A Salute to Veterans Day

At exactly 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918, an Armistice was signed to end the hostilities of World War I. (It was the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”) The Armistice was supposed to end what was known as the War to End All Wars. Well, it wasn’t our last.

What we commemorate now, nearly 100 years later, is Veterans Day. Wars have never stopped; they’ve changed. What remains the same is this: courageous men and women of our armed forces continue to fight and stand for a free world. We, in the United States of America, thank you.

In a time longer ago than I’ll admit here, my father volunteered to serve in World War I. He was not able to serve, but many of my family have. One brother-in-law, who also shared dual citizenship with England, left a comfortable new career to join up in England early during World War II. When President Roosevelt finally committed the United States to war, this family member returned to serve in the US Army Air Corps. Later he received military honors from His Majesty and the United States, one of which was the Purple Heart.

Some of my closest friends volunteered to serve, directly after graduating from high school. Others participated in ROTC and continued in the Reserves of their branch of service, after a period of active duty—in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Bosnia—always ready to serve their country again. On a personal note, in our home my husband is retired US Army, while I still nurture some longtime allegiances to the Navy after spending six years with the US Naval Academy at Annapolis.

My latest novel, A Voyage for History, is a tribute to some of these men, especially Navy vets. A sentimental journey turns into terrifying voyage when a group of older veterans bond together by one special cause—the rescue of a US Navy tank landing ship critical to the battles of World War II. These men and their ship are coming home, but not without adventure and misadventure, drama and tragedy, and even a touch of romance as they encounter their ultimate fight for survival.

If you know a veteran or a member of the armed forces on active duty, remember to thank them today—an email or phone call would be wonderful. If your old friend who served is no longer with you, thank him or her with a small prayer. If you are thankful for your freedom and your country, thank a vet. If you have served our country, this tribute is my personal thanks to you.

Michaele

From the Writers’ Table

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Story

Country LaneOnce upon a time, I was given a gift. There was nothing to unwrap, nothing tangible at all, and I probably wasn’t aware that I had received anything at the time. I have no clear recollection of when I recognized its value, except that I was very young.

However, I had just received the gift of story.

Story takes many forms. It may be what we tell ourselves or what we learn about others. Most stories are important because they contain small details about everyday life and thus they permit us to stay connected with others.

Slightly more than two years ago my last relative from the French side of my family died in Paris, on April 15, 2011. He was 91. I was determined to write about him, hoping to keep alive what he had done and said. I couldn’t. I would break into tears and the entire endeavor became a waste of time.

He was a great-uncle by marriage, not part of my direct family line, but he had kept everyones’ stories alive for all of us. Born toward the end of World War I he had listened to stories from his family, about what life was like for them during that time. He survived World War II in France. Within the context of our extended and fragmented family (cousins twice removed, second wives, distant great-nieces and great-nephews, and all that) somehow he had known most of them. When I visited him, I began to pay closer attention. There would come a day when he wouldn’t be there with me to share, what it was like, all those many small personal details of everyday, lived in another time. Some of my distant relatives, even those with whom I shared DNA, I had never met, but he helped bring them back to life.

In an upcoming story, “The Day of the General,” I’ll share bits of a story of nearly four year old Camille Mauriat, daughter of a Protestant minister, the day a German general visited their home and how one small event—not a major or violent event by war story standards—changed one family’s life forever. The nearby city of Lyon had just fallen to Hitler’s Army, that May of 1941. General Kurt-Griebel Heinrich Von Strauchen, who drives down a country lane toward this family’s home, is seeking refreshment on a warm day of late spring. The little girl Camille finds the glittering embroidery and shiny metals of one of Hitler’s elite enchanting. What child  brought up in a stern Calvinist household would not?

There is always “another view” of war. Join me as we follow these stories, with their connections to special people, what makes up more than any family’s direct blood lines.

As humans, we are creatures of story and narrative. Gathered around the first fires that kept wild animals away and fellow humans near, we started recounting our history: “Once upon a time….”

Interspersed with segments about characters from my upcoming book, Another View, The Writers’ Table blog will continue its review of the compelling power of fiction to illustrate any story.

Welcome back!

Michaele, from The Writers’ Table