By Kurt Johnson
When first approached about working with Rememberize, writing personal and family history content to help people bring their memories to life, I was not sure how this would all go down. I do, however, feel strongly that helping people share their stories, the type of stories from life that entertain and inspire, is a style of writing to which I feel drawn.
As we talked about developing prototype projects that would be useful in their own right, while also showcasing what we do, I was excited to start with the story of the military career of a man I greatly respect and admire – Hyde Taylor. Hyde served his country in the airborne division of the United States Army, training soldiers to jump out of airplanes when he wasn’t overseas in Okinawa or serving one of his two tours in Vietnam.
As we want to do with the histories we write, the book we created around Hyde’s adventures was more like storytelling, and the result was our first Photo Biography. We spent nearly three hours (over three different sessions) interviewing Hyde and hearing the stories of his two-plus decades in service of his country, and then I had the distinct pleasure of turning his stories into a book that he can share with family and friends. We captured each interview session on video as well, so included in the pages of the photo biography are links to five videos in which he shares some of his best stories.
I learned of his great faith as he shared stories about squad leaders asking him to pray for them before particularly messy situations. I was able to pass along his story about the sergeant, whose name he doesn’t recall, who taught Hyde how to fire left-handed so that his “dominant left eye” would not hinder his ability to achieve sharpshooter status.
There were humorous accounts of being the last man on board for his first jump, and being left to sit on a garbage can because all the seats on the C-119 were full, and his encounter with an angry pit filled with sharp-edged tin cans on the night he was “nearly killed by Batman.” Of course, I was surprised to learn that Hyde spent some time as an advisor to John Wayne on the movie, The Green Berets.
Most poignant were the stories from his time in Vietnam, where he talks of his training kicking in and keeping him from thinking about the bad things that might happen. I heard his account of his first three days in Vietnam, his immediate battlefield promotion, and the chaos that ensued when the base came under an attack that began his very first night there. Then, there was the night he was collecting a group of enemy soldiers to surrender, when he followed them down into the tall grass to retrieve their weapons, only to discover that none of his unit had followed, leaving him surrounded by 19 soldiers with guns.
I really enjoyed hearing about great men like Ranger Banks, Henry Emerson and Alton Bess, just three of the many who impacted Hyde’s life forever with the lessons he learned during his military service. Two bronze stars, one silver star and an Army commendation medal are among the dozens of awards he earned during his highly-decorated career, and each comes with a story all its own.
In the end, the message from Hyde to his posterity, as shared through this collection of simple stories is the value of hard work.
As I completed this book on Hyde, I realized even more the joy there is in each of us sharing the stories of our lives with those we live. We didn’t all serve in Vietnam, but even my seemingly mundane life is actually filled with stories that might inspire and entertain someone who would read them.
In the first paragraph of the Preface to a new book on the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have been reading, are these words, “True stories well told can inspire, caution, entertain, and instruct. Brigham Young understood the power of a good story when he counseled Church historians to do more than simply record the dry facts of the past. ‘Write in a narrative style,’ he advised them, and ‘write only about one tenth part as much.'”
That’s one of our goals at Rememberize, and it’s the reason I’m excited to be doing this work, to help those who need assistance tell stories that inspire. Hopefully Hyde Taylor’s family is inspired and entertained by our presentation of his story.
We’d love to help you create a photo biography filled with stories from your life, or help you create one for someone else as a Christmas gift from you. Here are some details on our photo biography product (Photo Biography).