I remember the first time I saw the tattoo. I was just shy of five years old, and my dad was sitting at the dinner table telling Mom about his workday. Like every other day, he had gone to work wearing a long-sleeve shirt, but on that steamy hot day, he had changed into a cool white tee when he got home. The look was so foreign to me that it was the equivalent of seeing Mister Rogers without a sweater ...
In 1967, at age nineteen, John Stillman—refusing to wait for the draft—voluntarily enlisted in the Army to aid his fellow countrymen in one of the most opposed involvements in our nation’s history: the Vietnam War. Quickly falling in love with the rush of being a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne, he believed his service would honorably help the South Vietnamese protect their country from the ruthless communist North and their Southern allies. But once in the volatile jungles of Vietnam, the merciless hunting and killing of the enemy, constant threat of landmines and booby traps, ambushes that could easily backfire, and deaths of his comrades made Stillman question how any man—if he survived—could ever return to his life as he’d known it.
Written with John’s daughter, Lori Stillman, Jumping from Helicopters is a vivid and moving memoir that unearths fifty years of repressed memories with stunning accuracy and raw details. Interwoven with the author’s own journal entries and including thirty-five photographs, it is a story that will open your eyes to what these brave young men witnessed and endured, and why they returned facing a lifetime of often unspoken unrest, persistent nightmares, and forced normalcy, haunting even the strongest of soldiers.
Sunday, April 16, 2023
1315 Chestnut St.
St Louis, MO 63103
"Heaven and Earth" film showing with panel discussion and book signing.
READERS ARE SAYING ...
brother of late soldier,
who served with John
in the 101st Airborne
"Reading this book gives one the opportunity to go inside a soldier’s mind, living his real-life experience that most people could never imagine. Obviously, a special father-daughter relationship exists for John and Lori to have taken the time, given the effort, and endured the emotional toll that it took to write this book. I applaud them both for their personal commitment to share John's story. Americans need to know what the Vietnam War was really like so that our country doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the past—as well as recognize and show more appreciation for the personal sacrifices our soldiers have made for all of us."
1st of 502nd,
"Jumping from Helicopters grabbed me on the first page and I couldn’t put it down. It was like reading my own story through John’s words, having served with him in Vietnam, in the same platoon and company. The 101st Airborne really is the “Tip of the Spear” in war, and I was impressed by how John’s daily journal provided his daughter Lori with the basis to accurately tell his story. It also transported me back to a place and time long, long ago; the lush green jungle and the stinking rice paddies were real again. From An Lo village on the Song Bo River to the Ashau Valley deep in the mountains, I could feel the heat and smell the dirt. I could remember the excitement and the tragedies, and I also remember the challenge of arriving back in the States. Even after the Vietnam Memorial Wall was built, it took me a long time before I could actually touch the names of our brothers who did not come home with us. Like John, I was home a long time before I really came home. Thank you, Lori, for gently pulling out the deeply buried memories, and for helping your dad to tell his story."
Spec/E4, 2nd ID–101st
ABN 86–89, Army 04–10
“Being a current-day veteran myself, I can say that not many civilians— especially today’s teens—have any idea what soldiers like John Stillman went through to defend freedom in a foreign land during the Vietnam War. Jumping from Helicopters, from its intense moments of chaos and horror to its welcome injections of humor, paints that picture vividly and serves as a true eye-opener.”
“John Stillman’s account of his experience in Vietnam is simultaneously brutal, heartbreaking, and tender. It’s painful to see him being rewired in real time, all the while knowing now the long-term impact of those experiences. At the heart of the book is the relationship between John and his family, especially evident with his daughter, Lori. This is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand the cost of war and the commitment to country.”
Senior Vice President of Engagement and Content
Nine Network of
"From her dad's childhood and Army training prior to going overseas to the jungles and battlefields of Vietnam, John Stillman’s daughter Lori takes the reader on an accurate, humorous, and at times harrowing journey. Vietnam-era veterans will identify with joining the service or getting drafted, as well as with the life-changing experience of going from civilian to soldier and back again, while civilians and non-combat veterans will have a new understanding and respect for what our brave warriors experienced in the early days of the Vietnam war. From start to finish, the authors have crafted a page-turning memoir, one that Lori clearly wrote as a heartfelt tribute with deep love and respect for her father."
LIFE COACH AND
"This memoir is not only courageously and beautifully written, it holds the power to heal—not just for veterans and their immediate families, but for generations to follow. Chapter after chapter, tears flowed as the scenes played out like a movie in my mind. John’s story, with Lori’s brilliant stringing together of words, is eye-opening and raw. Thick with metaphor and meaning, Jumping from Helicopters honors John and his unbelievable journey, and the book title—though simple—sums up the courage, adrenaline, risk, and fear that a role like John's entails. It also honors the experience of every single warrior-soldier-veteran who comes home from war and privately holds the pain of trauma for years. It also honors those who didn’t get the chance to come home, along with the parents and families who quietly hold that pain. In giving a voice to the trauma of war, this book has the power to enlighten us all if we allow it."
Lori Stillman started writing her story down in the form of a journal at a young age after discovering her love for books and words. Born in rural Missouri, she spent her youth exploring the forty acres of woods her parents owned, entertaining herself with a vivid imagination.
After managing a manufacturing company for twenty-two years, she reinvented herself as a certified personal trainer. Now a second-degree black belt, she loves helping people build strength and great health with her own fitness business.
A self-proclaimed tomboy and daddy’s girl, Lori is a wife, fur baby momma, and travel enthusiast. Her passion for hearing people’s stories sparked her interest in having her father tell his own. Jumping from Helicopters is her first book.
Born in Chicago and raised in St. Louis, John Stillman was a quiet boy yet found fun in teasing his younger sisters and brother. His love for the Rome plows in Vietnam led him to a career as an operating engineer, where he earned a living running the big equipment on job sites. Now retired, he busies himself helping out with nonprofit veterans organizations and tending to the almost one hundred acres he calls home in Missouri.
John has been happily married to his wife Rita for forty-eight years and is the father of four children, two daughters and two sons.
He still loves his road trips.