Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Nonfiction Book HEART OF A MILITARY WOMAN Now Available

I've just received a copy of the new nonfiction book HEART OF A MILITARY WOMAN by Sheryl L. Roush and Eldonna Lewis Fernandez. (The above is an affiliate link.)

Sheryl is a former Navy wife "honoring the unique lifestyle, challenges and dedication of military life." Eldonna is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant "with 23 years of honorable military service."

The book is a collection of essays by military members and their families. And I'm pleased to be one of the contributors.

Here from the book is my essay "Proper Mrs. Lieutenants in 1970":

On my third date in late winter of 1967 with the young man who would become my husband, Mitch said to me: “I’m going to Vietnam.” At that moment the song “Duke of Earl” was playing in the background of the party we were attending with other members of the newspaper staff of the State News, Michigan State University’s daily newspaper. Over 40 years ago, and I still remember it, as the saying goes, “like yesterday.”

At that time the Vietnam War was raging – battlefield casualties were shown on the nightly news (albeit in black and white). And the anti-Vietnam protesters were raging too. No voluntary army then – a draft (although the first draft lottery in December 1969 had not yet taken place). Mitch was a junior, two years ahead of me, and he was in Army ROTC.

In the summer of 1968, a year later, Mitch was commissioned a second lieutenant in infantry. That summer he attended ROTC summer camp at Ft. Riley, Kansas – a hellhole in the days before air conditioning. Of the four weekends out of six that the men got off, they drove to a motel and slept four in an air-conditioned room. The cookies that my mother sent him from Elgin, Illinois, melted in his locker, and he reported that at 3 a.m. the temperature was still unbelievably high.

At Fort Riley Mitch’s hayfever was so bad that he was in the infirmary for three days with pneumonia. He got out of sick bay for the night compass course because, if he had missed that exercise, he would have had to repeat summer camp.

Before Mitch went off to summer camp he insisted he didn’t want to get married until after he had served his ROTC two-year commitment. Upon his return from Ft. Riley he had changed his mind. We set our wedding date for September 7, 1969, as Mitch had a year’s active duty deferment to get a master’s degree at MSU.

During the year that Mitch got his master’s in communication and I finished my undergraduate journalism degree in three years, I typed on a manual typewriter numerous copies of Mitch’s request for a branch transfer to military intelligence while Mitch took an army correspondence course in psychological warfare.

We were married as planned, and when we returned from our honeymoon Mitch was scheduled to report to Ft. Benning, Georgia, for Infantry Officers Basic training. Mitch called an army clerk in St. Louis, Missouri, to ask about his branch transfer. She told him not to report to Ft. Benning; she would put his orders on hold until he heard about his branch transfer request.

This delay and the eventual granting of the branch transfer put us on the road to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for Armor Officers Basic training (Military Intelligence officers had to first take a combat officers’ training course) in May 1970 a few days after the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students at Kent State University during a protest against President Nixon’s incursion into Cambodia.

Even though the army hadn’t said officers attending Armor Officers Basic (AOB) could bring their wives, I insisted on going with my husband. The Ft. Knox housing office had a list of available off-post housing, and we found a one-bedroom apartment in Muldraugh, Kentucky.

Mitch started AOB and suggested to a classmate from the South who lived near us that the two men carpool and their wives share the other car. Suddenly I was spending my days with someone who until now hadn’t known a Jew (me), let alone been friends with a Northerner.

And then came the ironic surprise: Even though the army hadn’t said we AOB wives could come, there was a training program for us to learn how to be proper Mrs. Lieutenants. I raised my hand to be chair of the entertainment committee for the wives’ graduation luncheon. Of course my carpool mate had to be on my committee as we shared a car.

Somehow we got three other AOB wives on our committee: a black (the correct term in those days), a Puerto Rican who spoke English and was the daughter of a career enlisted man, and a Puerto Rican who didn’t speak English. And then the five of us had to adjust to our racial, religious and class differences in order to get along.

This coming together of such different women because our husbands went on active duty at the same time made a lasting impression on me. I soon realized that, as different as the five of us were, our husbands’ well-being was the most important thing to each of us. And that in this shared concern we were all proper Mrs. Lieutenants.

Thirty-eight years later from my time as a new Mrs. Lieutenant, I published my novel Mrs. Lieutenant to tell a fictional story of this experience that had such an impact on my life.

Read the first four chapters or the entire novel MRS. LIEUTENANT based on these experiences at Ft. Knox.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT and the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION. Her newest project is

Phyllis' company does power marketing that combines traditional marketing principles and Internet marketing strategies to put power in your hands.

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