Excerpt: Our Brother’s Keeper


“The doctors have told us to gather the family,” my stepmother Darlene called with the news on that early afternoon, January 4, 2012. My wife and I, plus our second-oldest daughter Jill, drove throughout the night to be at Dad’s bedside.

Three days of reflective tJedwin_014.jpgorment followed as I watched my father painfully slip away. The man who harshly disciplined and berated me, who coached me to the point where I came to loathe sports, the combat vet who taught me to fight, to neither expect quarter nor give it, always with an unspoken demand ablaze within his eyes: Are you your mother’s son or mine?

Such was the question I’d struggled to answer all my life. Having never resolved it, I wavered between those two worlds, holding firm to the best of both.

And now the stress of choosing did not matter, for soon Dad would no longer be looking over my shoulder and passing judgment. During those deathwatch days, while I quietly agonized with guilt that his dying would relieve that burden of expectation, I also came to comprehend there was so much more to this man.

This son of a father who never recognized him as such, was the last of the old Corps, the Leathernecks who first took the fight to the Japanese at Guadalcanal in August 1942— outgunned and outnumbered ten-to-one—and triumphed where lesser men would have failed. He’d cut a path of destruction through Tarawa and Saipan, one of the uncommon warriors of our country’s greatest generation; a vanishing breed from a day when soldiers were sent off to war to destroy our enemies, not merely contain a perceived evil with half-assed measures, like the war in Vietnam.

Indeed, under this banner of “Victory or Death,” my father had persevered, had bled and killed without compassion to help build a better world.

And for this he’d paid one hell of a price.

As had my mother and her children — especially Jeff . . .

Get “Our Brother’s Keeper” here.

18 thoughts on “Excerpt: Our Brother’s Keeper

  1. ShirleySwearingen says:

    Hi John,
    I am a former classmate. My name is Shirley Kimberling Swearingen. We had a class of “64” lunch yesterday. Several members of the class were saying that you wrote a book and that they read it. It really interested me so I looked it up. I really want to read it. I am sure that you are a terrific writer.
    My oldest daughter studied journalism @ Northern Illinois University and suffers from mental illness. I hope that this book encourages her.
    I am married to Leo Swearingen and he was in the class of “66”. I believe that he was in your brother, Jeff’s class. Hope all is good with you!


    1. Jedwin Smith says:

      Hello Shirley:
      Wow, it sure is great hearing from you. I truly wish I could have joined y’all for the “64” lunch. Funny, how we battle our way through life, concentrating only on surviving another day. Then, out of the blue, I received the email inviting me to the luncheon from my old high school — wow, my mind drifted back 52 years, remembering all those faces and friends . . . great memories, all. Yes, your husband Leo was in Jeff’s class. I’m saddened for your troubled daughter; as you will soon see by reading Our Brother’s Keeper, I’ve traveled down that dark road. Ample doses of love and prayers certainly helped me climb out of that deep hole. I’ll be praying for your daughter, and for you and Leo. You’ll never know how much your email has meant to me. Semper Fi . . . John (Jedwin) Smith

    1. Jedwin Smith says:

      Thanks, Denisha. Every author lives for recognition of their writing talent, and you have just made this old man click his heels. I certainly appreciate your kindness. Semper Fi…Jedwin Smith

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