Voices to Veterans

Pearl Harbor veteran on December 7, 2011.

I’ve always been drawn to veterans’ stories. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, I read everything I could about World War II. I knew its battles and generals, its heroes and its villains. But there was nothing like hearing veterans talk with family and friends about their experience in the military. Those veterans that saw combat rarely talked about it. That discussion was reserved for fellow veterans or special circumstances. But what every veteran was more than happy to share was their bigger military story and how it shaped the rest of their lives.

So what’s their bigger military story? It’s where they came from and why they joined the military. It’s where they went to boot camp and what their most meaningful unit assignment was. It’s a funny story or two, and the friends they made. It’s what they did that made them proud of their service and what they think about when they look back. Finally, it’s where they went after the military and the impact their service had on their lives.

I want to help veterans tell their stories. I’m not talking about the Generals or the Admirals, or the national heroes who already have a platform to speak and be heard. I’m talking about the everyday Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who were drafted or volunteered and did their duty day in and day out. Maybe they worked in the mess halls serving chow, or helped load ordnance onto jets waiting their turn to launch on combat missions, or maybe they had to watch their friends get hit in an ambush or a firefight in a rice paddy in Vietnam.

Let’s team up to get these veterans’ stories told. If you are a veteran, or you know a veteran you’d like to have considered, send me the story. I’ll then select veterans from the nominations I receive and feature their stories in my Voices to Veterans blog. The number of nominations I receive will determine the frequency of the write-ups, but they will appear at least once each month. I’ll announce the stories on Twitter and Facebook so you’ll know to visit my website and check them out.

Here’s what I need from you – send an email to VoicesToVeterans@gmail.com with the name of the veteran and his or her story, and a picture of the veteran in uniform if you have it. You can nominate yourself if you are a veteran, and you can nominate veterans who are already deceased. Here are some things you could include in the story:

• Veteran’s birthplace or hometown
• Years of service
• Branch of service
• Where did the veteran go to boot camp or learn to be an officer (e.g., ROTC, Service Academy, etc.)?
• What was the veteran’s most meaningful assignment?
• Describe a funny story the veteran has about his/her service
• When they look back on their service, what do they think about most?
• Do they still keep in touch with any friends they made in the military? If so, how?
• Anything else you think is important

Every veteran whose story I feature will receive a free signed copy of my latest Steve Stilwell legal thriller, Sapphire Pavilion, which is dedicated to “Wounded Warriors and Vietnam War veterans, especially those heroes still waiting to come home.”

This is a small step in honoring America’s veterans, but it’s a step we can take together. Watch for the first Voices to Veterans spotlight during the first week of July.