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The Wounded Warrior Project was founded in 2002 and provides a wide range of programs and services to veterans and service members who have survived physical or mental injury during their brave service to our nation. Get involved or register for programs and benefits for yourself and your family online at www.woundedwarriorproject.org.
Suzanne Brockmann on “Home Fire Inferno”
I write about a SEAL team, so my military heroes tend to show up in a rather large group! And although Home Fire Inferno focuses on Navy SEAL Dan Gillman (whose wife, Jenn, is about to have a baby!), you’ll also see quite a bit of Izzy Zanella, along with Mark Jenkins, Jay Lopez, and the inimitable Senior Chief Stan Wolchonok. Readers will also get to meet the SEAL with the face of a serial killer and the intriguing nickname HoboMofo . . . who happens to live with his mother and his ten-year-old daughter. But all the SEALs in this story would be in full agreement that family is the one word answer to the question “What is your military hero/ine most excited about returning to after active duty?”
Honoring love and family is a long-held tradition in the U.S. Navy. A ritual called the First Kiss is still practiced for ships returning to their homeports. (Google “US Navy first kiss tradition” to see pictures that will brighten your day!) All married sailors, officer and enlisted alike, can take part in a lottery in which the winner is the first to disembark, greet, and kiss his or her spouse after many months away from home. It’s a huge deal, with boatloads of ceremony involved. This is the big, bad U.S. Navy, part of the most powerful military force in the world. But everyone—from admirals to seamen recruits—unabashedly recognize that the most important part of their homecoming lies in the arms of the men and women waiting for them.
Julie Ann Walker on “Hot As Hell”
Despite running missions to the ass ends of the earth, Navy SEAL Michael “Mad Dog” Wainwright from Hot as Hell is a family man at heart. Born and raised in Atlantic City, he longs for the sea when he’s conducting sorties in the desert. Hankers for the boardwalk when he’s belly deep in some bog in the jungle. And craves a slice of Tony Bologney’s pizza when he’d eaten one-too-many MREs – meals ready to eat – to count. So when Michael gets time off from missiles and mayhem, you can bet your bottom dollar he races home to be with his two brothers and his mother and father. Together, they make a night of pizza, walks along the boardwalk, salt water taffy, and some tossing of the dice at one of Atlantic City’s seaside casinos. It’s a bit of normalcy in a life that’s otherwise filled by the extraordinary. A bit of fun in a world Michael knows can be full of horror and woe. A bit of life to go along with so much death. Michael “Mad Dog” Wainwright lives for those moments, for those homecomings. They’re what he fights for…
Catherine Mann on “In Plain Sight”
Tech Sergeant Gavin “Bubbles” Novak isn’t known for a sparkling wit, but his steely eyed focus on the job has made him the go-to guy in the most stressful of pararescue missions. Until a fateful military mission leaves him blind and ends his Air Force career. With nowhere else to go, he returns to his small Kentucky hometown with his seeing-eye dog and takes a job as a 9-1-1 operator. His first day on the job brings a voice from the past, the only woman who has ever blasted through that tough shell to reach his soul - his high school sweetheart Stacie Curry. She’s being stalked by her abusive ex-husband and he’s broken into her home.
Stacie Curry thought she made the safe choice in marrying the hometown boy rather than leaving with brooding outsider Gavin. But her decision has led to a nightmare existence. Since her divorce, she is stalked and terrorized by her ex. When she calls 9-1-1, she’s stunned to hear Gavin’s deep voice on the other end of the line. And when she sees him face to face afterward, she’s shocked – and heartbroken – to learn he’s blind. But she soon finds Gavin will let nothing stand in the way of protecting her.
Learning to overcome the loss of his sight and his Air Force career, Gavin comes to her rescue, protecting her, helping expose her ex … and rekindling their old romance with a blazing-hot flame.
Tina Wainscott on “Beauty and the Marine”
Once the gorgeous golden boy of his small Georgia town, Marine Griff Tate returned home scarred from an explosion in Afghanistan. Now, the only people he sees are his family and the out-of-towners he takes hunting and fishing on their private acreage. Griff thinks that all he wants is to be with his family in the comfort of the woods in which he spent his youth. He can barely look at himself in the mirror—how can he expect a woman to want to wake up to his ugly mug every morning? But even a battle-scarred veteran needs love … even if he doesn’t know it!
Anne Elizabeth on “SEALed with Passion”
Navy SEAL LT Cmdr Jonah Melo has his feet back on American soil. That's when the itchy-need begins--to get back into the action and/or to fill his time with something useful. Luckily, he's got an opportunity to jump in and do a building project for the Wounded Warriors. This particular house is special because it's going to be the home of his long-time friend Kevin Toms. Melo has participated in a lot of builds before, but seeing his buddy in a home that enables his happiness and mobility is going to top the list of experiences. If only he could be as blessed in love as he is in friendship.
M.L. Buchman on “NSDQ”
U.S. Army Captain Lois Lang knows only one thing, flying combat search-and-rescue helicopters into the heart of the battlezone and getting her people back out. And when a CSAR mission gone wrong forces her to make the ultimate sacrifice—for her it isn’t a choice. Her crew and the wounded they’ve recovered always come first.
But the battle that awaits her will test her limits. She can learn to walk again, but she must discover the strength to face what to do when she can’t fly.
Kate SeRine on “Torn”
During his deployment, the thing that kept Joe Dawson going was the thought of returning home to Sadie—his best friend since childhood and the woman he’s been in love with for as long as he can remember. But a mission gone wrong has left him scarred—both inside and out. And when he and Sadie finally share an unexpected moment of passion, Joe has a hard time believing that Sadie could have feelings for the damaged man he has become and worries that her heart is being ruled by pity and not love.
Those doubts are compounded now that he’s set to resume his duty as a deputy sheriff. With his father and three brothers already making names for themselves with successful law enforcement careers, the pressure’s on, leaving Joe torn between honoring the family tradition and leaving behind the only career he’s ever known outside the military.
Lea Griffith on her inspiration for “War Games”
There are many things I could tell you about my stepfather. He married a wonderful woman with a tiny, 6 year old girl from a previous marriage who still wondered why her daddy couldn’t be a daddy—and then he became a stepfather and helped raise her. A strict disciplinarian he nevertheless was giving to a fault. He was a veteran of the Vietnam War. (Side note: he refused to call it a “conflict”. He always said, “When people kill people like we killed people that’s a goddamn war.” Finally, I guess I’d tell you he was one of the most tortured souls I have ever known. In the midst of his torment, the nightmares and flashbacks, the anger that always simmered just below the surface there was a strength to be admired and it is that strength that makes him one of my heroes.
My stepdad was born and raised in a little town called Tennille, Georgia. It’s nothing but country with field after field of corn and cotton and country folk living a simple life. When young men came of age they either went into the family business of cotton and corn or they went into the service and this is the route William Thomas Howell, Jr. took. He entered the Air Force and lost any innocence he might have once had running tactical rescue and recovery missions in Vietnam of which he would say nothing about. I remember asking him what war was like and he refused to answer. Then one day when he was talking about Vietnam—not the war, mind you, but the country itself—I asked him what he missed the most about home when he was “in country”. He smiled and for some reason my gut clenched and I remember wishing I hadn’t asked the question. But then he answered and I had to smile with him. “Lightning bugs,” he said. “Lightning bugs and Coca Cola.”
My stepdad passed away almost nine years ago. He has missed the births of several of his grandchildren and the marriage of one of his children. But in the midst of his loss, he left a legacy that includes perseverance, giving and most of all a love of Coca Cola.
Oh, and the lightning bugs. I cannot forget the tiny bugs with the “lights in their butts”. It seems the smallest bug made a light big enough for my stepdad to yearn for. They make me smile every time spring comes. And yes, because he made me smile with his longing for lightning bugs I taught my girls how to catch them and put them in a mason jar for a little while before you release them. This more than anything else has helped me remember him.
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