“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
April is the month for the military child. And while I never truly appreciated this fact until now, I am one of those children. Although I have never been in the military, war has been the backdrop of my life. I was born at the end of WW II… my brother served in Japan after the Korean War…. I lost high school friends in Vietnam… my brother in-law was an Army sniper during that war and still suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is in and out of VA centers…. My husband is retired Army…. My father in-law served in the Pacific during WWII…I worked as a civilian nurse for the Armyand I have two grandnephews now serving; a 22 year old in the Army & a 20 year old in the Marines. Both have just returned from their first tours in Afghanistan.
As a child and as an adult, deployment during all those wars held varying and sometimes disturbing meanings. I have put all those emotions into my novel, In His Stead.
In His Stead, is one family’s reaction to the stress of an impending deployment. The book’s setting is today’s Middle East conflict. The premise is familiar and unique at the same time. A father, Thomas Lane, is a retired Army Ranger who has lost his eldest son to an IED in Iraq. When the National Guard calls up his other son to service, Lane decides he will not take a chance on losing his youngest son, even if it means going in his son’s place.
And if you are not aware of this, for half of our country’s existence and thus during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars PAID substitution was allowed. And the common law that established paid substitution in the US actually dates back to wars in Europe.
So, who took advantage of this common law? During our Civil War, people like Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and future president Grover Cleveland, paid poor immigrants (sometimes years older than they were) to serve in their place. The Union forces numbered approximately 2, 100,000 men—of that number 6% were substitutes. During that same war the Confederates also sent substitutes and some of them were slaves as well as poor free men.
Obviously, not everyone approved of this practice. In 1863 riots broke out in New York City as poor men started calling the Civil War, “A rich mans battle but a poor mans war.” As the U.S. began writing legislation for the draft to support WW I, these riots, & the unfairness of paid substitution weighed heavily on President Woodrow Wilson. So, to avoid a repeat of those riots around the issues of paid substitutes, he revided the draft laws in 1917 making it illegal to PAY for a substitute.
However, during my research with a retired Army Judge Advocate General (an Army lawyer), I discovered that what makes the plot of “In His Stead” possible is that Wilson’s revision to the law only made it illegal for money to change hands. And it is that loophole that Thomas Lane, father and hero of my novel, uses to his advantage as he attempts to trade places with his son.
Of course you can imagine the complications and family interplay of such a decision. Tom immediately butts heads with the son he is trying to save, his wife, who has the Solomon like choice of sending either another son or her husband into harm’s way, and the Army officers and lawyers who never imagined someone doing this. As a result, Tom has to navigate numerous real life situations similar to those military families face dailythe good, the bad, and the hopeful.
During this, our nation’s longest war, the landscape is now one in which multiple generations in a single family are fighting in the same conflict. In the past one family member might have fought in WWII and the next generation in Korean, and the next generation in Vietnam, and so on. But due to the duration of this war, fathers who served in Iraq and /or Afghanistan are now watching their sons or daughters deploying to the same conflict. As a result, the stress on these families is expanded and since only 1% of families are now directly connected to the military (c0mpared to 9% during WWII), there are fewer places for these families to turn for an understanding hug or shoulder to cry on.
My novel speaks to Thomas Lane’s potential to do the extraordinary and the strength of bonds between members of military families. It very much mirrors the exceptional men and women who not only defend their country unswervingly and accomplish the remarkable on a daily basisbut also the husbands, wives, sons and daughters at home who keep the family intact, functioning, and afloat.
I wish all the best to our military families and friends. And don’t forget to give a special thank you to those children of military families who have moved multiple times, constantly have to make new friends, that celebrate birthdays without one parent, and who in their own way have to deal with the stress of deployment. Please acknowledge these children.
Something of special interest:
Proceeds of my novel, In His Stead (http://www.amazon.com/His-Stead-Fathers-War/dp/193857382X), go to benefit HeartsApart.org. A military charity that was a finalist in the Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden ‘Joining Forces’ challenge.
Local businessman Brett Martin & Professional photographer Brownie Harris started HeartsApart in Wilmington, North Carolina. Its goal is to keep military families connected. Free of charge, they take professional photographs of families who have a member deploying. The family receives a set of photos FREE to keep at home and the member deploying receives a vinyl trifold card with the same pictures. The vinyl is dirt, water, rain, and sweat proof. In other words war proof. It can be rolled up and stuffed in a helmet or pocket.
These professional photos provide a link between home/family. Did I say it’s FREE?
Please go to HeartsApart.org and check out this FREE service! While you are there enjoy the fantastic pictures!