On the stormy night of September 16, 1967, young Marine Alvin Simpson faced the terrors of a long night at sea on a Higgins boat during a typhoon. Men all around him were convulsing, sickened by the waves, the cold, and diesel smoke. The trials of that night on the open sea strengthened Alvin's faith in God as he remembered to pray the way his grandfather had taught him. And it was this faith that sustained him through the many months and battles yet to come during his time in Vietnam. Distant Shore: A Memoir is the story of Alvin's life, written to share with his daughter Tara, her children, and their posterity. He tells his story as an apology to Tara for not being able to answer her questions about Vietnam while she was growing up. His story takes the reader from the streets of Cleveland to the jungles of Vietnam. Alvin shares his own family history and the values he learned growing up in a close-knit African American community. Born on July 4, 1946, Alvin praises his mother for raising him and four siblings as a single parent. He credits his grandfather, a Presbyterian preacher, for being his model of spirituality.
Alvin's boyhood dream of becoming a Marine became reality when he enlisted after high school graduation. He served with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division in 1967 and 1968 in the Republic of South Vietnam, attaining the rank of Sergeant. After being released from the Marine Corps, Alvin began his college education at The Ohio State University, where he also ran varsity track. He earned his B.S. in Education in 1972 and his M.A. in Education in 1974. Alvin's career as a Social Studies teacher for Columbus Public Schools began in 1972. He also coached track and field and was named "Coach of the Year" in 1996 and 2001. After 32 years of teaching and mentoring students, Alvin retired in 2004. "Once a Marine, always a Marine" is the credo Alvin lives by. Today he is active in several veterans groups and has journeyed to the Wall many times to pay respects to friends who left the world in Vietnam. "We see dimly in the present what is small and what is great." The Present Crisis -James Russell Lowell