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Reservist records Corps experiences

By Cpl. Clinton Firstbrook | | March 5, 2004

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While many Marine Corps units are being activated to deploy for the Middle East conflict, a former Light Armored Vehicle crewman published his experiences giving his readers a look into the world of reservists. 

In "Spare Parts," a story of one man's transformation from weekend warrior to combat Marine during the Gulf War.

As the book's description reads, "Spare Parts" tells the story of Dwayne "Buzz" Williams' harrowing deployment to the Persian Gulf, where he would be thrust into battle only 38 days after being called up. Enduring both the condescension of full-time Marines and the danger of his limited training, he managed to form a core group that the struggles to gain respect from a military machine that viewed them as mere spare parts. In gripping, you-are-there detail, Williams brings to life the physical and emotional trials he would face on the killing fields of Kuwait where some of the woefully under prepared Marines are able to rise to the challenge and others are broken by the horrors of battle.

"I wrote the events that occurred in Chapter One 14 years ago in a journal entry shortly after returning from boot camp," said Williams. "My friends and family wanted to know what boot camp was like, and I could convey the experience better in writing. During those years I made occasional attempts to add to the story, but had neither the motivation, nor the focus that writing demands. All I really managed was a series of disconnected journal entries. The media coverage of what would become Operation Iraqi Freedom gave me both the motivation and the focus.

After completing a few chapters, Buzz attempted to contact several publishers through e-mail only to discover that the major league publishers in New York only work with author agents. Then after purchasing a book on how to acquire an author agent, Mr. Williams mailed 72 query letters to agents all over the country.

"I received several interested agencies during the first week and I signed with Joe Veltre of Carisle and Company of New York City," said Williams. " Shortly after Joe helped me polish my proposal over the following three weeks. Less than two weeks after sending out the proposals to publishers, we accepted an offer from Gotham Books of the Penguin Group. The whole process of securing an agent and publisher took about eight weeks."

"I was initially intrigued when Buzz's agent Joe Veltre of Carlisle & Company first phoned me," said "Spare Parts" editor Brendan Cahill. "But I really got hooked by the writing from the very first sentence: "The yellow footprints called." In this book, you gain a real appreciation of the human dimension of the men and women who are called from their day-to-day jobs all across America to defend our country at short notice."

"My original motivation was to share the reality of what it means to be a Marine with my son Tyler, age five, and daughter Sofia, age one," said Williams. "I wanted them to understand the things that I didn't when I made my decision to join the Marines. Once I began working with my agent and editor, my focus shifted toward getting a message out to the general public. I became more motivated then ever to finish writing when I realized that my story could bring some long overdue recognition and respect to reservists."

While Buzz has written several articles for professional journals, this book is his first mainstream non-fiction effort. The book has all ready received positive remarks from professional authors and reviewers and is set for release March 8.

"Spare Parts" tells it straight as a jarhead at attention in the stumbling forced march from boot camp's yellow footprints to the nightmares of war is an equal-opportunity hell," said Joel Turnipseed, author of Baghdad Express.  "Buzz Williams tells the honest, deeply human story of a young teacher sent off to war. That he neither shrinks from duty nor hides its horrors and stupidities makes his tale a welcome addition to the ranks of our Gulf War storytellers."

"Long-service Marines know that their Reservists have responded bravely under fire time after time, in conflict after conflict," said Ret. Col. John Miller, author of The Bridge at Dong Ha and The Co-Vans: U.S. Marine Advisors in Vietnam. "This superbly written account of Desert Shield and Desert Storm by Buzz Williams drives the point home with authentic detail. This is a 'must read' for Marines and friends of Marines."

To promote his book, Buzz will be at the Quantico Marine Corps Exchange March 12 from 2 - 4 p.m., the Henderson Hall Exchange March 13 from 11a.m. - 1 p.m. and the Alexandria Barnes and Noble March 20 from 2 - 3 p.m. for signings.

"The book gave me a therapeutic vehicle through which I learned to cope with my stress that the second gulf war brought my way," said Williams. "At time the media coverage made me feel like I was back in combat, 14 years after the fact. Not only did my nightmares resurface, but so did my battle with obsessive-compulsive behaviors. I felt incredibly fortunate and grateful to all those friends and family members who supported me through the writing process."

Buzz's interaction with the Corps began in 1989, when he walked into a recruiting office to follow in the footsteps of the deceased older brother he grew up idolizing by signing up to join the Marine Reserves. Over the course of the next year, he would earn money to pay his college tuition by devoting one weekend a month and two full weeks in the summer to the grueling and often dangerous rigors of military training, while enduring the jarring readjustment that occurred each time he returned to civilian life.

But Buzz had no idea that even the newest reservists could find themselves on the frontlines of a battlefield in a matter of weeks. On Aug. 2, 1990 the day that he graduated from Light Armored Vehicle School Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait, and Williams' life would change forever.

By the end of his enlistment he was a company master gunner and had six years of experience as a Light Armored Vehicle crewman. A former National Teacher of the Year, Williams now serves as a secondary school administrator with Harford County Public Schools in Maryland.
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