101st Airborne Division…I’m in Awe!

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Having never seen the acclaimed HBO documentary Band of Brothers, I was in awe of these men and engrossed in their stories while watching a documentary on You Tube. The documentary showed interviews with the real men depicted in the HBO series, and it wasn’t until after I had finished watching the entire film that I realized that some of these men have died since it was filmed. I felt like I had lost my grandfather all over again at the realization! These brave men are dying off every day and our country is losing some of our best.

I think most of us have seen movies about D Day, and some of us have been fortunate enough to visit the beaches of Normandy in person. Certainly any American who has ever attended school has learned about Operation Overlord and the great sacrifices made during the invasion of Normandy. We know that through that effort, Hitler was eventually defeated and the concentration camps were liberated by Allied forces. But hearing the actual men describe their experiences was unlike any other for me. I wanted to shake their hands, buy them a drink and give them a hug…but most of all to offer my gratitude and express my amazement at how well they rose to the greatest challenge most of us could ever imagine facing and come out the other side to tell the story.

Writing historical fiction is fairly new to me, and researching the past in order to realistically depict it in a novel can sometimes be tiring and dull. But for my current work in progress, I needed one of my characters to serve in one of the airborne divisions during the war. I chose the 101st because of where they trained in the early years of the war. Uncle Joe, in my novel, is the uncle of my protagonist and I wanted him to be around in the beginning of the war. The 101st Airborne didn’t ship to England until September of 1943. They spent most of the war training to do their job once the time came. I was amazed to learn that the first action of the war these men saw was on D Day. Most of us think of that event as being towards the end of the war, but for them it marked the beginning of their own personal war. Nothing about the research for this aspect of my novel was dull! Even though most of my novel is set stateside, I am so excited to be able to include some of the action from France, Holland and Belgium in the novel.

If you are lucky enough to meet a World War 2 veteran that is still living, please shake his (or possibly her) hand. I’m off to research my next story line aspect which is a love interest for Uncle Joe. So, I expect to become enthralled with the tales of Army Nurse Corps members who served in Europe and might have crossed paths with Uncle Joe. If you know me personally, it will come as no surprise that he will fall for a nurse! 🙂

I truly hope that I can make my characters as real and three-dimensional as the men that I watched in the documentary. They were generous enough to share their thoughts and feelings with the public and I’m eternally grateful. To them, they were just doing their jobs and looking out for each other. They don’t see themselves as heroes. I guess that is left up to the rest of us. May the ones who have departed us rest in peace knowing that your country is proud of you.

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Did that really happen?

I’ve had quite a few readers ask me, “Did that really happen?” while reading my novel. Well, I don’ t want to post too many spoilers, but I’m going to use this blog to address some of those questions.

1) Yes, my family lived in Germany. We lived in a charming village called Erfelden on the old part of the Rhein River. My husband worked on the Army post in Darmstadt.

2) My two children (not twins) did get on the wrong bus one morning going to school. Instead of what happened in the book (no spoilers!) I literally jumped in front of a moving bus and made the driver stop. He looked like he’d rather run me over, but luckily chose not to!

3) My daughter and I did ride a rollercoaster at Disneyland Paris that died due to an apparent power outage. And yes, they were that rude about telling us to get off the ride when we were finally “rescued”.

4) My son’s toy crossbow did shatter the glass front door on our beautiful home. We had to explain to our landlord in German that we were paying to fix it! I won’t say how much it cost! Too painful to recall. 🙂

5) Our van was burglarized in Amsterdam using technology that captured the signal from our “clicker”.

6) We DID NOT struggle with infertility, but have people very close to us that did. And they had beautiful twins to show for it!

7) I did lead a bible study one year for PWOC at the chapel on post. But Carmen’s role in the group was more important than mine ever was. 🙂 I loved the fellowship with the ladies though.

8) Most of the Aaron stories actually happened…to my actual son. 🙂

9) There was no young soldier that “joined” our family. We met a great many amazing soldiers, but there were mostly married men with families who loved them! We were always supporters of the military, but living among military families only increases the level of respect we had!

If there are events that I missed, please feel free to ask!