Soldiers and the Ones Who Love Them
Love. War. Pain. Passion. Relationships lost. Romance rekindled.
Many generations of Americans have struggled with sending loved ones into battle and taking care of them when they return. Yet all of the stories in this collection have the same theme—whether they are about World War II, Vietnam, or the Gulf War—love is critical to our survival. It makes most, stronger. It makes some heroes. No matter if a soldier is fighting a "good" war, or a politically controversial war, there is little difference for their families who must remain brave and supportive both when they send their soldier into battle and when he or she returns injured physically or emotionally.
This TruLOVE Collection honors the brave men and women who have or are currently serving in America's armed forces and their loved ones. These stories about love are reminders of how much we invest, emotionally and culturally, in the men and women who serve the United States in uniformand how important it is for us to champion them when they return from the front the same way we do when they set out to fight.
Most of these stories are told from the woman's point of view; however, a few are from the man's point of view. All of the heroes and heroines in these stories learn valuable lessons about what is most important in their lives. We hope you find these stories heartwarming, inspiring and truly romantic!
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
*The stories presented here were first published as "true stories" . . . at a time when it was necessary to hide the true identities of the women associated with these tales to avoid scandal. We have chosen to maintain the veil of the authors' anonymity to protect the innocent . . . and the not so innocent.
The timeless love stories from True Romance and True Love live on.
Edited by Ron Hogan
Ron Hogan co-founded Lady Jane’s Salon, a monthly reading series dedicated to romance fiction, and has been its primary host since 2009. He’s also produced literary events throughout New York City, and was one of the first people to launch a book-related website, Beatrice.com. In addition to digging through the TruLoveStories archives for great stories, he publishes a digital magazine (also called Beatrice!) of interviews with some of today’s best writers.
Read an Excerpt
Daughter Of an Air Force Man
My exploration of the True Love and True Romance archives is far from complete, but so far this is the only ghost story I’ve come acrossthe only story, really, with even the slightest indication of giving credence to the supernatural. Both magazines seem predominantly focused on the “true” aspect to their stories. Sure, you can point to all sorts of stories that seem excessively melodramatic and barely believable. But even those stories tend to be grounded with just enough realism that you can convince yourself that they’re still within the realm of the possible. (Okay, I remember what I said about Kathy’s story a few chapters back, but you get my point.)
Even this story, apart from the ghostly presence of Lindsay’s father, is loaded with enough emotional detail to make the young girl’s painand the dilemma she gets caught up infeel utterly plausible. It’s very different from the other soldiers’ stories in this collection, but it’s also an excellent reminder that a soldier’s love extends further than girlfriends and wives.
Visiting the Oak Grove Cemetery on Memorial Day was a family tradition that went back several generations. My grandparents, Howard and Beverly Mitchell, still went there every year, placing flowers at each of the family headstones. Every year for the past ten years they had asked me to go with them. And every year, I turned them down. “No,” I told them angrily. “I can’t. I won’t.”
My eyes were filled with sparks, my voice hot and edgy. All I could think about was how my father and mother had both left me, just when I’d needed them the most. Even my stepmother had left me. So why should I honor their graves?
Each time I said no, Grandma Beverly would lay a gentle hand on my arm and look at me with her sad, blue eyes and turned-down mouth. Her voice was as sorrowful as her eyes. “You can’t go through life hating your parents, Lindsay. It just isn’t right.”
“It wasn’t right for them to leave me, either. Especially my dad; I’ll never forgive him for it. Never.”
“But it wasn’t his fault, Lindsay. It’s not like he”
“I don’t want to hear it, Grandma.”
And yet, I didn’t always feel that way. In fact, I used to love my father very much. Even now, ten years later, I can still remember how he looked back thentall, strong, and so handsome. He was magnificent in his crisp, blue Air Force uniform. I loved the glittering captain’s bars, the mirror-like sheen that glistened off the bill of his cap, the silver aviator wings, and the rainbow of ribbons that were pinned above his heart. I loved his deep voice, his gentle hands, and his warm, strong hugs.
“One of these days,” he’d often say, his bottomless brown eyes smiling into mine as he swept me up into the air high above his head. “One of these days, Lindsay, you and I are going to fly away, just the two of us. We’ll go as high as the moon and as far as the stars. And we’ll never, ever come back.”
It was a dream, of course. Reality was something else. Because my father did, indeed, fly away. But he flew away alone.
And he never came back.
I never knew my birth mother. She died while giving me life. The doctor’s reportwhich I found many years later in a jumble of old family documentsbrushed off her death with cold, meaningless words like complications, circulatory stress, and aneurysm. All I knew growing up was that I didn’t have a mother like all the other kids did.
Luckily Marie, the woman my daddy married when I was three, tried very hard to make up for the loss of my birth mother. She was successful, too; to my young mind, she never really was a stepmother. To me, she was just plain “Mama.”
Unfortunately, I lost her, too. But that was later on. And that loss was not nearly as bad as the loss of my father was on me. When Daddy went away, my whole world fell apart. Home, friends, schoolsuddenly, everything just swirled down the drain like greasy dishwater.
And it was all Daddy’s fault.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that everything could’ve changed so quickly. At that time, the three of usmy father, my mother, and I were living in a breezy, comfortable, ranch-style home in sunny California. Despite its western adobe look, our sand-hued home was actually located on an Air Force base, the base where my father was stationed. As far as I was concerned, the house was absolutely perfect.
Our life in California was perfect, too. I had lots of friends at Oceanside Elementary School. And I was on the Sunfish swimming team. Mama would drive me to tennis and ballet lessons twice a week, and my father and I would go horseback riding nearly every Saturday morning. And there was never a doubt in my mind: My perfect life would go on forever.
Then, late one afternoon, my father came home looking very grim. His blue necktie had been jerked crookedly away from his throat. His uniform, usually so crisp and smartly creased, now looked wrinkled and stained with sweat. For a moment, he stood in the middle of our living room, his shoulders slumped. He had a sheaf of official-looking papers in his hand as he looked at Mama with sad, weary eyes.
“I’m being shipped out,” he said hesitantly, as though his words were knives that would pierce our hearts. “To Arabia.”
Then he looked down at me. Instead of a strong and sturdy god, my father suddenly looked like a weary, old man. Even his voice had aged.
“I’m sorry, princess,” he said. “Your daddy has to go away for a while.”
I stared at him in disbelief, and then I stared at Mama. Her face had suddenly turned to icy marble. Tears welled up in her large, dark eyes.
“Oh, Rudy,” she breathed, shaking her head in disbelief. “Not now. Please, not now.” She pressed her knotted fist against her swollen stomach. “The baby,” she said. Then her words were lost in sobs.
I was only seven then, and war was something that happened to other people, in other lands, far across the ocean. War was something you saw on television. It was like a movie; it had nothing to do with my daddy. My daddy was in the Air Force, yes. And he flew an airplane. But he flew it here, in this country. My daddy had nothing to do with war.
But back in 1991, the Persian Gulf War was not something that happened to faraway people. It had suddenly become a clawed hand that ripped through my very own life, and it snatched my daddy away.
“Please don’t go!” I begged the morning he left. “Please, Daddy, please!”
He lifted me up in his arms like he did every morning. That morning, however, his eyes were shiny and wet. His voice was thick with emotion.
“I have to go, princess,” he said. And then he hugged me tightly against his chest. “But I’ll come home again, soon.”
I hugged him back as hard as I could. The coarse material of his uniform was scratchy against my cheek. Then I pushed him away.
“Promise, Daddy,” I said fiercely, my eyes burning into his. “You have to promise me you’ll come home. And then you have to cross your heart and hope to die.”
Daddy’s eyes were lit by a tiny twinkle. His grim mouth softened slightly as he shifted my weight to his left arm. His right hand crisscrossed his ribbon-covered heart and then went up in a Boy Scout pledge. “I promise, princess,” he said, smiling. “I’ll be back before you know it.”
Two months later there was a firm knock on our front door. My mother and I could see a tall, shadowy shape beyond the translucent glass. I glanced at Mama, looking for confirmation, hoping against hope that Daddy had come home to us, once and for all. But what I saw in her face was neither joy nor hope. What I saw was fear, maybe even panic.
With tight lips and an urgent hand, she pushed me toward the kitchen. “Wait in there, Lindsay,” she said stiffly. “I’ll only be a minute.”
“But why, Mama? Maybe it’s Daddy. Maybe he’s come home.”
Mama shook her head. Her face tightened even further as she pushed me through the kitchen door. “Stay there, sweetie,” she said, her voice thin and brittle. Then she firmly shut the door, closing me in the kitchen.
I heard more knocks at the door. They were louder now, more insistent. Then I heard the front door open. There was a deep, resonant voice; it was not my father’s voice. The words were hushed and firm, but very soft. I couldn’t make them out.
Then I heard Mama. But what I heard was not words. What I heard was a sudden, sharp intake of breath, and then a cry of pain. For a moment, I thought the man had punched her in the stomach.
“Mama?” I cried loudly. My cry bounced off the kitchen walls. “Are you all right, Mama?”
“II’ll be there in a minute, Lindsay. Mama has toto talk to the man. Stay in the kitchen, okay, sweetheart?”
The deep voice murmured more words. Then Mama began to weep openly.
And then my world came tumbling down.
Grandpa Howard flew all the way to California from his home in Maine. Then he and Mama and I met another plane; this one landed on the base runway. It carried no passengers, only a small crew and four flag-draped coffins. One of the coffins held my daddy.
We had to leave the base, of course, Mama and I. Our house was needed for another pilot, another wife, another little princess. The Air Force arranged everything. They flew Mama, Grandpa, the coffin, and me back to Maine. They packed up all of Mama and Daddy’s furniture and shipped all of it back to Maine, too.
I don’t think Mama really wanted to move in with Grandpa and Grandma Mitchellat least not permanently. But there was nowhere else for us to go. And a baby was on the way. I didn’t want to live with my grandparents, either. All they ever seemed to talk about was religion. All they ever wanted to do was go to church and pray about Daddy. And they hardly ever smiled. They looked even glummer when Mama had a miscarriage.
But it wasn’t just my grandparents that made me hate Maine. It was the weather, especially the winter weather.
In California, the grass was always green, the flowers were always blooming, and the sun came up every single day, bright and warm. The weather in Maine was like a frigid nightmare that wouldn’t end. The days were short and bitterly cold; the sky was always gray. The wind blew, the rain turned to ice, and the snow came down like an endless, smothering shroud.
I hated Maine. I hated God. I hated my grandparents. I even started to hate my daddy.
“It’s all his fault!” I exploded whenever something bad happened. “If he hadn’t learned to fly those stupid planes, if he hadn’t gone off to Arabia, if he hadn’t gotten himself killed, we wouldn’t be in this terrible place!”
I knew Mama felt as I did about living in Maine. She was born and raised in southern California. But for my sake, I guess, she couldn’t express her despair.
“We’ll get through this, Lindsay,” she’d say, over and over again, trying to sound strong and confident. She’d hug me, her eyes blazing with false hope. “We’ll be happy again, sweetheart. I promise.”
“Stop it!” I finally screamed once. “Don’t you see? Daddy made a promise, too. He promised me he’d come back. But he didn’t. He lied to me! Promises always get broken!”
Mama tried to soothe my rage. “Don’t say that,” she said sadly, her eyes glistening. “I know your daddy made a promise to you; everybody makes promises. But sometimes, things happen even when we promise someone that they won’t. But that doesn’t mean that your daddy didn’t love you, sweetheart. He loved both of us with all his heart and soul. And he always will, Lindsay.”
“Well, I don’t love him. I hate him. I hate him!”
A few days after that outburst, I hurled my father’s framed photograph across the room. I don’t remember what caused the outburst; all I recall is the rage.
What made it even worseit was the only photo that Mama and I had of Daddy. It’d been taken shortly after he’d joined the Air Force, and he looked very proud and very handsome in it. But in the grip of that powerful rage, I didn’t care about anything or anyone. The frame bounced off one of the ponderous, old, steel radiators that labored, unsuccessfully, to keep my grandparents’ house warm in the wintertime. The glass shattered, the frame bent, and the photo got torn, nearly in half.
But even that didn’t satisfy my rage. In a matter of seconds, I turned Daddy’s ripped, but beautiful, face into a pile of colored confetti. Then I flushed the confetti down the toilet. And then I cried and cried.
Later that afternoon when Mama came home from work, I told her what I’d done. And then we both cried. But it was too late. The only photo we’d had of Daddy was gone forever, just like Daddy was gone forever, too.
The horror got even worse. For a while after I tore up his photo, I could still pull up an image of Daddy in my mind. But slowly, inexorably, even that began to slip away from me. The more I tried to concentrate, the more I tried to remember his face, the more the image faded. Until one day, when I woke up to a terrible realization: I could no longer remember what my daddy looked like!
That’s when I started having that awful dream about him. I could see him, just as clear as day. I couldn’t see his face anymore, but I knew it was him. In my dream, I was running down a long, empty gravel road. It was closed in on both sides by a thick forest of gray and winter-naked trees. The clouds were heavy with snow; daylight was fading.
The strangest thing was that in my dream, I was trying to run away from my father. He was far behind me and he seemed to be floating above the road; he was calling my name, over and over again. As I ran, I kept glancing back over my shoulder. But no matter how often he called out to meor reached out for meI wouldn’t stop.
“Come back, Lindsay,” Daddy called. His voice was as hollow, as sad, and as empty as the road. “Come back, come back.”
The wind blew his words away as my feet kept pounding the gravel. My breath came out of me in great, frosty gasps. I felt like I was running for my life.
Gradually, the distance between us increased. The faster I ran, the farther back my father drifted. Finally, when my breath was almost gone, he had disappeared completely. But I could still hear his voice; I could still hear him calling out to me, pleading with me to stop. I felt just awful hearing him, but I couldn’t stop, wouldn’t stop. And yet, I didn’t know why.
I continued to have that dream for several years after I tore up Daddy’s photographoh, not every night, but often enough. For a while, I even dreaded going to sleep, for fear I’d have the dream again.
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION by Ron Hogan
Sergeant Ryanyan ’s Homecoming In the Arms of a U.S. Marine
Soldier ’s Luck
Disgraced ! I Had to Run Awayay
I Went on a Singles Weekend While My Husband Was in Vietnam
Am I a Wifeor a Widow?
Daughter of an Air Force Force Man
My Son Went from Marine to Beauty Queen!
Dearest Soldier The Story of a Gallant Wife
Dad, I’m a Draft Dodger
Far Far from Home : A Story of Love, War, and Recovery