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Who doesn’t love a man in uniform?

My heroine in Home, Poppy Tippen sure does. One named Sam Callahan. Football hero, doctor in the making, soldier. What’s not to love? The status alone is drool worthy.

When we think of men in uniform, what comes to mind first? For me it’s something mysterious, but also a bit tainted. While my husband’s young cousin was serving in Iraq several years ago I wrote to him during, what I believe was, his second tour. He was still somewhat fresh and things were new and scary to him and many he served with. In my experience I had heard that many young soldiers wrote home and hid much of what they were going through over in the war zones they fought in. Knowing James, this would be so with him. He never liked to cause his mother worry or pain, and as a newlywed the same was true of his young wife who was busy caring for a new baby.

In my first letter I told him what was going on at the home front, stuff his mom or wife might not know or think he’d care about. I didn’t know if he cared, but it was ‘news from home’ just the same. I only wanted to give him a little more and since he and my oldest daughter had always been very close growing up, I knew he’d appreciate knowing how she was doing after her fiancé had been murdered. He worried about her. He was also close to God and prayed for his loved ones even while he sat in a tent with an assault rifle across his lap. What an image, huh?

I ended my first letter with an offer I truly didn’t think he’d take me up on, but knowing how he felt about scaring his mom and wife, I made it. “If you need someone to talk to about what you’re going through over there, I’m here with an open ear in case you want to share anything you can’t tell your mom and wife.”

When he wrote back a couple of weeks later I was happy and surprised he would spend time better spent writing his mom and wife, but chose to spare me a thought, too. He began by thanking me for offering him an outlet. I was right it turned out. He said he needed to ‘talk’ and couldn’t tell his mom or wife, but was happy he could confide in me, knowing I wouldn’t tell them either. I still have his letters.

As I read that first letter my blood chilled. James told me about a cold night while he was on sniper watch in their camp and someone began shooting. He told me that was the first time he had to look someone in the eye and shoot them. He said that nearly undid him because he didn’t want to take another life and it was in complete conflict to his Christian bearing. But he had to do it…or die.

As I wrote Home James’s letter came to mind and in a small way became the inspiration to tell Sam’s story. The horror of what James went through over in Iraq is unthinkable, unfathomable to me, yet, it was life for him and so many others in war. Sam didn’t go through the same thing James did, but he went through his own nightmare when he had to choose life or death. I’m told it came out very realistic. I hope so.

Home is more than a love story. It’s a story of hope and finding a place to belong when everything you once knew is gone forever. I hope you’ll give it a try and I’d love to know what you think it you do, or already have.

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