CHICOPEE — Tom Hebert is racked by survivor’s guilt, and because of it, the former Marine is writing a seven-volume series of books about the Marine Corps.

“There is definitely an element of survivor’s guilt,” he told Reminder Publishing. “Although self-diagnosed, it is real,” continued the Chicopee native, who now lives in East Windsor, Connecticut.

Hebert, 77, has just released “The Remains of the Corps: The March Across Samar.” It is the second volume in the series.

Writing under the pseudonym Will Remain, Hebert tells the story of young men dying in war. He said the book is set in 1902, “deep in a Philippine jungle. Ten young men died slow and horrible deaths at the hands of the elements.”

The men were serving in the Marines during what he calls the largely forgotten Philippine-American War, fought from February 1899 to July 1902. He wrote the story based on information he developed from online sources, books and contacts he still has in the Corps.

According to Hebert, the U.S. government sent the Army and Marines to take control of the Philippines from Spain after war between the countries ended in 1898. The story is historical fiction, split evenly between his imagination and actual history.

There is a great deal going on in this 105-page hardcover, from intervention and imperialism to insurrection, fanaticism, treachery and torture, he said.

“The major in the book was a true-life character. He was put in front of a court martial, and acquitted of executing some Filipinos, who were baggage handlers for the Marines and turned on the soldiers. In the end, they were executed for that. This was 120 years ago,” the author stated.

The betrayal and punishment occurred during the march across Samar, a failed attempt by a Marine Corps unit to establish outposts on the island. The event is remembered and revered by Marines, a famous story in the Corps, but not so well-known by the general public. Hebert is trying to give the event broad exposure in his book.

“We can learn from our history, and if we had learned from what had taken place back in the Philippines, Vietnam might not have happened. I think there’s lessons to be learned from any historical event, especially this one,” he said.

Born and raised in Chicopee, Hebert went to grammar school in the city and high school in Springfield. He graduated with an accounting degree from American International College. He has been chief financial officer for nearly two decades at Cambridge Credit Counseling in Agawam.

Hebert’s father, who lived in Westfield and died in 2016, was a World War II Marine. The author joined the Marines, serving during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1971. He was a trained tank officer, but when he was sent to the war zone, he said a personnel officer said they didn’t need him.

“I was assigned desk duty. After a few days I went back to the duty assignment officer and pleaded my case to be sent to the field. I was kicked out of the duty assignment officer’s office and told, in no uncertain terms, ‘You will serve where the (expletive deleted) you are told, lieutenant, and don’t come back.’”

To this day, the ex-Marine wishes he had gone back and insisted on being sent to the front lines. Five of his Marine Basic School classmates were killed in Vietnam, he said, and he feels guilty he came home alive.

Hebert has been married for 55 years. He has two sons and five grandchildren. He works full-time, has already written two books with plans to write more about marine engagements in the first and second world wars, along with Korea and Vietnam.

“I don’t sleep as much as I’d like, and I work very intensely. I don’t produce the books as quickly as I would like, but I need to have a good work-life balance. I enjoy all aspects of my life. I make it work,” he said.

Bridgeport National Bindery in Agawam produces Hebert’s books. The company has printed 50 copies of his latest work, and if it sells out, he’ll have the bindery print more.

The Western Massachusetts native said he doesn’t write for fame or riches, but he is trying to build momentum as he publishes one book after another.

“As I look at the market, there are millions of books being published. It’s incredibly difficult to get noticed. I enjoy writing because I’m telling something very important. I think more attention will be paid to my work as the number of volumes builds.”

Hebert’s stories may be short, and his audience small, but even as he is a slight presence in an immense chamber, he is making his point.

“Whenever their nation needs them, marines answer the call,” he said. “Whether it’s career marines or someone who enlists, they don’t question why, they just serve, from the American revolution until now. Young people have died in wars throughout history, and that’s not fair. That’s one of the points I’m trying to make.”

“The Remains of the Corps: The March Across Samar” sells for $35 and is available at egandapublishing.com and remainsofthecorps.com.

Staasi Heropoulos
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