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From the ‘70s to 70: Rockin’, Rollin’, and Writin’ with Vietnam Veteran - R.D. Foster

Updated: Sep 30, 2018

RD Foster - Singer, Songwriter, Author and Vietnam Veteran
RD Foster - Singer, Songwriter, Author and Vietnam Veteran

After speaking with R.D. awhile, hearing his stories and his experiences, I joke that I should ask him what he doesn’t do, rather than what he does.

He answers playfully, “Politics. I’m allergic to that crap, man!”

Ronnie Foster (“R.D.” to his friends) was born in Farmersville, TX. He moved to McKinney, TX in the first grade, graduated from McKinney High School and went straight into the United States Marine Corps, where he would eventually serve in the Vietnam War.

R.D. developed an early appreciation for music. “As a kid we went to my grandmother’s church in Farmersville. They had the choir, but also guitars and drums, so from early on, I went ‘Man, that’s pretty cool’”, he recalls.

In High School, R.D. got serious about playing the guitar, but didn’t want to limit himself to covering other artists’ music. “I just figured there wasn’t much of a future in doing what’s already been done,” he tells me. “I thought, ‘I think I can do this. I think I can write a song’.” From then on, R.D. considered himself a singer/songwriter.

Then came the Vietnam War. I don’t ask R.D. much about that conflict, but rather about how it shaped the music or America, and how that influenced him as a singer/songwriter. As a kid, through Vietnam, and to this day he considers bands such as Hank Williams, The Kingston Trio, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Reed, and the Beatles to be influences.

“When I started playing in the clubs in the late 70s, I played a few songs about Vietnam from my point of view.” R.D. says. “Back then, the thing to do was to trash Vietnam. I had club owners tell me they loved those songs, but to never play them again. Nobody wanted to hear about Vietnam in the 70s.”

The war would linger within R.D. for a long time to come. After playing for years with his band R.D. Foster and the Red Dog Rangers, he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015 (a result of Agent Orange). R.D. kept creating through chemotherapy.

“I went through chemo, radiation, all that kinda stuff. Everybody’s saying my voice is stronger than ever now. Maybe that’s because of the radiation? My voice is radioactive, like a superhero.” he jokes.

“Hopefully there are other people out there going through the same thing, and they can see that I went through it, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to think positive, 24 hours a day. I believe that’s how I got through it,” R.D. says. “Well, that and my wife [Trina] taking care of me. She did a helluva job keeping me alive.”

R.D. is also a novelist, having published five books already, including One Day as a Lion, a nonfiction account of twenty-one soldiers from Collin County who were killed in Vietnam, most of whom were his friends.

One Day as a Lion is named after an ancient Tibetan proverb that says ‘It is better to have lived one day as a lion than to have lived 20,000 years as a sheep.’ All these guys, they died at 18, 19, 20 years old. To me, that was their one day as a lion.”

This Veterans Day, R.D. will be releasing a new novel about World War I in conjunction with the Collin County History Museum. At this event, some of those songs he wrote about Vietnam will be played live for the first time since the late ‘70s, and some for the first time ever.

With a life this rich and full, R.D. surely has some great advice for our readers.

“I just turned 70 years old, had cancer, had a quadruple bypass due to agent orange, and I’ve been through all this stuff...the point is, there were times where I thought I couldn’t go on. But just be positive and never give up. Look at my music career; I’m 70 and starting over after cancer. I’d just encourage people, if you’ve got a dream, just keep after it. Don’t give up. I don’t know how old ‘old’ is. I’m not ‘old’ yet. Think young, act young, and you’ll stay young.”

We salute R.D. and thank him for his service, and hope he keeps rockin’ for many years to come. - Written by Shannon Weaver

To purchase your copy of RD Foster's book, The Great War - World War I, visit the Collin County History Museum at 300 East Virginia Parkway in McKinney or call the museum at 972-542-9457.

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