Every 65 minutes, a veteran commits suicide.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD afflicts:
- Almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans
- As many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans
- 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan
- 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans
"Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime." (Ernest Hemingway)
Most of my regular blog readers know I am a romance writer. I like happy endings. I believe in soul mates and the power of love to change the world. Yes, I am a sap. In my latest book, Soldier of Love, I tackle a subject I’m not particularly familiar with: veterans returned from war. Now, I do know some veterans; my father-in-law fought in Vietnam, and a few of my high school classmates have held long military careers or married people with military careers. One of my favorite classes in college was a history class on World War I and its influence on art/literature/music of the time. To this day, I teach WWI poetry and short stories in my English classes because the literature written by those who’ve served is so powerful - and so powerfully disturbing.
My fear in writing Soldier of Love was that I wouldn’t get it right. That I wouldn’t even come close to getting it right, because I hadn’t lived it. I did have a vague sense of the complexity of war and battle and enlistment and what soldiers face and lose when they go to war. So I decided I wanted to do my best to portray a man who returned from combat not because he retired, or received a Purple Heart, or lost a limb in battle, but because he lost too many buddies over the years and couldn’t bear it anymore.
Maybe giving Heath a prosthetic leg would have been easier. Physical disability is one thing, after all. Easier to see. But the more I read, and talked to a good friend who’s spent his life in the military, and befriended the wife of a military pilot who struggles with PTSD, and watched my own father-in-law come to terms with his memories of Vietnam, the more I wanted to create a character whose pain is internal. Whose struggle is with the demons in his head, the memories, and the pain of lost comrades. Did you know that every 65 minutes, a veteran commits suicide? That is unimaginable to me, and yet it happens in part because, I think, there is such a gulf between what these men and women endure overseas and what they come home to.
Heath Garrick is my hero. He struggles, yes, but in the end he finds love and happiness and a life worth living. I wish this for all returned veterans. God Bless.
Soldier of Love is the story of a veteran returned from war and the woman he falls in love with. It will release at all retailers on March 18 and is available for exclusive pre-order NOW on iTunes (the first 2 chapters will also be available at iTunes on February 20).