THE BETRAYED: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfits, Dr. Jimmy T. (Gunny) LaBaume, Land & Livestock International, © 2013, 531 pgs.
Jimmy LaBaume is not only a friend, he is my favorite oner, which is a common four-letter answer in crossword puzzles to the clue “unique.” Jimmy (or Gunny, his military nickname) is a lean grey-haired cowboy from west Texas who, while about to begin his eighth decade, is still capable of riding, and especially shooting, better than most movie heroes or wannabes. There can’t be many marksmen anywhere more skilled than Jimmy.
In disclosure, I confess that Jimmy and I – while we never met until both were in our mid-sixties – have had several life experiences in common– although mine pale in comparison to his. A half-century ago we each competed in rodeos, but while I got on relatively few bulls and bucked off most, Jimmy climbed on many and rode almost all of them. About a decade ago, I stumbled onto an exciting innovation in agriculture called ‘Holistic Range Management’ (HRM), but Jimmy has been one of the foremost authorities on HRM for decades.
Our shared experience with the most conspicuous degree of difference, however, turns out to be the U.S. Marine Corps. We started on equal footing, as each graduated with high scores from officer candidate training at Quantico, Virginia; me in 1962, Jimmy in 1963. But when both decided to quit attending class at our respective colleges, the Corps kicked us off its officer path and forced an enlistment choice on us. With no thought, I opted in 1964 for the USMC Reserve, had limited active duty and was never sent to Vietnam. Jimmy waited until 1968, enlisted in the regular Marines, and found himself in Vietnam within months.
Jimmy’s book, The Betrayed, is a memoir of his life, written with exceptional honesty and candor. Common to our generation, he grew up with the belief that every man has an almost-sacred obligation to defend his nation’s traditional freedoms. This idea is what drew him to the Marine Corps initially, and also sustained him in Vietnam. For those wanting to understand the reality of modern warfare, Jimmy’s descriptions of military life and front-line experience in war are about as real as it gets. To use a cliché, he tells it as it was.
Like many fellow veterans, Jimmy discovered that civilian life upon return from Vietnam was an ordeal. The nightmares, the inability to share horrendous and unimaginable memories, and the attitude of civilians, which discredited veterans and made a sad mockery of the deaths of thousands of drafted – and, thereby, wholly innocent – American fighting men, were almost too much to bear. How this led Jimmy, after 16 years, to reenlist and then end up as a middle-aged warrior in Desert Storm is, by itself, worth the cover price.
The theme of his book, however, is Jimmy’s lifelong intellectual and emotional odyssey – often painful – from one of the most gung-ho of Marines, who truly believed that he was serving his “God and country,” even while doing horrible things, to one of the more noble and committed libertarian anarchists. In sharing his story, Jimmy recounts at length his experiences in both wars (two decades apart), his youth, his early manhood, including his work as a cowboy, his work in the oil fields, his adventures as an amateur boxer, the attainment of his PhD, and his long career as a professor at Sul Ross State University. While the language and the humor in the book are coarse, they are real and, for me, often laugh-out-loud funny.
Jimmy and his wife Sally have been married for 45 years and make their home in Alpine, Texas. He operates an international ranching and forage management consulting company with a group of international clients. Yet, he still finds time every day to read, post, and share libertarian material through a website called <flyoverpress.com>. His book is a labor of love, and a chronicle of a lifetime search for truth. The tales provide a fascinating insider’s look at situations that many will never experience, especially warfare on the front lines. Self-published, The Betrayed has just enough rawness in editing to give it punch. Highly recommended!