Book discussion focuses on local veteran

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LIVERMORE — The Ages and Pages Book Group from the Livermore Public Library met at the library on Feb. 17 to discuss the book “A Corpsman Legacy” by Stephanie Hanson.

The book was chosen because of a local connection, Ronnie Gordon, a 1966 Livermore Falls High School graduate who served in the Marine Corps under his birth name of Rodney G. Shank and died in combat in Vietnam. The author’s father, Navy Corpsman Gary Young, and LCPL Rodney Shank, gunner, were both killed by enemy fire in a medevac helicopter rescue mission in a hot zone.

The author began her journey as a happily adopted young woman who had no great desire to look for her birth parents. However, motivated by her need to have medical information, she searched for and located her birth mother. During one of their reunions, her mother gave her an old, tattered newspaper clipping of an obituary for her father, Gary Young, who was killed in Vietnam in 1969.

It was from that small piece of information that sprang an emotional journey for her, her family and so many others. She connected emotionally and spiritually with those who were somehow involved with her father, with his unit in Vietnam or those who were supportive of her quest.

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Shank had a similar journey as Hanson. Classmates and friends all remember him as Ronnie Gordon. He was raised in Livermore and never knew until enlisting in the U.S. Marines that his birth name was really Rodney Shank. On the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., his name is engraved as Rodney Shank, but soon his name will be on the Lewiston-Auburn Memorial Wall as R. Shank aka Ron Gordon.

During the evening, Hanson made herself available by speaker phone from the West Coast to discuss and answer questions from the book group. In the group was Ron Beedy, a veteran who shared a few of his experiences while serving with the Army, 25 Infantry Division in Vietnam. At the end of his conversation with Hanson, she said “welcome home,” and indicated that one of the biggest benefits of her book was to recognize the service of the Vietnam veterans and to provide a sense of healing for those who were so affected by that war.

The author donated 14 autographed copies of her book to the Livermore Public Library, which are available for local residents to read.

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