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Various People Affected by War

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The founder of my local veterans’ writing group, Lt. Col. Timothy Hansen, retired Army, invited Maj. Gen. Mari K. Eder, retired Army, to speak to the Rochester Veterans Writing Group during our ZOOM meeting on July 10. What an honor and privilege it was to share a conversation with her.

Tim read the following bio to introduce the General:

I had the privilege to meet her when she was the Deputy Chief of Army Public Affairs back in 2007.  She has served in key public affairs positions in the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, theater media relations for NATO in Kosovo, and at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. Eder published her first major work on communication, Leading the Narrative: The Case for Strategic Communication in 2011 and followed with American Cyberspace in 2020. Her articles in the communication series, Information Apocalypse, have been used from Appalachian State to the University of Tokyo. She has written several papers on leadership, military ethics, and strategic communications. She has even published two children’s books.

Her forthcoming book, The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line:  The Untold Stories of the  Women Who Changed the Course of World War II, covers the lives of 15 exceptional women who served or supported WWII while purposely staying out of the limelight.  This historical work is a break from her case studies and technical writing on communications.                             

Tim had told us she would give a 45-minute talk on her career and publications, then allow time for questions. To our surprise, she only talked about her new book due out in hardcover and Kindle at the beginning of August (pictured above) then asked us, as writers, what we wanted to talk about. We weren’t quite prepared. 

In answer to our questions, she explained when she submitted the proposal, as you have to for a non-fiction book, the response was a “ho-hum, not another war book.” But, when the publisher looked at the content, they got excited and asked her to have it ready in two months. General Eder explained it was at the peak of the pandemic lockdown, so she was sequestered at home with her three dogs and was happy to have a project. The frustrating part was trying to do research with libraries closed and no one answering phones. She said she wrote the chapters she liked or could easily collect facts for first, then worked on the others. She also shared that she would read poetry to take herself out of the project when she needed a break and then returned to it with new and focused eyes.

Changing gears, we talked about reading for personal pleasure. She suggested making it a practice to delve deeper, search for what a piece has to offer that you can learn from, and thus change you as a person, even if only in a small way.

Before we finished the ZOOM call, we agreed we would reconvene after having had a chance to read  The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line.

                                                                   ***

While on vacation in Richmond, Virginia, over the Fourth of July weekend, I enjoyed a tour of the historic St. John’s Church (https://www.historicstjohnschurch.org/) where I bought the book Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons, The story of Phillis Wheatly, by Ann Rinaldi. It’s a historical fiction novel about how the first book of poetry by an African-American woman came to be published. I eagerly turned page after page to experience Phillis’s extraordinary life while still being a slave. 

Ann Rinaldi has brought history alive for me by giving historical figures personalities and describing what might have been their day-to-day experiences. She is careful to note what is factual and what is not. I have to admit my weakness for reading YA books. They are often quick, easy reads that leave me thinking about the characters for many days.

I am looking forward to reading more of her novels, though not all war-related, which will give me a clearer picture of events I have heard about since my early school days.

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It’s also interesting to become acquainted with the people who experienced a war on the other side of the earth. I have just finished reading A Ghost and His Gold by Roberta Eaton Cheadle, a regular contributor at Carrot Ranch. This historical fiction novel is about the Second Anglo Boer War in South Africa, where Robbie resides. She has come up with a unique way to tell the story by using ghosts as three of her key characters. Roberta masterfully shares the history of the war by having her main character Michelle unravel how the three ghosts were connected in the past, why they are haunting her home, and why they have been unable to move on to the afterlife. 

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I developed the same empathy for the people I had the privilege of getting to know in these books as I have with the veterans in my local writing group. War is war, no matter where it takes place or for what reason. Humans, animals, and the terrain suffer from the event, and it changes lives in diverse ways.

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Do you have any books on the subject of war that you would recommend or futher advanced your understanding of a past event? Feel free to share in the comments section.

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Sue Spitulnik is an ex-Air Force wife who stays connected to the military/veteran community through her membership in the Rochester (NY) Veterans Writing Group. The group has recently published an anthology of their military experiences, United in Service, United in Sacrifice, available on Amazon. If you would like to contact her directly you can do so at her blog, susansleggs.com


15 Comments

  1. No books to recommend but maybe this poem would be of interest.

    Crutches
    Ted Thomas, Jr.

    Now we are less perfect,
    half the world with missing limbs.
    War has reversed evolution —
    like a mountain stream turned
    against itself, bodies in braces, brief lives.

    I have seen three wars already,
    my father five.
    Half the world is hobbled,
    steel arms and legs
    locked onto flesh.

    Once at a party,
    I shook the hand
    of a man with one hand–
    I tried but couldn’t imagine
    what it felt like for him
    when the world exploded.

    Sometimes in the cathedral
    when I am sitting alone,
    I put my two hands together
    for those who cannot
    and because I still can, I kneel.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Jules says:

    Sue –

    How wonderful to have such a speaker willing to also listen to your ideas.
    I have a book that you might enjoy – I did start reading it but didn’t quite get through it. Hubby did – he said it was a bit ‘dry’ but it is all factual. Women of WWII who also have not yet really been recognized for their actions and contributions. “Women Wartime Spies” by Ann Kramer. I might try to get into it again…

    “Ann Kramer’s exciting and factual chronicle of the lives and exploits of these heroes gives these fierce patriots their due. Far from being sirens and dupes stereotyped in movies and novels, these women warriors were carefully trained, highly skilled and supremely courageous.” from the back cover.

    Liked by 2 people

    • SueSpitulnik says:

      Jules,
      Thank you for the recommendation.
      I recently read, “Agent Sonya” by Ben Macintyre. It is the story of a female German spy who fed the Russians information about how to build an atomic bomb. It was anything but dry. It made me wonder with this day of technology how anything is kept secret.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Norah says:

    Hi Sue,
    Thanks for sharing these books. They all sound interesting. I especially like the sound of the poetry book.
    Beyond Belief by Dee White and We Are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad are both wonderful middle grade novels about WWII told from different perspectives and children’s points of view. I highly recommend them.
    The Happiest Man on Earth: The Beautiful Life of an Auschwitz Survivor
    by Eddie Jaku is also an inspiring read.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Norah says:

      PS I’ve just purchased Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • SueSpitulnik says:

      Thank you for the recommendations, Norah. I will look into them.
      I sent “Wombat Digs In” and “Let’s Move” to my cousin’s children after I read and enjoyed them for a time. I’m sure they will enjoy meeting Australian animals.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        Thank you, Sue. That’s so kind of you. I love it when people not only read and enjoy my books, but support the great work of Library For All too. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sue, The Girls that Stepped Out of Line, sounds like a fabulous read! Women’s roles in the military are often overlooked. It’s about time they get some recognition. Robbie’s book is next on my list. I’ve been looking forward to this one for some time. I don’t read many novels related to war. It’s all too real for me. But you know what I mean. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • SueSpitulnik says:

      Colleen, I do know what you mean. The General was so down to earth when talking to us. Two of the women she features are still alive, in their 90s, and may get to be on Good Morning America. I’m hoping women get more recognition after this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow! That’s an inspiring story, Sue. My husband and I (he’s a Vietnam disabled vet) were talking the other day about the virus as compared to WWII. The country gave up everything to win! Nowadays, nobody wants to do without for the sake of our country (in the context of getting vaccinated). It really makes you think about where we are as compared to then. Those women deserve our gratitude. We wouldn’t be here without them. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  5. That sounds like the perfect Zoom writers’ event, Sue! And very generous of the guest to offer such insight.

    Like

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