Wesley “Hauk” Haukon, the hero from How Beauty Saved the Beast, is a war veteran from Afghanistan who came home a burn survivor with an amputated limb and burn scars covering most of his skin. Though fortunately no one in my family was severely injured, I am the proud daughter and granddaughter of veterans—my father from Vietnam, and my grandfather from WWII. Like many veteran families, we have our war stories passed around, some of derring-do, some funny, some sad, but all part of the unique lives of soldiers. Here are a few of my favorites from my father. And check the Harlequin main blog tomorrow (Wednesday) for stories from my grandfather!
- Like everyone with a bit of adventure in them, my father has a few scars on his arms from his wild youth. When I was a kid, I was convinced they were bullet wounds from his days in the jungle. When I finally got up the courage to ask, he laughed and said, “Jenny” (my family calls me Jenny), “the worst injury I got in the war was one night when I threw my hands up in the air to emphasize a point and stuck one in a metal fan.”
- My father was stationed in the jungle just outside of Saigon, and his life was stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. In a boring stretch, he and some friends started a water fight with the base’s fire extinguishers. The next day the mess hall got bombed…and burned to the ground because they had nothing to put the fire out with. Oops!
- Dad was an Army helicopter pilot. Part of his job was flying soldiers into the jungle for missions. Usually the drop offs would be no big deal; they’d land the helicopter, the guys would get out, and Dad would fly away. But if they saw pineapple plants, the soldiers would pick some for Dad to take back to base so that everybody could enjoy fresh pineapple along with their mess hall, er, food. One time they landed in a pineapple field. Dad was so excited he repeatedly yelled at the soldiers to, “Throw me some pineapples!” What he didn’t realize, because the rotors were so loud, was that they’d landed in an ambush and were being shot at. Bullets were flying, the guys were looking at my dad like he’d lost his mind…and Dad was yelling about fruit.
- My dad is a friendly, adventurous, laughing sort of guy. He’s got a big heart, but he doesn’t do serious moments often. Once though, he told me a story about the war without any jokes. He said that flying was hard. He dropped guys off, never knowing whom he’d pick up. He knew with each mission that if the Viet Cong could shoot him, the helicopter would go down and make their job a lot easier. Sometimes it made him wonder why he did this. Then… he was picking up a wounded soldier off a battlefield. Men hauled the guy into the back of the helicopter, and Dad checked behind him to make sure everyone was secure before takeoff. The wounded soldier gave him a look that said the pilot was an angel, come down from the sky to save him. At that look, Dad knew at least part of his job was worth the pain of living in a war zone. He made sure wounded men came home.
Do you have any stories to share? Feel free to honor service members you know by telling us their tales in the comments.
Jax Garren is descended from Valkyries and Vikings (she’s part Swedish) but was raised a small town girl in the Texas Hill Country. She graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in English and a minor in Latin then found her own Happily Ever After with a handsome engineer who is saving the world through clean energy technology. Jax loves meeting new people, so if you see her out and about say hello! She’s always happy to raise a glass with her readers (or anyone else) to toast courage, adventure and love.