Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to submit a story to editor Becky Kyle for the anthology Tails from the Front Lines. Hard to resist, when the proceeds are slated for donation to TADSAW (Train a Dog, Save a Warrior).
Right. Service dogs for our wounded, whether physically or emotionally or both. So I was very happy when I got the word that Just Hanah would be part of the anthology. And naturally I was curious as to how it all came about, so…I asked! And discovered that I’m not the only one out there who’s still a hippy-era kid at heart…
I was a hippie-era kid. At twelve, I wanted to go to Woodstock. I protested Viet Nam. Every few months, we got word another soldier was gone. As I got into high school, my male classmates worried about what they’d do after graduation and if their number would be called.
Around that time, we stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance. I still stood, still held my hand over my heart, but I couldn’t speak a word of it. Most everyone had a friend, a family member, even a brother who’d done to war and didn’t come back.
Already, I felt like I was stuck in a dystopia. I was sixteen and there had never been a time my country wasn’t at war.
The one thing I never did was blame the troops. None of them approved the Declaration of War or signed it. They just went to war when our country called them to.
Years later, when I was in Library School, I got involved with the Operation Paperback collections. From there, I started sending care packages to the troops as an extra Christmas present. In 2003, when a friend’s husband went to Iraq with only one pair of underwear and socks, we took up a collection to get him and his men the supplies they needed. It’s nothing heroic—it’s just saying thanks for an often thankless job.
A year ago, my phone rang. My husband answered it, covered the mouthpiece, and said:
“It’s Cindy, you should answer this.”
My heart fluttered. Cindy is an ER nurse in Indiana. She’s funny, good-hearted, and one of the most unflappable people I know. When I got on the phone, Cindy was sobbing. It took a bit for her to calm down enough to be coherent.
The son of one of one of her fellow nurses, twenty-two years old and just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan two weeks before, had shot himself. What was worse was that his Dad’s firefighter company had been to the ones to transport him to the ER.
Every emergency worker who tended this young man as he died knew him. They watched him grow up. They cheered when he did well and they were all grateful when he came home safe and seemingly unharmed.
The only good that came of this tragedy was that the young man had signed an organ donation card. Doctors and nurses who knew him performed the last surgeries on him and sent the organs to new homes where they’d save lives.
By the time Cindy was done, I was sobbing.
Being a research nerd, I started looking into veteran suicides. What I didn’t know was that twenty-two soldiers killed themselves every day.
This was more than books and underwear. I had to do something.
I’d been reading about therapy dogs and how much they assisted soldiers with PTSD. An animal can get a soldier outside and into the world again without feeling alone. The presence of a dog can literally reduce their prescribed medicines by half. I found TADSAW (Train a Dog, Save a Warrior) online and was highly impressed that they got many of their dogs from shelters or used the warrior’s own pet to train.
It was sheer luck that I mentioned wanting to do something to the right person, Carol Hightshoe, publisher/editor at Wolfsinger Press. Carol was onboard quicker than I could have imagined. While I have served as part of the editorial staff for several venues, I never expected to have only my name on the masthead. Carol was wonderful to provide support and helpful hints whenever I needed them.
Tails from the Front Lines became available on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2014. The anthology is comprised of twelve short stories written by well-known veteran authors to two first-time publications. They cover everything from fantasy realms to the future. Best of all, proceeds will go to TADSAW to help provide soldiers with companions who will help them re-enter society and lessen their chances of falling into despair.
Meanwhile, I’ve got the happies. It’s cool to have the opportunity to help!