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OU alumni, lifelong friends write book about lives

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Letters in a Helmet: A Story of Fraternity and Brotherhood cover

"Letters in a Helmet: A Story of Fraternity and Brotherhood" book cover.

Two OU alumni have published a book about how their friendship at OU has transitioned into their adult lives. 

OU alumni and Delta Kappa Epsilon brothers Bob Tierno and Ron Sorter published “Letters in a Helmet: A Story of Fraternity and Brotherhood,” which became available on Amazon in October, according to a press release. The book talks about their 50 years of friendship, which began while they were OU students during the Vietnam War and continued through their military service and many life experiences, Tierno said.

Tierno graduated from OU in 1972 with a bachelor’s in history education. His adult career consisted of multiple jobs in correctional facilities, including being an officer and federal prison systems regional manager. He also owned a bed-and-breakfast in California and worked as a franchise business coach.

Sorter was a captain in the infantry in 1970, and he also commanded a rifle company in Vietnam as a first lieutenant, according to the release. Eight months into combat, Sorter lost his right leg.

Their friendship was strengthened in many ways after Sorter was wounded in the Vietnam war in 1970, Tierno said. Tierno was able to use his connections from Vietnam to keep Sorter’s family updated on his progress. 

After graduating from OU, the two crossed paths multiple times, often living in the same cities, Tierno said. They stayed in contact by “landline phone calls, letters and Christmas cards ... and, more recently, with the invention of cell phones ... texting, smartphones, Zoom and blogs,” Tierno said in an email to The Daily.

They began writing in March 2019 while Tierno was recovering from cancer and Sorter was dealing with the passing of his wife, Tierno said. They felt that their story of brotherhood would resonate in today’s America.

Writing this memoir, Tierno said, was difficult because it caused them to remember things from the past, but it allowed them to clarify their stories and to make their memories more honest.

Tierno and Sorter hope that after reading the book, the reader understands the importance of lifelong friends.

“Fifty years is a long time,” Tierno and Sorter said in the email. “Out of all the friends one makes in college, the reader may still stay in contact with only a few and will be lucky to count lifelong friends on only one hand. They are worth gold ... It takes work to stay in close contact but, in the end, your lifelong friends are there for you. Take away this: Make the call now. Laugh. Stay close.”

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