In Honor of The Soldiers

The Soldier” is dedicated to my oldest brother, John, who is a soldier in the best sense of the word, and to all the soldiers in uniform and otherwise who find the road to peace an uphill battle. Your sacrifice is not in vain.

Thus opens the book that tells the tale of Devlin St. Just’s fight for his happily ever after following the Napoleonic wars, but when I think about it,  is the road to peace ever not an uphill battle?

And what is a “soldier in the best sense”? By that I meant, somebody whose passion to protect the people they love is so great, they will offer their lives in the effort. This is the stuff of heroes, certainly, but in my work with foster children, I also see a much quieter version of soldier than we usually envision when we think of a hero. I see people who each day offer their lives and their love in the fight to reclaim families from the sundering forces of addiction, mental illness, and crime.

I see parents who finally, finally climb on top of years of excuses, blaming and denying to get healthy and sober, and to step up to the challenge and honor of raising their children.

I see children who by rights ought to be incapable of functioning, though they somehow hold it together, get an education, and make good choices.

I see the police officers whose job it is to accompany child protective services workers into dangerous and heartbreaking situations, and they do it. It’s part of the job, and they don’t expect to be thanked for it any more than the CPS workers expect thanks for what they do, or the judges expect thanks for hearing the difficult cases in the foster care court room.

My ninety-one-year-old dad served a Navy tour during World War II, my brother John did a stint in Vietnam, but they rarely talk about their experiences as soldiers. Today, let’s talk about our soldiers—who in your life is protecting and serving, offering their life and their love for what they believe in? Whether they’re in the military, or serving in a civilian capacity, they’re soldiers to me.

Eleven people commenting on today’s blog will receive a signed copy of “The Soldier,” and one lucky commenter will receive a new Kindle.

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49 comments on “In Honor of The Soldiers

  1. Your blog post today I must admit made me tear up. All of the people you mentioned are most certainly heroes. Your dad and brother sound like truly wonderful people to do that, not everyone is cut out for the army, or its different branches.

    In my life my dad was in the army when he was younger. I don’t think he served anywhere; no one really talks about that to me. I just recently found out that he had an honorable medical discharge, and he was an engineer on something although I don’t know what it was. I’d have to ask my grandma again. One of my best friend’s husbands is currently in the military on active duty. You’re comment; “Whether they’re in the military, or serving in a civilian capacity, they’re soldiers to me.” though makes me think of so many other people who serve on a civilian capacity. I can say I am honored to have grown up with a veteran for a father, and in a world where we have soldiers and other people who are here to protect us.

    Thank you very much so for the opportunity to win one of your books or the Kindle.

  2. Tiffany, I was a little concerned that some people might be offended to think of “civilian” soldiers, because the sacrifices of those in the military are so very great and so selflessly given. I appreciate–to the extent someone non-military can–those sacrifices. I think they set an example of service and devotion to ideals and loved ones that inspires us all, even those like me who never considered a military calling.

    • I don’t think people will be offended. While they may not be soldiers in the general sense of the word, if you look at it from a bigger picture in a way they kind of are. I completely agree with you.

  3. Your post is truly an honor to all our veterans, past and present. My husband served, spent two years in Germany, my son served and now my grandson is stationed in Georgia with pending orders to deploy to Kuwait next spring. My younger grandson says he is enlisting when he graduates because it is “the family tradition”. (This is my grandson that I got with a marriage license instead of a birth certificate so that’s quite an honor.)
    But the best military story in our family is our personal one. Husband was in the army, stationed in Germany (as stated). I was a high school student in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. My best friend was engaged to a buddy of his that he’d met in basic training. My friend and her feller were writing letters…this was the dinosaur age when there might have been a futuristic vision of things like cell phones, texting, lap tops and all that but it was saved for sci-fi movies. So what she was getting was hand written letters on paper, put into envelopes and with an eight cent stamp on the front. We had lunch together every single day and ALWAYS went by the post office to get her letter which she read while we ate. One beautiful day Boyfriend sent a picture of him and several GI’s. I picked out the most handsome one in the bunch and decided that’s the one I would marry. Before long I was waiting on my own letters and two years later I got on a Greyhound bus and went to PA to marry him. Nope, never had met him in real life but still have all two year’s worth of letters. We celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary this past summer and the uniform shirt that he wore that first night I met him still hangs in the closet to remind me that if he had not been willing to serve his country, I would have never met him.

    • Carolyn, I LOVE that story, and hope sometime there’s a women’s fiction tale that comes out of it. Those letters are priceless artifacts of not just a romance but an era. And what courage you and your fellow both showed, to take a leap on the strength of love letters–Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning would applaud heartily.

  4. Grace, my father was a fighter pilot in the US Navy, serving during the Vietnam War. He was shot down over the South China Sea in 1965 and thankfully rescued. The photography plane captured his ejection in a sequence of images–the very first time an ejection had been photographed during combat. Those photos are a powerful reminder that we nearly lost him.

    He is not a perfect man but he is my hero and has been as good a father as he could be.

    Thanks for reminding us of all those in the military–past and present.


  5. I wish we could ask him–what did he think in those moments, how did he feel when he was fished out of that vast, lonely ocean? He has a quite a tale, and I hope you get the words to go with this pictures. My dad never talks about his war experiences unless he’s directly asked, and then its with a kind of academic detachment, or perhaps just the perspective of great age.

  6. My cousins son Brandon McDowra will be leaving next week to go over seas to fight for our country. I love him and will miss him so much. Please be safe and brave. We love you Brandon. I know I did not answer your question but I had to say that. Thanks for listening.
    Debbie D
    P.S. I would love to read The Soldier

  7. Hi Grace, your post is beautiful and so is your site. I use to have military ties, my ex-hubby is Airforce and I was not one of the women who was strong enough to stay with a military man. Having a part-time husband wasn’t for me. They all give up so much of themselves for their country. That is their 1st wife. I understand it and even commend them on it.I am thankful to all those men and women who give their everything to the people and country.
    My heart goes out to them all today.


    • And with your comment in mind, we have to add our hearts go out to their wives–some of whom have little idea what they’re getting into–and to their children, who don’t get much of a say, and have a lot to deal with as well.

  8. My mother had three brothers. Two were much older than her and one was younger. Her dad fought in WWI, her brother James was in Japan during WWII when she was born, her brother Freddie served during Korea, and her younger brother Kenneth served stateside during Vietnam. I am so proud of and thankful to those who serve!

  9. Grace, when I think of soldiers, I have to think of my older brother. He was a wild child, and hell raiser as a teen. At 19, he enlisted in the marines and requested to be sent to Viet Nam, thinking it would be a kick. He ended up being injured and honorably discharged. When he returned home, he was the epitome of someone with ptsd. There were some scary incidences, one involving me as a young child, when I thought he was going to harm me because he was still fighting in his mind. He made a bad marriage, got in a lot of trouble, and had two kids that he basically abandoned. As the years went by, he did get better. He found the love of his life, became a good dad (and stepdad) and grew to love his family and his country. He never would talk about combat. My mom asked him several times if he ever had to kill anyone, and he wouldn’t answer. (And I guess that WAS our answer.) So the horrors of what happened stayed locked inside him, along with the metal fragments they could not remove. He also was awarded a medal for his duty.

    I love to read stories about how soldiers who are wounded (physically and / or mentally) are healed.

    God bless all our vets of all generations.

  10. I’m going to be teary-eyed all day, I know it.

    One of my heroes is based on my oldest brother, who graduated from the Naval Academy and is buried in Arlington, right by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You are right–there are many ways to serve, but we have to acknowledge that many of our returning soldiers, police officers, etc., will suffer from PTSD in its various degrees. Many of previous generations were told to “just deal with it,” but that is not the answer either.

    Thank you for a beautiful essay. Yes, I would love a copy of The Soldier and your other books, but since I already have a Kindle, I’ll withdraw my name from that giveaway. Appreciate you sharing on this special day. Love ya!

    • Julee, SOS Aloha once asked me to blog about why my hero was a soldier, and it was really tough to keep to the word count. There is so much about a soldier that’s heroic, but it comes down to being passionate unto the death about the ideals of protecting and serving. A person who combines that degree of passion with that degree of integrity can ONLY be a hero or a heroine. My condolences on the loss of your brother, may he rest in well deserved peace.

  11. Bonnie, even though your brother fought his way home to a good life, that is still a sad story. We know so little at nineteen, no matter how capable and on top of things we feel. I’m so glad your brother didn’t give up, and that his family didn’t give up on him.

  12. I’ve really enjoyed reading all the stories shared here. I wish I had something profound to add, but the people I have known who have served are very close mouthed about it. My father served in WWII, but was in research developing radar and never had to leave the country. I know what he did was very important too, but he doesn’t really have many tales. He was very lucky in that my mom was able to be with him at all the bases he served at. It was more like a regular job.
    My father in law was in Europe invading France, but he REALLY would not talk about it. I think he did not want to bring up memories, so I guess that’s heroic too. I think it would be difficult to have something so life changing happen to you that you can’t or don’t want to talk about it.

    (I already have “The Soldier”, so if I should win one, you could pick someone else.)

  13. Barbara, when I read up about “battle fatigue,” and various other incarnations, I was surprised to find that one (older) school of thought was to discourage the soldier from talking about whatever had tipped him over the edge, and to get him back to his unit as fast as possible. The thinking–reinforced usually by the soldier’s expressed wishes–was that adding the shame of leaving the unit to the battle trauma was only compounding the problem.

    What a complicated curse PTSD is. I guess everybody copes differently.

  14. Dear Grace,

    You never fail to impress me. This post said what many of us are thinking today, but most often are busy with the ‘noise’ of our own lives, to stop by and give ‘voice’ to our thoughts.

    Thank you for always willing to share wonderful pieces of your life with us. This is the reason we love you and treasure you and the stories you tell us, be they between those gorgeous art covers, or from your life. All come from that part of you that pumps the life blood-your heart.

    I have no immediate family members serving, but still I honor them all: women and men that serve, but also their family members who are here eagerly awaiting the news of their loved ones, especially now.

    Thanks and God Bless you, Madam Author!

    Where ‘hooking’ is fun!

  15. I’m so proud of my son-in-law. He’s now in the Army Reserves.

    My paternal grandfather fought in WWI (he was a lot older than my grandmother). The way Carolyn met the love of her life is the same way my grandparents met – through letters until the day they married. So romantic and cool.

    • Carla, do you still have the letters? I’m sure Carolyn’s family will keep her letters for generations. Makes me worry that our spiffy little emails just can’t carry such a load of emotional ballast.

      • You know, I’ve never asked. I’ll check with my dad. That would be awesome, but I’m not holding my breath. My paternal grandparents have been dead for sixty years.

  16. I would like to honor my parents; their generation served during WWII. Mom was one of the first women in the Marine Corps, Dad was in the Army in both the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions. Charlie, my sisters high school boy friend to died in Viet Nam, my sister, brother and brother in law who served in times of relative peace. My late husband was a Marine (a former Marine I was told, never an ex-Marine) My Mom and Dad are gone now, but didn’t talk of their service or their sacrifice. They would only say they did what was right. I am so grateful for those who still ‘do what is right’

  17. Ellie, I would love to know more about your mom, and her tour with the Marines. She must have been quite a woman, and no doubt had a lot of stories related to aspects of service other than combat. You’re another example of somebody who served by association.

    • Mom grew up in a small town in Indiana, the 4th of 4 children and the only girl. Her graduating class had 23 people and the options for a young woman at that time were limited. She first enlisted in the Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC)in 1942 and was stationed in places that she had only dreamed of visiting including New York City. She would write letters to her father and those letters would be published in the local weekly newspaper (found in her scrapbook after she died). She served a short tour with the WAAC’s and immediately upon her discharge, signed up with the Marine Corps. During her various services she was stationed in New Orleans, NY, San Francisco and various other lovely destinations…Des Moines Iowa to name one 😉 She was a clerk typist, but I do have pictures of her driving large military trucks, so I am sure she had other duties as well. After WWII ended, she mustered out of the Corps but not eager to return to Indiana, so traveled to work at what was Ladd Field near Fairbanks, Alaska where she met and later married my dad. She said had the Corps allowed women to remain enlisted, she would have done so. Later (1949 or 1950) the Marines opened to women on a permanent basis.

  18. Grace. I too loved your blog. I just returned from today’s Veteran’s Day Ceremonies here on the university campus where I work. They were terribly moving. After we finished we walked down our Quad to a new Veteran’s Memorial garden that was being dedicated today. As they played Taps I noticed that the sun had broke through the clouds and a ray had hit a maple tree right above our heads. It was a lovely moment for me for I was remembering the 6 men in my family, now deceased, who had all served in the military from WWI, WWII, to the Korean War. We even have ancestors who served in the Civil War and the Napoleonic Wars. Your blog and your wonderful novel The Soldier brought me full circle in my memories of my father, grandfather and four uncles, and a time they would never discuss. I will never forget them.

    • Sheila, I WISH these soldiers would tell us their stories! When I pursued a master’s in conflict management, one of our European instructors pointed out that as the generation who’d survived WWII died off, so did a lot of tolerance and a lot of patience with civil processes. The Vets are the only people on the planet who can speak first hand to what happens if we stop trying to settle our differences reasonably, and we don’t give them enough places to be heard.

    • And so often, they do it without any thanks whatsoever–while they serve, where they serve, and when they come home. I’ve seen literature that suggests the incidence of PTSD was much lower in WWII because the sense of unanimous support for the war effort was greater, and the welcome soldiers received at home much more appreciative.

  19. Veterans’ Day is always a time when I look back and realize how little I have sacrificed. My dad, a nephew, a brother-in-law, numerous uncles and cousins, as well as friends have served proudly and honorably. I am grateful to each and every one for putting this country ahead of his own interests.

    My nephew visited my classroom today in his dress uniform, and my students were so excited. I wish we were able to do more to honor those who serve.

    • I wish we also honored the military as a vocation–as something people feel called to do (though it would never be the vocation for me). You’re right–no matter the benefits, the job training, the “see the world” recruiting language–any job where getting killed is part of the cost of doing business is a selfless undertaking.

  20. My grandfather served in WW2 and survived being in a concentration camp. I only saw him a few times as a young child before he passed away when I was 7 but looking back now, I wished I would have understood more of what happened and been able to tell him how lucky we all are that he survived and what a great thing he did for our country.

    I got in the car this afternoon with my son today and on the radio was the song (not sure if this is the exact title or not) God Bless the USA and I just got chills and teary hearing it. It is such a true, simple song that means so much to all of us here in the US. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful people that stand up for us overseas and here in the states. I hope as my sons grow I can convey what a great history they have and hopefully they will find their own path if they choose too.

    • We are blessed. No question about that, we are uniquely, abundantly blessed. At the Sourcebooks Casablanca author’s blog, one of our bloggers asked us what we were grateful for, and there is so much about life here that I take for granted: The freedom to come and go as I please, move where I please, travel where I please. The freedom to talk to this person, and not to that. The freedom to write romance novels, which in a lot of cultures are considered subversive. The freedom to get timely news reporting from a number of sources, at least some of which are trying to be accurate and disinterested. The freedom to vote… I’m ranting. I’m ranting but I’m grateful.

  21. Grace, Even though our family doesn’t have any loved ones in the service at the moment, we have been honored to have at least one member of our family in every campaign, except Korea, since the Revolutionary War. I thank the Lord for the brave and selfless individuals that have sacrificed their time and lives in order to protect the advantages and freedoms this great country provides for all of us that are lucky enough to call themselves Americans! God bless them all!

  22. I’ll be contacting you by email to ask for your snail mail, addies, my friends. There’s a signed copy of “The Soldier” for anybody who left a quote above. Thanks for your stories, and for caring about the men and women who serve.

  23. You have a beautiful blog and I’m blessed by the blogosphere that it comes full circle and I get to meet such wonderful people and wonderful writers. Thanks to your brother.

  24. I know I am almost a year too late for commenting but just found this blog. And I want to say something hoping someone will read it still.
    I have an old schoolfriend who is a soldier. There has always been a special connection between us, sometimes even a sparkling one I would say, and we consider each other quite dear though we don’t see each other that often anymore.
    And knowing that he is a soldier somehow awes me (in a positive way, I don’t know if it is the right word), it makes him even more special. I can’t really explain it. Some women say they love men in uniforms, but I have never seen him in such so this is not it. But knowing, he CAN and WOULD fight, knowing he is strong to protect and knowing he is and would dedicate himself, that one can rely on him, aaawww, it makes him so much greater and special for me!

  25. I was moved to tears by the lovely dedication to The Soldier which I am in the process of reading
    I hope you will soon publish a book (an inprint, please about Bronwyn (aka winnie)