Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Since the start of the 20th Century, war has defined generations and their heroes. Let's explore themes in military romance writing and the heroes that warm our heart.
Not all of us have a military background, so it's important to research what branch of service you're going to use, the military job your hero might have, rank and structure, weapon, setting, and time period. War in World War I has different weapons and settings than today's modern conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. There's one more thing to research that will capture an element of authenticity – camaraderie. It's something those who have served know very well, but it may be something you struggle with as a writer.
I'm prior Army. In 1987, we had a loudmouth in our unit, "Morera." Most of us couldn't stand him because he was loud, obnoxious, and crude. He used to give me a hard time until one of my friends, a female NCO, gave me some advice on how to put him in his place. Now I had just won Soldier of the Quarter for my Battalion and I stood in front of the assembled Battalion to be recognized. After the formation, Morera made a point to find me in the chow hall and in a loud voice announced: "I may not like you much, Cardin, but seeing you up there getting that award, you made me feel proud to be in the 583rd."
I may not have been his biggest fan either, but his smart comments tapered way off and after that, I knew that if the chips were down, I could count on Morera to come through.
One of the major themes in military/war romance writing is "Love on Hold." In the earlier wars, WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam, it's usually the woman waiting for her lover to return, facing almost insurmountable struggles as she raises their love child. With these last two wars, now you might hear of a man minding the children as the woman has been called up for active duty.
Another theme in military/war romance might involve unrequited love – a solider/airman/sailor/marine falls in love for a woman he can't have – an officer in love with a Geisha, perhaps, or a woman who loves a man who cares for someone else.
A favorite theme is "Forbidden Love." Think Romeo and Juliet and harboring a love in one's heart for a person you're supposed to believe is an enemy. I think the most popular example is that of a Nazi soldier in love with a Jewish woman, but certainly it can be applied throughout all the wars. In today's world, think of a "western" man in love with a Muslim woman. In the novel, "A Woman in Berlin," a German woman comes to care for a Soviet officer.
With Iraq and Afghanistan, there's not just "heroes," but "heroines," too. Both need to find and tap into an inner courage or bravery they might not have possessed before. A military hero has to reach down and find that courage in the face of life or death. There's an element of danger they have to deal with. Our hero has to be trustworthy, noble, honorable, assertive, and he/she has to be able to treat people from all walks of life with respect. Also, all romantic heroes/heroines, need to go on a journey that challenges them to change for the better.
What's your favorite military movie/TV show/mini series? Top Gun? The Final Countdown? Winds of War? North and South? Write in. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Monday, November 11, 2013
|Sgt. Alvin C. York, WWI|
In honor of Veterans Day, I thought I'd share the story of Alvin c. York, a World War I veteran who became one of the most decorated soldiers of World War I.
York was born in the hills of Tennessee in December 1887. He was the 3rd of 11 kids. Poor to the bone, the Yorks grew their own food. Alvin's mom knitted their clothes, and Alvin's dad worked as a blacksmith to supplement their income. The family hunted small game as well, which probably helped developed Alvin's extraordinary sharpshooting skills.
In 1911, Alvin's father died. Alvin went to work at the railroad to support his family. He also earned a reputation as a violent alcoholic. In June 1917, he registered for the draft. (as all young men had to) There's some controversy round him asking for conscientious objector status, but in his diary he stated he never asked for conscientious objector status. (His mother was a known and passionate pacifist, so I bet that had something to do with it.)
In October 1918, near Chatel-Chehery, France, Alvin earned the Medal of Honor. As a Corporal, York and his unit of men, roughly 15 total, snuck behind a heavily fortified German position. Half were killed. Under heavy machine gun fire, York and his squad fired back. 6 German soldiers in a nearby trench changed him with fixed bayonets. York shot and killed them all with his .45 Colt automatic pistol. As the losses mounted for the Germans, 1st Lieutenant Paul Vollmer surrendered to York. York and his squad of 7 men marched 132 German prisoners back to American lines.
General John J. Pershing presented York with his medal of honor and he was promoted to Sergeant. Alvin received approximately 50 military decorations for his service in World War I.
Upon his return to the States, York's bravery made the headlines. He received tours of New York City and Washington DC. When he entered the US House of Representatives, they gave him a standing ovation.
In June 1919, York got married. He's a busy bee and has 8 children: Woodrow Wilson, Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Betsy Ross, and Thomas Jefferson just to name a few. He died in September 1964 after a series of health related problems. He'd gained weight and was plagued with strokes.
His story was told by Hollywood in 1941. The movie was called "Sergeant York," and it was based on the diary Alvin kept during World War I. Gary Cooper won an academy award for his role in the movie.
Who are your military heroes? I'd love to hear your stories. Thank a Veteran today. It means a lot to them.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
|On the USS Midway at night|
When my son's Cub Scout Pack said they were going to visit the USS Midway, I got very excited. I like all things military. I served in the US Army from 1986-1997, and I got to see places I would never have if I didn't serve.
I signed up the family right away, ironed all our uniforms, and waited impatiently for the day to arrive. Mind you, I don't know anything about the Navy, so I was looking forward to visiting the Midway and discovering a lot. Did I!
|Planes on the flight deck|
The trip down to San Diego took us 3 ½ hours with traffic and we made it with just a couple of minutes to spare. At 5 pm, we lined up and went into the enclosed hanger bay where we received a safety briefing, had a fire drill, and met our staff for our overnight stay. I'd guess there were about 75 of us total and we all wore our uniforms.
We received our sleeping quarters in the enlisted berthing area and I was shocked at how small they were. It was like a tin can with just enough room to move around.
|Sleeping in the tin can|
Interesting Note: Usually when I go anywhere there's always a long line for the ladies room. Not so here. On Cub Scouts outings, there's more boys and men. No wait for the ladies room!
The staff was friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, and eager. They were very appreciative of us veterans, reminding everyone that freedom is not free and that veterans have paid for everyone's freedom. They acknowledged us in a ceremony that was quite nice, but there was only a handful of us.
We ate dinner on the ship in the gallery downstairs. Chow was lasagna and very tasty. Afterwards, we went on a scavenger hunt and learned what life was like for the officers and pilots on the ship.
|Learning about the anchors|
Our staff gave us guided tours of the engine room, (Joe's favorite part of the visit was acting like steam) the emergency control center, the flight deck, the bridge and catapult control rooms.
We learned what an air boss was, and how aircraft catapult off an aircraft carrier and how they land using a tail hook. The cables used for the tail hooks are heavy and thick. After 100 times, the cables were considered used up and thrown into the ocean.
|On the bridge|
So where do you think they threw leftover food and other waste?
We went to bed at 1030 pm and after all that climbing and walking, we were so pooped that sleeping in a tin can wasn't a big deal.
The next morning we had breakfast – tasty for Navy chow, but I kept it light. During our free time the boys used the simulators and we saw all the planes on the flight deck.
We got our souvenirs, said goodbye to the staff, and headed out.
|A plane with the tail hook|
The Midway and its story fascinated me. The ship was constructed during World War II and was originally a straight landing strip aircraft carrier. It entered service in September 1945, just missing the war by a month! Believe it or not, it was built ON TIME and IN BUDGET!!
It spent time in the Mediterranean Sea in the late 1940's. Unfortunately it's too wide to go through the Panama Canal. In the early 1950's, it went to the Pacific. From 1955-57, it was retrofitted and updated, acquiring its angled flight deck.
It conducted combat missions in Vietnam and got another retrofit in the 1960's. In 1975, Yokosuma, Japan was named the Midway's homeport.
Midway served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and helped evacuate Clark Air Base when Mt. Pinatubo blew. In 1992, it was decommissioned. After sitting in a shipyard up in Washington State, it was brought down to San Diego and made into a museum in 2004.
|Giving the "go" for Catapult|
The USS Midway served 47 years. Amazing for a ship. It wasn't run on nuclear power, but steam. My thanks go out to the Midway and it's sailors for serving our country.
Anyone visit the Midway or have a Navy adventure they'd like to share with us? For those reading my blog who have served in the Armed Forces of your country or have relatives serving: thank you.