Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bob Kern: The IAN Interview

Bob Kern

Bob Kern is a native Hoosier. Born and raised in Indiana.  At the age of seventeen, he enlisted in the US Army serving almost 8 years in the infantry. 

The horrific events of 9/11 had a profound effect on Bob when other people began thanking him for his service. Suddenly, feelings of guilt overwhelmed him for not actually seeing combat.  Knowing there was nothing to be ashamed of, Bob realized many Cold War veterans probably had similar feelings.  Being a peacetime soldier in a wartime era has this effect.

Bob decided to write and publish the story of his military career so that others may have an inside view of what it was like to be in the military at that time. 

Bob is the father of five children - Natalie, Bambie, Amber, Bob, and Rob. He resides in Bedford, Indiana with his wife Marsha and his three granddaughters; Sage, Jade, and Harmonie. 

IAN. Please tell us about We Were Soldiers Too.

Bob Kern. The Cold War was an important part of history that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Everyone knows the headlines of this era but few know the details and just how close the world was to World War III and a nuclear war. 

Politicians take credit for ending the Cold War, but the real credit goes to the men and women who served in the military.  They trained hard and remained in a constant state of vigilance, ready to protect the world against a Soviet invasion and the spread of communism.  This is a personal account of military service and the historical events that were happening during President Reagan's time in office as the world faced the possibility of nuclear war.

Serving as the first line of defense for a Soviet invasion in Germany, he found himself assigned the responsibility of defending an area in the Fulda Gap with only one objective, to hold the advancing Soviets until reinforcements arrived. An assignment that likely would have been at Ground Zero of a nuclear war.

We travel back to Fort Knox with the author and experience firsthand the infantry transition from the slower, heavy armor vehicles to more technologically advanced armor like the Abrams tank and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

We learn how soldiers fared in Schofield Barracks, the most physical assignment as his unit began converting to light infantry.

IAN. What inspired you to write We Were Soldiers Too?
Bob Kern. The guilt I felt being thanked for my service after 9/11.  I knew people assumed I was involved in the war on terrorism and had no idea I was a peacetime soldier.  I suspected other vets had to struggle with this same guilt and shouldn’t.  I thought if I told my story and showed how physical and demanding it was people would know Cold War veterans played a very key role in the world, particularly preventing World War III and a likely nuclear war.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

Bob Kern. I had a general outline in my head and just sat down and started typing it out, one chapter at a time.  Since it was about my military career, it was only a matter of telling stories about myself in the order they happened and making the military aspects of it easy to understand.  

IAN. How long did it take to write We Were Soldiers Too?

Bob Kern. From the moment I first sat down and typed the first word to the final edit, it took about a year to finish this book.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

Bob Kern. I want people to realize it takes a special kind of person to make the commitment to put their country first, ahead of their own life and family.  It doesn’t matter when or where they served, the threat of being sent into combat is there every day.  Soldiers train hard to be ready for this, even if they never see combat, because they took that oath.  Every veteran deserves to be respected for their service.  Just as important, every veteran needs to be proud of their service.

IAN. How much of We Were Soldiers Too is realistic?

Bob Kern. I hope the whole book is realistic.  I tried to paint an accurate picture of what I went through, how it felt, and what I was thinking as I went through my career.  I wanted readers to be able to see it through my eyes as I was transformed from that naïve seventeen year old to the dedicated, die-hard soldier I became.

IAN. Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Bob Kern. Everything in this book happened to me.  It is my entire military career told from my perspective.

IAN. Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Bob Kern. Cold War Veterans. I can’t say enough about the the support I have gotten from so many veterans.  Some of the emails and messages I have received have brought tears to my eyes.  The kind words about my book and the gratitude this group has shown me for trying to tell our story has been very rewarding and is the reason I have committed myself to turning this book into a series, sharing the stories of others.

IAN. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Bob Kern. I hope you have a better understanding of what it was like to be a soldier in the 1980’s and I hope I was able to give you a bit of a history lesson on the Cold War and the role we played in it.

IAN. What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing the book to life? 

Bob Kern. Marketing. Trying to get the word out and create interest is by far the most difficult part of the process. There are hundreds of thousands of people wanting to take your money by promising to sell you their secret to marketing an ebook if you buy their book, join their group, buy their membership, or pay for their services. Sifting through all the offers (and wasting money) trying to find what works was very challenging. Marketing the book is a very time consuming process, even after figuring out what to do.

IAN. Is We Were Soldiers Too published in print, e-book or both?

Bob Kern. Both

IAN. Where can we go to buy We Were Soldiers Too? 

Bob Kern.

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Bob Kern. Do to the overwhelming positive response this book has gotten from Cold War veterans, I am turning this into a series of four book:
We Were Soldiers Too: Serving in Germany during the Cold War
We Were Soldiers Too: Serving in South Korea during the Cold War
We Were Soldiers Too: The Cold War at Sea and at Home

I hope to be able to release all three sequels by the end of this year.

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