The US Review of Book

Farmer’s Son, Military Career

by Clarence E. “Kip” Vold

 

“If you want something, try it and don’t worry about it if the change doesn’t work out.”

Aunt Netty’s advice regarding a move was “go.” If it doesn’t work out, you can come back. Her spirit for adventure was shared by the author and early family members who dared migrate from Norway to the northern parts of America. Shy of funds, Vold’s relatives settled in South Dakota. The author’s maternal relatives settled in Wisconsin. The first pairing between these large families occurred at St. Olaf’s college in Wisconsin and started many marriages.

Alfred Vold was a farmer whose sons, including the youngest, Clarence, disliked farming. In 1959, Clarence (“Kip”) enlisted in the US Air Force. He served as a combat crew member and then in weather equipment maintenance at various bases. Vold met his wife, Mary, in 1965 while stationed in Georgia. Their companion shepherd, Cindy, lived almost eleven years. Frequent visits to family helped ease the eventual loss of relatives to aging. Promotions brought responsibility and travel. In Japan, Vold served as an air flight scheduler at Yokota AB. The next move was stateside, entailing oversight for flight crews with training hours tracked in computers. Vold retired with 30-years active duty. Earning a BA in economics, he worked twenty years with the public for companies like Hertz.

Manhattan Book Review

Farmer’s Son, Military Career

by Clarence E. “Kip” Vold

This memoir takes the reader through half a century of the author’s life, from his early years in South Dakota post-WWII to the first decade of the new millennium. The story depicts the author’s early life on a farm, to working his way up the enlisted ranks of the Air Force, and then returning to college after retirement. The memoir is in clear chronology. It gives a detailed account of everyday life of Midwestern farmland and military bases. Typical interactions of the people in the story are well-portrayed, such as joking among the troops during training. The author also includes photographs of the many people and places mentioned. The narrative is a series of smaller stories, making it episodic. This gives the reader an intimate view of its people and places.

However, the story could benefit from some focus. Most memoirs spend more time on one aspect of the writer’s life: personal or professional, for example, or a specific time period. In this memoir, almost as much time is spent on a detailed account of visiting a relative in a nursing home as flying into a battle. Neither is intrinsically a better subject for the book, but some focus is needed on either the personal or professional. There are also long passages detailing such common matters of driving into a new city, unpacking, getting a rental car, and going out to dinner.

Seattle Book Review

Farmer’s Son, Military Career

by Clarence E. “Kip” Vold

 

The youngest and only remaining child of Alfred and Cora Vold is Clarence, aka “Kip.” Clarence has restored some of the history by writing his memoirs. These records help keep the important people in his life alive in spirit and complete his unfinished life’s story told in the case of an event, like an obituary, when anyone else might sum up his life in just a couple of sentences. In Farmer’s Son, Military Career, Clarence’s raw and original descriptions of events throughout his life are told to help us see what all happened in-between his younger years as a farmer’s son and his military career. Clarence was born in 1940, and was old enough to experience his older brother being shipped off to war, but thankfully he arrived home safely. At one point in his schooling, he decided he would love to fly airplanes. However, this seemed like an impossible job for a farmer’s son living in rural South Dakota because the training would be so far away, as well as the fact that he was diagnosed as being far-sighted when he was younger, so he needed to wear glasses. When he got older, he tried out college and decided it wasn’t for him, so he signed up for the Air Force. His time in the Air Force resulted in thirty years of service, in which he advanced to the rank of Sergeant and was stationed in Japan, Southeast Asia, and Thailand, working in various capacities, like a boom operator.

San Francisco Book Review

Farmer’s Son, Military Career

by Clarence E. “Kip” Vold

On the surface, Farmer’s Son, Military Career, College and Post-College: My Life Story (But not my entire life yet!) is, as described by the author, the story of his—Clarence “Kip” Vold’s—life, which is usually summed up with: “He served thirty years in the Air Force.” But this work shows that there was much more to his life than this. It’s a life filled with family and love, a story of memory and grief. It documents hard work and hard gains, with a good deal of fun and humor along the way.

Vold, as the youngest in his family, came along at the end of World War II, and, as such, lived his life as a bridge of sorts between one time and another—post-WWII and Depression America, to the quantum computing age. Arguably, few generations have lived to see such rapid and drastic changes. His memories, shared here, serve to remind us that “the good ol’ days” were not so long ago.

This is a memoir that is, at times, deeply emotional and other times stiff and telling in tone. For all of the quips and humor, readers lacking a military background (or a military person sitting beside them who can be elbowed and asked what TDY is again…) can get lost in the jargon and acronyms through various conflicts. Yet for the instances of stiffness, there are moments almost disconcertingly powerful to read. For instance, I will never hear about Iwo Jima again without thinking of little Kip Vold blowing out his birthday candles.