Angels Who Love Wounded Warriors

Vietnam soldiers

Vietnam soldiers

When I first decided to write the two books which I have since called books of my heart, I wanted to illustrate in fiction the strength and courage of women who love men damaged by war. That was in the 1980s, and once the two books were written there was no place for them. People did not want to hear about Vietnam veterans. Just put them in the shadows and don’t talk about them, maybe they’ll just fade away.

That was the general opinion of many people. After all, who ever heard of a disease called Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome? Yes, that’s what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was called in the 1980s. Furthermore it didn’t really exist. Ask anyone on the street. They were no longer the men who left home, most at the age of 18-21, babies for goodness sake. It was

Couple at peace

Couple at peace

just a man’s excuse for doing wild and crazy things. The book First Blood (Rambo) while exciting and well written, and later made into a popular movie, set an attitude for most people. These men were coming home and committing murder right and left. I guess you could say I became obsessed with finding out more about this PTSS and what it was doing to our no longer young but battle weary, battle stressed men struggling to make their way back into a society that shunned them, spit on them, called them unbelievable names. I watched it happen, so I know.  And I knew that not every woman was walking away from the man she loved because he was damaged.

choppers

choppers

In 1973, the so called Vietnam conflict was said to have ended, but it didn’t really end till 1975 when those choppers took off from Saigon with the last of our people on board, but we won’t argue that small detail.

What I learned digging through old Newsweek and Time magazines, newspapers from around the country, and articles in other magazines, was heart breaking. Some of it never made public enough so that only a very few walking around Americans were aware that 2100 plus men were left behind in prison camps, tiny squalid holes where they were kept in cages or paraded around in villages so people could throw rocks at them. Tortured in dozens of inhumane ways. Why?

Because the North Vietnamese wanted some leverage to hold over our government to get the Accords signed. Then they would return those men. They never did. Some came back because a few Laotian mercenaries working out of California were willing to go in country for a big enough paycheck and pull one or two out. So a few families with money got their boys back. What was left of them. Their brains badly washed, their bodies scarred and maimed.

At last  together

At last together

The fact of their experiences hidden by the military.

Did I dare write a novel about a woman who meets one of these men, who takes it upon herself to see that he is kept safe, cared for and hopefully can learn to function in a society he no longer remembers. She is an artist and teacher, a strong woman grieving over the death of her beloved husband when her psychologist asks her as a favor to meet this man and guide him with his artistic talent. The psychologist hopes to help them both recover from their traumas, and has no idea what he has put in motion.

Katie and Glen bond from their second meeting. The first is so shocking for both that it ends badly. Katie is so determined to see that Glen is healed from his physical and psychological wounds that from that second meeting nothing can stand in her way. Not an abusive sister or ex-wife, not Glen’s severe flashbacks, not even the psychologist himself.

Their love story is my first novel, Beyond the Moon, and it is in the hands of an editor. I plan to publish it directly to Kindle by spring. It is written totally in Katie’s viewpoint, with a prologue and epilogue in Glen’s viewpoint. It will be dedicated to the Angels who love and care for men wounded by war.

My second novel along this same theme, but very much different in content, is Once There Were Sad Songs, recently published by The Wild Rose Press. You can find it on Amazon as both a print book and an Ebook.

I have written a lot of novels and books since I wrote these two, and I’m proud of all of them, but today, with the Wounded Warrior Project and so much talk about helping our wounded warriors, these two books are in their element. They will appeal to all those who remember the days of sad songs like Puff the Magic Dragon and Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Blowing in the Wind, who still remember the Vietnam and Korean conflicts, but most especially the women who want their side of this story told.

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About veldabrotherton

I'm primarily a writer, but I also speak and teach workshops and co-chair a large critique group. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. After almost 30 years in this business, I still have something to learn and attend conferences to network with other writers, publishers, editors and agents.
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3 Responses to Angels Who Love Wounded Warriors

  1. Oh, Velda, this post hit close to home for me. I agree that there are so many men, and women, out there who are still in need of “angels,” and I think you do them all justice by writing about them in your fiction. I recall during my career as a journalist that a small group of local Vietnam veterans relied upon me to tell the public their stories via newspaper articles. They called me when they were having an event to honor POWs or MIAs, dedicating ground for a memorial, or were part of a parade on this veteran’s holiday or that special city holiday. I was usually there to see it happen, record the event in words and pictures for them.

    At one of the parades, poorly attended I might add, I took some photos to go along with the story. One photo I captured was especially haunting and I still remember the effect that photo had on me even after three decades have passed. One float consisted of a single bamboo cage, no bigger and wider than the flatbed truck it was on, maybe four feet by four feet by four feet in size. Inside the cage was one of the guys from “my group” who was brave enough to reenact his time of capture, sitting in that cage, eyes blackened to give him the look of being mal-nourished, staring out at the crowd. Absolutely haunting. My lens depicted a time that most of us know little about.

    It gives me chills to write this memory now spurred by your post, Velda, as this picture is so vivid in my mind today as it was when I took it for the article. Makes me wonder, though, what he was thinking, what he was seeing while sitting in that replica of a bamboo cage. I believe this time in history is close to my heart, too, because it’s a time I lived through, but an enigma I’m not able to explain well, at all. For sure “Once There Were Sad Songs” has moved to the top of my Books To Purchase list…

    • Alice, your story brought tears to my eyes. Recently I attended a service in which three local Vietnam veterans were given their medals in a public ceremony. Medals that had originally been put in cardboard boxes and tossed to them with no presentation. Thanks to Senator Bozeman, these men finally received what they were due. The small room was filled to capacity by those of us who remember and still care. The men cried and so did many of us gathered in that room.
      Thanks for sharing your story here in the comments on my blog.

  2. Glorifying war is easy, recognizing its human costs is horribly difficult. Once There were Sad Songs sheds a light into a place kept too long in darkness. I am so looking forward to reading Beyond the Moon.

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