I'm participating in the Veterans Day blog hop and I'll be giving away a tee-shirt (open to US residents only) (M/L/XL) and an e-copy of Cinderella Wore Combat Boots (Open to all). I hope you'll stop by and help me salute our Vets. Leave a comment on the post Sunday through Wednesday, and you'll be entered to win. It's that easy.
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In my popular 1 NightStand novella, Cinderella Wore Combat Boots, I decided to write a story about change, but I also wanted to tell a story about the military brother and sisterhood, a bond that you have to experience to truly understand, something that I love to share. So....
When asked to write about military romance for this Veterans Day, I had to go back to my past. My military romance started nearly twenty-three years ago, when I met my husband. We were both in the Army and stationed at Ft Drum, NY. I believe things happen for a reason. My romance wasn't an easy one. Months into my love affair, I was pregnant, and had orders to deploy to the Gulf 45 days after I gave birth. At the time, my husband was already deployed to the Gulf. I spent my Christmas alone, with letters home from my soldier to keep me warm.
The Gulf War ended two weeks before I gave birth. My husband was sent home with the advance party, barely making it back in time to see his son born. I remember our reunion, a parking lot out front of the barracks at zero one hundred hours. It's so different now than when I was in. There were no crowds, three or four vehicles with family members. When my husband climbed out of the back of that five ton, emotions crashed in around me. Here he was, home safely after so many months. I can not describe the way I felt in that moment, but I can show you in the face of my daughter-in-law when my son, the one I carried at my husband's homecoming, came home from his deployment in Afghanistan. It speaks of the way I felt, better than I ever could.
Now, she hates this picture. Sorry, Cate, but I love it. The tears, the red face. But you know the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, if that is this case, this one is a novel. Before I post it though, I want to tell you a bit about Cate's story and take you to the point this photo was taken.
Cate and James had just met before he went to boot camp. In true Jackson Fashion, and I don't know why this seems to happen every time, but when someone in our family goes into the military, someone gets pregnant. The tradition started with my mother-in-law the Marine, who gave birth to my husband, to my pregnancy with my oldest son, to my daughter-in-law Cate, to my youngest son's girlfriend of over three years, who is now carrying my second grandchild. Yes, I can honestly say I've been there, done that. I can honestly say I know what my boy's sweethearts are and have gone through.
Getting back to Cate's story. Cate moved in with us for her pregnancy to save some money for the baby's arrival, but also to feel secure while James was away. It's hard being alone and pregnant while your guy is called to duty. Because of this, I saw a military romance as it bloomed. Unlike my own letters home that I still have, Cate was able to Skype and talk on the phone to my son. When he was deployed a few months after his daughters birth, she could face to face chat on the computer, something I never had, and to be truthful, made me a bit envious. But she still didn't get to see him often, and the separation between them was hard to witness.
Again, I know how this is and I'm eternally grateful I was able to help her through this difficult time because of my own experiences. Still, as the days went by, Cate grew blue. Her baby daughter kept her busy, but she was missing something in her life. Being held. Knowing the man she loved was safe beside her when the world seemed to be falling apart. Oh, how I knew that feeling.
As a veteran, I understand the deep commitment to country, and your brother and sisters in arms. You are a family, you want to be there with them, to help watch their backs. You train together, fight together, and yes sometimes during those deployments, your friends and members of your military family, are killed in combat. My son is infantry, and front line. He sees heavy combat. A lot of it.
At home, when a Marine was killed, the phone would ring, and a message would go out, initiating a phone support chain. They never said who, we only knew that one of the Marines was killed when that message played. We'd scramble for the computer, desperate to know who, even though we knew if it were our loved one, we would have already been notified. Still, we had this horrible sinking feeling, this gut-wrenching pain that somewhere out there a family mourned a great loss.
Several times during those long months that phone would ring and that message would play. When the day came for their return, I can not tell you the storm of emotion that surrounded us. Joy, pain, sadness, all wrapped up in this ball, ready to explode.
The day James came home from his last deployment was hot. The outside temperature was 106 and humid. We stood in the heat for six hours waiting for the buses to pull up, talking to other families, walking around nervous, on pins and needles. We set up awnings and chairs. Unpacked our coolers and chatted with the other families, anything to settle our nerves.
It was during one of these chats I met an extraordinary woman, the mother of a fallen Marine. I did not know it at the time, but they call them members of the Gold Star Sisterhood and Families. She'd traveled halfway across the country to the homecoming knowing her son would not be climbing off that bus. When I asked her why, she simply said, "I needed to see the other sons come home safely." The strength. The courage. I can not imagine what it took to be there for this event and watch them step off that bus.
In yet another spot, a young Marine waited for his brothers to come home. He sat silently in a wheel chair, both his legs and one arm completely gone. The trip had been painful for him I'd been told, but there was no place he'd rather have been.
So, by the time the buses were spotted, the crowd was in a frenzy, barely contained. As the buses drove around the barracks and pulled up in front of us, this picture of Cate was snapped.
This girl loves her Marine.
So, this Veterans Day I celebrate a lot of things. My time served in the Army, my husband's service and our family's, going back to WWII. I salute my sons while they currently serve, and my oldest as he gets ready to deploy again.
Thank you heroes, past, future and present. God bless our military and their families, and preserve the love that keeps them going. It is love like this, that holds us together and makes this country strong.
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Unusual Worlds You Want to Get Lost In.
In closing I'd like to thank all Veterans for their service, for keeping our country free and safe from enemies foreign and domestic.
Hu-ah and Oorah!
D L Jackson