Sunday, November 10, 2013

Remembering the forgotten

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13 (NLT)
My cousin Mary Ann’s career as a military nurse was the inspiration for my second novel, The Heart Remembers.
While my cousin served at a U.S. Navy hospital in Japan during the Vietnam War years, Vangie, the main character in my novel, was a fictional Army nurse who served during that conflict. Vietnam, specifically Pleiku, a town in the central highlands, was the setting for Part One of the book. However, the story wasn’t about the war. The war was but a backdrop of the romance between Vangie and Seth, a medical evacuation helicopter pilot.
Through my research, I pored through several books, including A Piece of My Heart by Keith Walker and Home Before Morning by Lynda Van Devanter, true stories of military nurses who’d served in Vietnam. I learned of the Army’s medical evacuation program in Rescue Under Fire: The Story of Dust Off in Vietnam by John Cook. I read about the bravery of Dust Off pilot Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Novosel that earned him a Medal of Honor. I learned of the Medcap program that provided medical care to the Qui Hoa Leper Hospital.
In short, I discovered there was good done in Vietnam that never saw press.
The Heart Remembers is a story that patriotic me wrote with passion and sorrow. I was a high school, then college, student during the Vietnam War years. I knew of the protests and the shameful treatment the Vietnam veterans received when they returned stateside. Not a hero’s welcome, that’s for sure.
I hoped my book would somewhat right the wrong by showing at least a glimpse of the courage, grit, and compassion shown in the midst of a very unpopular war. I’m not saying everything done in Vietnam was humane. But since when is war, at any time, humane? When is any war a “popular” war?
When the manuscript was finished, a local Vietnam veteran who was a former Navy Seal read it for accuracy. Then I sent it off. Several publishers seriously considered it. A senior acquisitions editor for a major Christian publishing house liked it so much she presented the manuscript to the committee that determines what gets published and what doesn’t. I had high hopes.
Until I received her email: “Our editorial board met yesterday, and I regret to say we won’t be moving ahead with The Heart Remembers. There was still a lot of concern about the salability of the Vietnam War even as a partial setting, and I’m sorry about that.”
“Even after all these years,” I told my husband, “these poor Vietnam vets are still getting slammed.”
That was three years ago.
The Heart Remembers may never get published, but it stands as my tribute to the brave men and women who served their country during a war that some folks still try to hide in the closet. Yet the Vietnam vets I know proudly fly Old Glory in their front yards.
On Monday, Veteran’s Day, this heart will remember.

Thank you, Lord, for the selfless men and women who have served and are serving our country. Bless them and protect them. Smile upon them and be gracious to them. Show them Your favor and give them Your peace (Numbers 6:24–26 NLT). Amen.

Special-Tea: Read John 15:9–17


  1. Thanks, Michele, for your heartfelt post. My husband served in the Korean War. I hope each one of us will say "Thank you for your service" to a vet (of any war) tomorrow, Veterans Day. I'm going to start with my own vet--my husband.

  2. Please pass on to Charles my deep appreciation for his service and sacrifice. Veterans are special people.

  3. A beautiful post, Michele. And I am also thankful for this update on The Heart Remembers. That is a wonderful story--and I just can't believe you are finding resistance to its publication. I think there are multiplied thousands of readers who would love to experience this heart-felt journey into Vietnam and the war's aftermath. Don't give up.

  4. Thank you, Patty. "Don't give up." That phrase has been popping up the past couple of weeks from several sources -- a plaque at the hairdresser's, Sunday's sermon, in addition to popping in my mind throughout the day. I think God is trying to tell me something. Maybe not just about "The Heart Remembers," but not to give up on writing fiction. Thank you for your support and encouragement.

  5. Don't give up writing fiction! The premise of The Heart Remembers sounds very powerful and, I can't wait to get my hands on Getaway Mountain since I read the excerpt on NaNoWriMo. You have so much to share!