One Million Steps

indexI read a an eclectic variety of books; I rarely set out to read a specific book, unless I have a reason. Books come into my hands; if they sound intriguing, whether neurology, biography, the history of Times Square, or a fantasy novel, I read them. As a writer, I may step outside my normal zone of interest as part of research for something I’m writing. Such was my current situation, researching background details for a fictional warrior culture I was developing.

I don’t follow military anything. Yes, my grandfather was in the Navy, my uncles and cousins in the army, Uncle Laurie was lost at sea in WWII, and Uncle Art was a Marine at Iwo Jima, but that’s not the same as being from a military family, where service is a way of life. No one in my family has seen combat in 50 years, so I needed a lot of research. I didn’t want a diatribe on why we did what we did, the politics involved, or a lot of technical jargon that was going to make my head spin. I needed to know what it was like in the trenches, how do you respond when pinned down by gunfire, how do you get yourself out? What do you do when the population you’re fighting for wants you dead?

And I found a number of books and films that were not just entertaining, but fascinating to read and watch.

If you can read just one book on the subject – one – read One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War” by Bing West. West, a Viet Nam vet, embedded with Kilo Company, a Marine rifle company of the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment (3/5). This was exactly the book I was looking for. West takes you along with the Marines as they walk their daily walk in Sangin, Afghanistan, the worst sector for casualties. Each day’s walk was approximately 5,000 steps; their rotation was up after 200 days, or approximately one million steps, a million steps that could trigger a mine or a bullet from a mostly invisible enemy. In a country torn by war for decades, no one was welcoming them as liberators. West is actually critical of the war without being nasty about it, showing you how the policies over the years, the lack of unified vision from the uppermost tiers, the conflicting orders from above all kept the troops from doing what they were trained and equipped to do: take out the Taliban. This was a wonderful book, easy to read, easy to follow, and left you with deep respect for every man who who went over there.51zvSX4uIPL._AA160_

I also read “The Reaper: Autobiography of One of the Deadliest Special Ops Snipers” by Nicholas Irving. Although it’s simple to read, I would not rate it close to West’s book. His story – most likely ghost-written, rambles along like you’re sitting next to him at a bus station. He gives detailed accounts of one or two missions, but the rest – you might as well be talking to him at a birthday party while he tells you his life. He may be a very good sniper, but he’s not a great storyteller.

hornetsIf you don’t have time to sit and read, there are some great war films out there, both fiction and non-fiction, that will put you in the line of fire. The Hornet’s Nest is probably the most realistic of them, because it’s actual footage. A father and son journalism team go to Afghanistan to cover what is supposed to be a one-day strike that turns into a harrowing nine-day seige. If you want to see and feel exactly what goes on, this is your film. You will be riveted.

If you’re looking for more of a Hollywood polish, I recommend The Hurt Locker, starring Jeremy Renner as a bomb disposal expert addicted to the adrenaline rush he gets in the face of danger. It has the documentary style, and will keep you on the edge of your seat. An ex-Marine handed me Full Metal Jacket, which I’d only heard of. A serious and yet farcical film directed by Stanley Kubrick in the best of the 70s style, FMJ gives you all the grit of Viet Nam with the horrific insensibility of M*A*S*H*. For any Firefly fans, check out a very young Adam Baldwin toting an old-fashioned Vera. I watched it three times in one week. Another I recommend is 9th Company, which is a Russian film about battles the Russians fought in Afghanistan in the 80’s. If you don’t mind subtitles, it’s an action-packed film that gives a non-American perspective.

Sometimes you have to step away from your comfort zone to find something wonderful. This time, I hit the jackpot.

 

large_uToiRjgTYfGrXnMNxpyiGZPgvM0              FMJ               9th company

Romance Authors Love Veterans

veteran

One of the wonderful things about Romance authors is that they write about relevant, current, everyday topics.  Lately, many contemporary Romance authors are writing about our wounded warriors.   Romance authors have picked up on the heroic sacrifices our Veterans have made and have written authentic, smart, sensitive, emotional, heartwarming, and uplifting stories that touch all of our hearts.   Two new releases are highlighted below.

USA Today best selling author RaeAnne Thayne continues her series, Hope’s Crossing, with book number six, Christmas In Snowflake Canyon.  

Dylan Caine is a wounded war vet, losing an eye and part of his arm in Afghanistan.  He lands back in Hope’s Crossing, but heads up to an isolated cabin in Snowflake Canyon to get away from his large, loving, and smothering family.  He finally agrees to meet his brother at the local bar in town.

Genevieve Beaumont is the daughter of Hope’s Crossing’s mayor – a spoiled, rich, pompous brat who has spent the last several years in Paris – overspending and overindulging.  When she discovers her fiance has been cheating on her, she breaks their engagement.  Her parents pull her back to Hope’s Crossing, cutting her off from her trust fund until she can get her act together.  She’s banished to live in her late grandmother’s run down house,  and feeling sorry for herself, she heads off to the local bar.

When Genevieve ends up in a bar room brawl, Dylan reluctantly comes to her rescue.  Both are arrested and are assigned community service at the local Wounded Warriors facility.

What follows is a painful, emotional, uplifting journey that brings these two unlikely characters together.  Through emotional and physical trials, both characters transform from people you don’t quite like, to people you want to invite into your home.  The two main characters are supported by a wonderfully written cast of supporting characters.  Ms. Thayne does a beautiful job describing all the characters, the exquisite scenery and expertly shows us the courageous struggle of our wounded soldiers.  A wonderfully written journey of loss and hurt replaced with healing and love.

The Way Home by Cindy Gerard – Killed in Action – the most dreaded words imaginable for a soldier’s wife. Jess Albert has been living with them for four years, since the death of her husband in Afghanistan. Finding blessed numbness in routine, she doesn’t dare to look ahead, any more than she can bear to look back. Then Tyler Brown, a former special-ops warrior, shows up at her small general store in Minnesota North Woods, jarring her back to life. Jess knows better than to fall in love with another man who places duty to his country before love of his wife- but there’s no denying the longing and the hope for a future that Ty makes her feel.

A world away, a man ravaged by years of captivity and torture, a man with no memories, finally escapes- clinging to life and sanity in a hostile land. In his darkest hour, he awakes in a lantern-lit cave to find a woman at his side. Dark-haired and dark-eyes, her touch is caring, despite the resentment he hears in her voice and sees on her face. Rabia is bound by honor to save the lost American soldier in her keeping, this broken warrior from a war that has brought so much devastation to her land. But is it honor igniting her compassion for her enemy, or is it something more?

A beautifully written story of love, honor,  and loyalty and the sacrifices of our soldiers and their families.

Check out some other Romance authors who have written military themed books:  Suzanne Brockmann, Robyn Carr,  Laura Griffin,  Elle Kennedy, Penny McCall, Lindsay McKenna, JoAnn Ross, Roxanne St. Clair, Julie Ann Walker.

Linda Reads: The Christmas He Loved Her by Juliana Stone

This is book two of the series The Bad Boys of Crystal Lake.  You can read about book one, The Summer He Came Home, here.

Jesse Edwards was killed in Afghanistan and his widow, Raine, is having a very difficult time coping with his death.  Having an equally hard time is Jesse’s fraternal twin, Jake, who served with Jesse and was there when Jesse was killed.  What complicates the situation even more, Jesse, Jake and Raine were best friends growing up together.  Raine loved both brothers in different ways, but chose Jesse to marry – leaving Jake heartbroken.   Because he can’t come to terms with Jesse’s death and he can’t face Raine, Jake stays away from Crystal Lake.  Eighteen months go by before he has the courage to come home for Christmas.

Raine Edwards is barely coping with her husband Jesse’s death.  She’s depressed and isolates herself from everyone.  Jake is her best friend and she can’t understand why he is avoiding coming home to help her through her grief.  When he finally does comes home, Raine is angry, hurt and confused.

This book is an emotional roller coaster that follows Jake and Raine from a childhood friendship to devastating grief and through every emotion imaginable until they find love.

The Christmas He Loved Her isn’t your typical Christmas story.  The grief and pain of these two characters tears at your heart.  Even though they are surrounded by family, friends and the whole town of Crystal Lake, their struggle is heart wrenching.  But love has amazing healing powers and their journey is a very enjoyable read!