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Freedom Isn't Free

Even for writers who don't create historical fiction, significant events of the past find ways to creep their way into our works. Today is the eleventh day of the eleventh month--Veteran's Day.

Now you're asking what does this have to do with me as an author. Every character has a past. Just a quick glance at my family tree shows a long history of military service. From grandfathers to fathers to sons, soldiers to sailors, marines to air corps, members of my family have served from the fields of Europe in World War I through to the deserts of the Middle East.

How do we incorporate such a tradition into a story? The character might be a recently-returned veteran or someone dealing with a parent who was one and has now revealed a secret. Veteran's Day might trigger the remembrance of another event. Attending a Final Salute could trigger an action or release a variety of strong emotions.

But the character does not have to have served to be impacted by a veteran. Maybe its a salesman frustrated at missing an important meeting because he's sitting at a road block while a small group of uniformed old men walk behind a much younger colorguard or the picture in a paper of a flag-draped casket on a horse-drawn caisson starts a mystery.

There is also the cultural past. Originally began to commemorate the Armistice that ended World War I, today the date is used to honor veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. From a single cannon shot to mark two minutes of silence to celebrate the ending of a conflict, in the United States, Armistice Day evolved into Veterans Day. Communities big and small, across hold  ceremonies. In Canada, the day is commemorated as Remembrance Day. Just remember that as the names and ceremonies have changed from the past to the present, future acknowledgements of military service may also. Perhaps instead of tossing a wreath into a river in a contemporary novel, in a world of tomorrow, a symbolic unmanned craft is set on a path that takes it into a sun.

Just because Veteran's Day reflects a moment in time, it doesn't mean that it cannot also serve as a setting. 
Walk through a cemetery and wonder what those lying beneath the headstones did to earn the small flags placed on their grave.

While thoughts of supporting those in military service often fade with the sunset of a patriotic holiday, care packages, thoughts and prayers are needed all year round. If you don’t have a spouse, a son or grandson, or niece or granddaughter wearing the uniform, there are numerous organization and sites that allows connections to be made or personnel supported. Some like the Lt. Dennis Zilinski Foundation (www.runwithdennis.org) are inspired by those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Others are local organizations whose members want to make life easier for men and women in the armed services. And remember, not all soldiers wear uniforms or walk on two feet. Working dogs also serve. Donations to the Sergeant Denny Project helps provide military working dogs with hard-to-obtain items.

Or  if you prefer something related to your work, donate a book to a charity auction. For myself, when I clean off my bookshelves I donate them to the local organizations who take them to the state veteran's home.
Whatever you do, whether you nod to a veteran and say, "Thank you for your service," or watch a local parade, keep those who defend our freedoms in mind, even after the sunset of the official holiday passes.

To all the veterans and those who hold the homefront, thank you for your service.


  1. What a lovely post, Helen, to honor Veteran's Day. And I'm glad you mentioned the four-footed vets! Both my brothers were in wars, and my spouse in Vietnam. So your essay makes me think of all of them, including a few soldiers in my own books. Thanks for this.

    1. I'm glad the post was relevant. I know how animals can change a soldier's life. While serving in the desert sands, I know a soldier who saved a dog in Iraq and arranged for its transport and adoption in the US. One of the most poignant articles I did while a military correspondent was about the military working dogs. There is a local group who hopes to get a statue for the state Vietnam memorial honoring the four-footed soldiers.

      Thanks for stopping by. Helen

  2. Thoughtful and information-packed post. A good way to play your gratitude forward.

    1. I always try to remember days Veteran's Day and those anniversaries associated with the services. And to thank the ones who did return. Thanks for stopping by. Helen

  3. Good suggestions. We donate books as well.

    1. It is amazing who something as simple as a paperback can enrich someone's life. Thanks for your support of the troops and for stopping by. Helen


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