When a Soldier Makes It Home

By Casey Dawes, author of California Sunset, California Wine, and California Homecoming

California HomecomingI remember the end of the Vietnam when the soldiers came home. We didn’t do well by them as a country when they were over there or when they came home. As our soldiers come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, I hope we do better.

Whatever your thoughts on the merits of war in general, or a particular war, the soldiers matter. When I sat down to write the next novel in my California Romance Series, I knew I wanted to do something the only way I knew how–write a story.

The heroine of California Homecoming was an obvious choice. Elizabeth’s daughter Sarah Ladina had been begging me for her own story since the first book. So I gave her some problems: an unwanted pregnancy, conflict with the baby’s father, and a new business venture. Almost enough to worry about.

Almost.

So I gave her a stray dog. Then Hunter Evans dropped by.

Hunter has the character of what’s best in soldiers–loyalty, integrity and honor. However, he has some issues of his own to deal with. After a year in rehab, he’s having problems finding a job. He used to be a contractor, but a war injury has potential employers wondering if he can still do the work. Depression threatens as he tries to readjust to civilian life. Worst of all, a pretty stranger bought his childhood home, a house he’d been planning to acquire with some of his veteran’s benefits.

When I went to undergraduate school, my alma mater, Montclair State University (then College) in New Jersey, had many returning vets from Vietnam. The college made it easy for those veterans to come home, just as they are doing now for the men and women coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s never an easy transition. One of the guys I dated at the time slept with a gun under his pillow. Another tended to have loud outbursts over trivial matters.

The college fostered an attitude of inclusion, and for the most part we all got along. Tensions increased after the Kent State Shootings on May 4, 1970 and the college was shut down for a while, as were many others at the time. By the time the next year started, things were back to relative normal.

Soldiers and returning veterans run the gamut of personalities, just like other groups of people. Some, like Hunter, live their lives with honor and courage. Some don’t.

They have all served in a dangerous place for our benefit. That’s why I believe we must support our veterans with honor and courage when a soldier makes it home.

I hope you enjoy California Homecoming.

(If you have a spare eight minutes, take a listen to the tribute to soldiers from Arlo Guthrie, “When a Soldier Makes It Home.”)

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