Labor Day book sale to include Ranger Hall of Famer's military collection

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 30, 2013 

The number 1066 is significant in history because it's the year William became a conqueror, but it has special meaning to the family of one local history buff for a different reason.

It's the number of books Renee Lehr donated to the Labor Day Weekend Book Sale from her father's collection after retired Command Sgt. Maj. Charles F. Waters of Smiths Station died last year at 84.

Waters, a U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Famer, had a library that comprised mostly American and military history books but also cooking and travel. And he kept them well, said Pat Chitwood, of the Ledger-Enquirer.

"It's great to know that his love of history will now be shared with many more local readers," Chitwood said.

Waters' collection fills more than half of one room at the L-E's sale.

Lehr, a lawyer and licensed psychologist in Pacific Palisades, Calif., presides over mental health hearings for Los Angeles Superior Court. She credits retired Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Kelso for suggesting the L-E's sale as a good place for her father's books as she sorted through his belongings after he died from sepsis Sept. 18, 2012, in St. Francis Hospital. Then when she talked to Chitwood, she confirmed that notion.

"She said there were many people in the area that are interested in military history," Lehr said. "I know that Dad would be very happy to know others who have love and respect and concern for the military will be able to enjoy his books."

Lehr, however, kept some of the books for herself, including one titled "America's Youngest Warriors, Volume III." Her father, who joined the Marines at age 14, is among the featured heroes.

"He was a country boy from Texas, raised during the Depression," Lehr said. "He was a tall, healthy young kid and felt very patriotic, so this was a good way for him to come along in the world."

During his 25-year military career, Waters served in two branches (Marines and Army) and three wars (World War II, Korean and Vietnam). He earned master's degrees in history and public health from California State at Los Angeles and taught there before moving to Florida, where he was an educator for the state's public health department. He retired in 1998 and settled in Smiths Station.

Waters was inducted into the Fort Benning-based Ranger Hall of Fame in 2006.

"His connection with Fort Benning was a strong one," Lehr said. "At the outbreak of the Korean War, he volunteered for and took his Ranger training at Fort Benning, as a member of the 1st Airborne Ranger Company, and was sent immediately to war."

While his fellow soldiers tucked into their helmets photos of their wives or girlfriends, Waters chose the one of him holding his daughter on her second birthday in 1950. Sixty-two years later, during their last visit together, he showed her that wrinkled black-and-white photo and told her it still was his favorite picture.

"I am fortunate to have many happy memories of time spent with him," she said, "especially during visits with him at the lake house these last 15 years."

Lehr also cherishes the memory of one of her dad's Army buddies telling her at a 2001 reunion "I would follow your father anywhere." She is grateful as well for the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning.

"After his death," she said, "they honored him and supported me through one of the most difficult weeks of my life."

Waters' ashes were scattered at the post's Fryar Drop Zone. At this weekend's book sale, folks can take home symbols of his soul.ABOUT THE SALE

The local chapter of Altrusa International conducted the Labor Day weekend used book sale for more than 20 years before giving it up in 2011. The Ledger-Enquirer took it on as a fundraiser for its nonprofit Newspaper in Education program.

Approximately 15,000 books will be on sale, hardbacks and paperbacks, fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults. Prices range from 50 cents to $4. Cash, checks and credit cards will be accepted.

IF YOU GO

What: Labor Day Weekend Book Sale

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Monday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Ledger-Enquirer, 17 W. 12th St.

RANGER HALL OF FAMER

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Charles F. Waters was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame in 2006. The following is an excerpt from his induction citation:

Ranger Charles Waters had a distinguished military career as both a Soldier and Marine with service in three wars. He joined the Marine Corps at the age of 14 and served in three campaigns in the Pacific theater -- Guadalcanal, New Guinea and Bougainville. After being discharged from the Marines, he joined the Army and the 82nd Airborne Division in 1947, until volunteering for the new Airborne Ranger companies at the outbreak of the Korean conflict. In November 1950, after graduating from the first Ranger Training cycle, Ranger Waters, as a member of the 1st Airborne Ranger Company, was sent immediately to war and participated in four major campaigns during his first tour. In 1953, he again volunteered for the newly formed Special Forces and returned to Korea to fight again. After instructor duty at the 101st Airborne's Recondo School, Ranger Waters was selected to be one of the early advisors to the Vietnamese Army Special Forces and Ranger Units. He served two tours in Vietnam, always performing those duties in a true Ranger manner. Ranger Waters' diverse and distinguished background began in the beaches and jungles of the Pacific and continues on to this day as he truly is one of America's unsung heroes. Ranger Waters, in both civilian and military life, is a prime example of the motto "Rangers Lead the Way."

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Ledger-Enquirer Labor Day Book Sale

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