Veteran’s Day was created after the armistice between the Allied nations and Germany on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.  It was proclaimed as the day to “end all wars” and by 1938 it was recognized as a legal holiday dedicated to honor the veterans of WWI.  In 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.  Today people should recognize it as a day to honor veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve for the common good.  This country owes a lot to its veterans and many veterans have made an impact on today’s society, including best-selling authors, who recently spoke to discuss how their military service influenced them.

Nelson DeMille is a prolific author.  His books seem to always be on the top five of the bestsellers, which includes his latest book with his son, The Deserter. It is based on Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier stationed in Afghanistan who walked away from his post. But then the plot takes a twist and turn. Delta Force Army Officer Kyle Mercer, the “Bergdahl” character, escaped the Taliban by beheading his captors and fleeing to Venezuela. After being spotted by an old army buddy the top military brass decides to send two members of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to that socialist evil country to find Mercer and bring him back for trial of desertion.

As a Vietnam veteran DeMille inputs his military knowledge into the plots. “If I had not been in the army and had not been to Vietnam I would not have rushed into writing.  I kept working on this Vietnam novel, and fifteen years after I left that place, I wrote, Word of Honor. Years later I also wrote Up Country, another Vietnam novel. Both are based on my experiences over there. One of my latest books, The Cuban Affair, also had a Vietnam character that mentored this Afghanistan vet.  I wanted to show how there is a lot of similarity between these combat vets even though they fought in different wars and in different times. In both cases they saw someone not in uniform and had to question if someone was carrying.  I hope through my stories that Americans see that those fighting only have a split second to react.  No one should be giving a moral opinion or decision unless they have been there.” 

Don Bentley contrasts with Nelson DeMille.  The veteran author has written over twenty bestsellers while Bentley has just written his debut novel, Without Sanction. It is about a Defense Intelligence Agency operative Matt Drake who is paralyzed by survivor’s guilt and haunted by the memories of the fallen. Matt may have left Syria, but Syria hasn’t left him. Yet, he decides to help a Pakistani scientist, who has created a WMD, defect to the US. 

Using his own personal experience, Bentley noted “I spent a decade as an Army Apache helicopter pilot, and while deployed in Afghanistan was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Air Medal with “V” device for valor. On June 28, 2005, I was the air mission commander of a Quick Reactionary Force (QRF) attempting to rescue four Navy SEALs surrounded by the Taliban.  Over the course of the operation, one of the helicopters I was charged with protecting was shot down, and I couldn’t stop it.  This experience profoundly impacted my life, and led to the questions my protagonist, Matt Drake, wrestles with. I had to find a way to live with one of the helicopters being shot down. What I really wanted was a chance to do things differently, to go back and atone for everything that went terribly wrong. In this novel, my character, Matt Drake, gets that chance.”

David Bruns uses his vast experience as a retired submarine officer to write thrilling novels.  His latest, Rules of Engagement, co-authored with J. R. Olson, delves into how cyberwarfare is the next battleground that can play out on the world stage. As in real life, Russia is in the midst of the trouble. A criminal enterprise known as Bratva is losing money on its arms dealing business, so its leadership hires, Rafiq Roshed, one of the world’s most wanted cyber terrorists. Now residing in North Korea, he is enlisted to pit China, Japan, and America, on a collision course for World War III by inserting a computer virus into each country’s command system. 

Bruns’ vast military experience has helped him write national security thrillers that have a lot of action scenes and military/intelligence characters. “My military experience lends an authenticity to the narrative that gives the fictional story a ‘been there, done that’ feeling. We know how military professionals talk and act in high-stakes settings and we try to communicate those emotions to our readers. Co-authoring with J. R. Olson has allowed us to do our very best to bring realism to our fiction. While the technical details of military aspects like weapons systems and combat maneuvers are important, that’s not the heart of a story. In our view, the authenticity comes from the characters, not the hardware. We want to make sure Americans understand that there is a lack of clarity around the rules for cyberwarfare and how that is evolving as cyber comes into its own as a warfare domain.”

Jack Carr, a former Navy Seal, also has his main character, James Reece, as a Navy Seal in True Believer. Reece reflects on how he is now America’s most wanted domestic terrorist because he sought revenge on those in the US government who cost him everything he loved and cared about: his wife, their daughter, his teammates, and his career. But patriotism comes first as he decides to travel the globe, targeting terrorist leaders and unraveling a geopolitical conspiracy that exposes a traitorous CIA officer and a sinister assassination plot with worldwide repercussions. Reece discovers that behind all the plots is an ambitious Russian oligarch with ties to organized crime. 

Carr commented, “The study of warfare, terrorism and insurgencies coupled with my personal experience in combat provide a solid foundation for my fictional narratives.  My background certainly informs my writing.  Being able to revisit emotions from real world experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then apply those to a fictional narrative, helps those feelings ring true with readers.  I hear from veterans about how the books stand out to them for the realism in guns, gear, tactics and, more importantly, the feelings associated with time in combat. These are some of the most gratifying emails, reviews, and posts to read.”

James R. Hannibal delves into the life of a rookie CIA operative, Talia Inger, in The Gryphon Heist.Her first posting is to a forgotten backwater’s country in Eastern Europe, part of the disputed territory in Moldova. With her shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, Talia takes a deep dive into a world where only criminal minds and unlikely strategies will keep the Gryphon, a high-altitude data vault, hovering in the mesosphere. She and those working with her must discover who is after Gryphon and what will be necessary to stop them from achieving access.

Hannibal is no stranger to secrets. He flew the -10 Thunderbolt II, the B-2 Spirit (stealth bomber), and the MQ-1 Predator UAV. During that time, he worked numerous classified assignments and spent time as a Mission Planning Cell chief, Intelligence Liaison, Stealth Materials Liaison, and Weapons and Tactics Officer. 

He noted, “I think there are certain aspects of military, tech, and espionage storytelling that are captured best by those who’ve been there. I can neither confirm nor deny how my personal experiences seep into my stories. Jokes aside, I’m not sure any author can claim they don’t include personal experiences or even acquaintances in their stories to some degree. My stories take realism as a backdrop and weave in the escapism of high-tech gadgets and high-adrenaline action, usually for characters that would not expect to experience such things. Everyone knows the Navy Seal or the paramilitary officer will mix it up with the enemy. But what about the young test pilot or the brand-new case officer?”

Natalie Walters is known for her small-town mysteries and deep intense story lines, in which her latest, Deadly Deceit, fits the bill. Reporter Vivian DeMarco just wants to do her job and get out of Walton, Georgia. But when her boss dies all of a sudden, Vivian’s only hope for finding out what really happened is in the hands of Deputy Ryan Frost. Unfortunately, the deeper they dig, the more twisted the truth becomes. False leads, incriminating emails, and a blackmailer called the Watcher force Vivian to decide is it worth it to get the story.

Walters adds a different perspective since she is a military wife. “I’m currently an Army wife going on 24 years. As a military spouse, I’ve participated in Family Readiness/Support Groups, which supports our soldiers and families with events and programs both when they are home and deployed. With more than two decades as an Army wife, more than a dozen moves, and multiple deployments, there’s not a lot that I have not witnessed or experienced and I try to incorporate those moments in a variety of ways into my stories. I hope it gives readers an authentic and genuine experience. The military is a huge part of my life and will always be and I want to make sure I honor our military family.” 

These authors reflected on Veteran’s Day.  Nelson DeMille wants people not to confuse this holiday with Memorial Day. “It is a holiday to honor all those who have served, not those who have died. I wanted to make it clear that even though my bad guy in this latest book is in the military, he is rogue, and is not what the military is about.  I did contrast him with the CID officers Scott Brodie and Maggie Taylor to make it clear this was not an anti-military/ anti-war book. It is about people who volunteered to serve, some doing it right and some doing it wrong.  I am personally pro-military and hope it comes out in the story. I give thanks to all the veterans who served and fought in all the wars.”

Bentley wants people to understand, “During my time in uniform, I never experienced anything but profound gratitude from the American public.  That gratitude ran the gambit from heartfelt thanksto free meals purchased by strangers.  Now that I’ve been out of the Army for twelve years, I’m the old guy thanking young, uniformed kids for their service.  Veteran’s Day is a day to celebrate those who have served.  If you have a Veteran in your life, tell them thank you.  If you don’t, look for one of those kids-in-a-uniform next time you’re at the airport and take a moment to shake their hand.”

Bruns wants a “recognition of someone’s military service. The public response is often to lionize the military, something most military veterans find uncomfortable. The phrase ‘thank you for your service’ has lost meaning for most people. It’s almost like saying ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes. Military people joined up to do a job serving their country. While ‘thank you for your service’ is a nice gesture, what most vets really need is something more concrete, such as access to veterans’ healthcare and access to a good job when they leave the service.”

Carr desires Americans recognize while they are in the comfort of their homes that “as the sun sets here on our Veteran’s Day, it’s rising on the other side of the world, where men and women are just returning to base after a mission.  They are sweaty, dirty and perhaps bloody.”

Hannibal hopes “readers remember that this is a day to remember the living and thank them for their service and sacrifice. Find a veteran—a friend or family member—and ask them to tell you their favorite stories. And then listen, even if we get a little nostalgic or over the top. We love telling our stories. It brings us both joy and healing.”

Walters hopes Americans can relate to military families. “I come from a long line of family members who have served in the military. Unless you’ve lived this life, it’s hard to truly understand the sacrifice made by those willing to serve their country. I’m so grateful for those who have gone before us, for those who continue to serve honorably today, and for the future generations of those willing to boldly answer the call to serve.”

As Americans, everyone should understand that those serving are the ones that put their lives on the line to protect this country and defend its values.  As legendary author Tom Clancy once said, “The U.S. Military is us. There is no truer representation of a country than the people that it sends into the field to fight for it. The people who wear our uniform and carry our rifles into combat are our kids, and our job is to support them, because they’re protecting us.”



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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.