of Lessons Learned of a Michigan Outdoorsman Book Trilogy by Mesick Michigan author and seasoned outdoorsman Joe Lunkas
How nice would it be for a budding or even an experienced outdoors-person to have the accumulated knowledge of an experienced outdoorsman presented to them in a compact and easy to read format with photo illustrations and real-life detailed story examples, complete with highlighted lessons-learned statements?
I often expressed this personal desire when looking back on my own long and often trial-by-error journey over the past 50+ years to earn the coveted title of “seasoned and experienced outdoorsman”. I have many counterparts, both living and dead, that have earned this title but few have attempted to preserve their hard-earned accumulated knowledge via the written word. Most of this valuable knowledge is forever lost upon the death of the originator and left to be painfully and frustratingly relearned by future outdoorsmen. This is unfortunate reality and I have been there!
Starting in 2007 and culminating in late 2013 with the release of the final third book in my trilogy, I have accomplished this lofty objective. I am proud of this valuable accomplishment! In my mind, this written and published legacy constitutes my own immortality of sorts. I wrote my trilogy for the benefit of my eight grown children, their children, and their children’s children to guide them on their own personal quests after I have gone to be with my Maker. My readers, damaged war veterans like myself, and others so inclined may also benefit from my written and published words. To learn more about my books and other writings, simply google my name on the internet and go to my author website: These “silent outdoor companions” have been uniquely designed and formatted to be read and enjoyed while actually in my great wild outdoors. ENJOY!

The following excerpt from my third book relates “My Hidden Messages” to troubled war veterans. All three of my books are dedicated to war veterans of all wars past and present. I stand behind my words in my continuing efforts to offer meaningful assistance and to address my own war-related dilemmas.

By: Joe Lunkas

You may have noticed that the third book in my Trilogy, as well as my first two books, is dedicated to “all those would-be veterans of the Vietnam War and all other Wars and conflicts for freedom.” These brave men and women are the “documented” fatalities of war that we have to continually thank for our current ability to freely express our thoughts both orally and via the written word. Unfortunately, there are many other “undocumented” casualties of war. These unfortunate and often tortured souls reside out of the mainstream of our societies. These equally brave individuals are the focus of this writing that just has to be included in this last book. For this outdoorsman the Vietnam War is my demon. Other veterans of past and present conflicts and Wars continue to swell our ranks.
Often these individuals are hard to find but they are everywhere! Regretfully some live on the streets of our urban environments. Others have chosen self-imposed isolation from family and friends in the more remote and isolated areas of our country to confront their War demons in solitude. In either case, these heroes find it difficult to “fit in and adjust” to civilian society again. The unspeakable “things” that Man does to Man in War are difficult to speak of and justify in any rational way. Other than in sometimes helpful professional counseling sessions, these chaotic memories shouldn’t be dredged up. To do so often triggers the infamous and realistic “flashbacks and night sweats” that often plague War veterans. Unfortunately suicide is chosen answer for a growing number of these troubled veteran’s dilemmas. Within the pages of my books I offer a viable alternative. This answer comes in the form of hidden messages found “between the lines” and within the Lessons Learned of each of my Fifty Years of Lessons Learned Trilogy of books.
In book 1, Fifty Years of Deer-Stand Reflections, a Memoir of a Michigan Master Deer Hunter, I identify the deer-stand as my personal place where many of my personal and professional dilemmas have been solved and my action plans have been formulated. This very special place of semi-isolation, significantly identified with the seemingly misplaced hyphen between the words “deer” and “stand”, worked for me and got me “back on track” to re-assimilation into society. After two failed marriages, due in a large part to communication issues, I finally met my soul-mate and wife Yvonna who helped me effectively confront my War demons and achieve professional success. The experience of raising our combined total of eight children enhanced my healing process. I am indeed one fortunate and lucky veteran-outdoorsman!
In book 2, Fifty Years of Gathering, Fishing, and Unusual Animal Encounters: Lessons Learned of a Michigan Outdoorsman, additional “hidden messages” to other veterans afflicted as I am, are found throughout the book. Most notable are my comments in the sea shell gathering section, the ice fishing chapters, and within the Ultimate Lesson Learned found in the conclusion of the book. “Never forgetting the importance and significance of good friends and family” is an important message for all troubled War veterans.
My third book, Fifty Years of Memorable Hunting Experiences: Lessons Learned of a Michigan Outdoorsman is the last of my trilogy of Lesson Learned books and offers additional “hidden messages” to troubled veterans. Our common most important key to continued survival and acclimation back into civilian society is “gaining perspective”. Mother Nature has always been the best source of perspective and continuity. Throughout human history she has persevered through the rise and fall of civilizations and during and after times of Wars. Her soothing isolation and never-ending thrills and excitement have captured the hearts, minds, and souls of outdoors-persons for millennia. Her wild creatures have provided the challenge of the hunt and the sources of sustenance craved by all of Mankind, including troubled War veterans, virtually free of charge. I sincerely hope that my books have achieved this part of my objective in writing and artfully presenting them! One last “not so hidden” message to my comrades of War is found in the inspirational Old Deer Hunter’s Prayer that I end each of my books with. It’s message to and from our Creator is clear and absolute! Joe Lunkas

Old Deer Hunter’s Prayer- author unknown

“Oh Great Lord, let your winds be gentle and your skies be heavy;
Let there be a blanket of fresh snow to track the Antlered One as did my forefathers;
And grant that I find him with antlers like a tree, branches wide and mighty;
Grant that my hand be steady, my aim true, and my drag short;
But most of all grant that my children, and their children, and their children’s children;
Have the wisdom to preserve your work in the forest, field, and stream;
So that they too can one day hunt the Antlered One in the footsteps of their forefathers.”

I hope that you will find my book Trilogy interesting, informative, and thought provoking. PASS THEM ON, along with your own documented and photographed outdoor experiences, to your children, their children, their children’s children, and those to follow, so that they too may reap the many benefits and rewards of the hunting and the outdoor-learning experience!
Good Hunting! Joe Lunkas (“The Aging Michigan Outdoorsman”)

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