Tag Archive | military

Trinity – Military War Dog (Book Review)

trinity mwdI have loved Ronie Kendig’s writings after reading her Discarded Heroes series (click on the name to see my review). I had been wanting to read Trinity for awhile and finally had my chance.

This is an intense romantic suspense. Ronie is a master at understated romance. I love the romance between Heath and Jia/Darcy and how Trinity, the dog, seemed to keep bringing them together. I don’t want to give away the plot or any of the surprises but there are some sweet moments woven into the tension of the war that the characters are involved in.

Heath was a Green Beret until he was injured and left with a traumatic brain injury. His dog refused to work with anyone else so both were dumped from service. Pulled into a moral boosting training program called A Breed Apart, Heath has to struggle to swallow his pride at the lost dreams. Heading oversees to a military base and running into the unit he used to be an integral part of only rubbed salt in the wound. He meets Jia and something seems familiar with her and he is instantly attracted to the elusive woman he nicknames “Rock Girl.” She ends up being so much more — the focus of his future as well as a ghost from his past.

I have great respect for Ronie’s deep research of the military, the way they work and the role of the often unsung canine warriors who put their lives on the line to keep others safe. Again – another wounded warrior here is finding a place to be useful once again and is willing to lay his life on the line for others. Heart-stopping action, well written and the ending left me with a smile on my face for a long time. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

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Angel on Fourth Street (Short Story)

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Top-secret missions were never all the movies make them out to be. He was glad this would be his last.

Sean stepped out of his black Altima and moved to the sidewalk on the dark street. The Bottoms Up bar was around the corner on Fourth. Its neon sign swung out over the concrete as he walked toward the building. His palms were sweaty. It had been 18 long months since he’d seen or even spoken to his bride.

The months in between had been torture for him, literally. He could still feel the vestiges of continued healing in his body. All he’d wanted for the past few hectic weeks was to surprise Jessi by coming home on their anniversary. She still lived in their apartment. His key had worked in the lock, but she hadn’t been home when he arrived. He searched and found her calendar with this place written on it. It also had a heart with their names on it. He smiled to himself.

Now he was downtown, hoping to surprise her, although this was not quite the romantic location he would have chosen. As he drew nearer, there was a commotion at the door. A woman with her coat half on stumbled out onto the pavement. The heavy bass of a country tune followed. He caught her before she could fall. She looked up at him with a blank stare and a silly grin.

Jessica? Recognition slammed him in the gut.

A burly man followed, coming to an abrupt halt before Sean. “Let her go, man. She’s with me.” The brute was dressed in dirty ripped jeans, construction-style boots, and a wife-beater T-shirt that said, Give blood—play rugby. He reeked of beer and sweat.

The girl in Sean’s arms stiffened as she turned to look at the loser. “I am most certainly not with you,” she spat out.

Sean’s years of military training brought him to high alert at the man’s threatening stance and tone. He’d hoped to live a peaceful life now and had left any weapons of his past occupation back at the base. In comparison to this man before him, he probably looked soft, wearing dress pants, a crisp white dress shirt, suit coat, and tie. He glanced down at his disheveled wife. Her blonde hair was pulled into a ponytail, and her blue eyes appeared glassy as she gazed up at him. Whatever it took, he would protect her.

“I know you, don’t I?” Her eyes squinted. She’d obviously forgone her contacts, but where were her glasses? She looked adorable in her confusion.

“Come on, Jessica, you promised me,” the bully said as he flexed his muscles in an attempt to intimidate and reached a hand out for her.

But Jessica continued to gaze at Sean. Slowly she turned to glare at the loser, her speech slurred. “I promised you nothing, Artie. You can leave now. I’m with him.” She placed a hand on Sean’s chest, and his heart flipped.

Sean wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close as they faced Artie. “You heard the lady. You will leave now.” Sean spoke low, but his voice was edged with titanium. He had no weapons, but even with his hands and feet he was a highly trained killer. He could feel adrenaline pump through his veins as his body prepared for a possible fight. This certainly wasn’t how he’d hoped to spend his anniversary. But then, in the past year and a half, when had anything ever happened like it was supposed to?

Artie’s eyes darted nervously between Sean and Jessica. He shifted on his feet, clenching and unclenching his fists. Sean stared him down. The man finally turned and walked back into the bar, leaving them alone on the dark sidewalk with only the neon lights from the bar sign providing illumination.

Sean relaxed and let out a breath of air he didn’t know he’d been holding. He turned Jessica toward him, pulled her coat up over her shoulders, and held her gently by her upper arms as he bent to look in her eyes.

Jessica stared at him, and her head wobbled. “You’re cute. You remind me of…” And with that, her eyes closed and she fell limp.

Sean swept her up and took her to his car. Maneuvering her into the front seat, he reclined it back and buckled her in. He tried to wake her up, but she didn’t respond. Her pulse was slow and weak. Saying a quick prayer, he drove her to the emergency room. She couldn’t be drunk. She hated alcohol.

A short while later, Sean sat in the hospital room, his shirt unbuttoned, his tie loosened, and his sleeves rolled up. His jacket lay over the arm of the recliner. His suspicion had been right. The date rape drug had been slipped into her drink. Her blood-alcohol level had been so low it was almost nonexistent, whereas the amount of the tranquilizer was enough to have killed her. Sean thanked God for bringing him to her when she needed him most.

Needed him most? She’d needed him over the past 18 months, and he hadn’t been there. He’d been listed as missing in action and had suffered severe injuries in Iraq. If not for the kind ministrations of a missionary family, he would have died. When he recovered, he completed his secret mission for the government…and returned home to find his bride in serious trouble.

Why would she ever go to a bar? It wasn’t her style. But she had no way of knowing he was alive and well. The military had been unwilling to tell her, due to the sensitive nature of his mission. Could that have driven her to this? He shook his head. That part of his life was over now. Over for good. He was here in the States to stay. He hoped. But there were never any guarantees for career military personnel.

He watched Jessica hooked up to the monitors but breathing, thankfully, on her own. His heart ached for the pain his service to their country had cost her. Tonight could have turned out tragically different. The weight of that settled around him like a wet woolen blanket, suffocating him in guilt. He should have been here.

But his country had needed him too. His injuries had complicated things. She didn’t even recognize him with his slighter weight and different haircut. New scars littered his body. Would she find those repulsive? He cried out to God as he held his head in his hands and wept for all the should-have-beens.

Deep in his spirit he was reminded that God was a God of grace and mercy, and He had brought Sean back in time to protect his wife. God had seen him through the war and the trials in a foreign land. God saw and knew the pain of both of their hearts. If God could bring him here to this moment in time, he could certainly trust God for their future. The weight lifted, and he settled back into the leather recliner and slept….

A warning prickled the back of his neck. Someone was staring at him. He could feel it on the edges of sleep. He tensed. Where was he again? He inhaled slowly. Wherever he was smelled funny, and he could hear a steady beeping. Then it came back to him. He wasn’t in Iraq, but in a hospital room in the States. He let himself relax. Opening his eyes, he saw white everywhere with soft blue walls as a backdrop. Jessica was lying there, squinting, watching him. He rose, went to her purse, and dug for her glasses. Gently placing them on her face, he moved a strand of hair off her cheek.

Her eyes focused, but he could tell she still didn’t recognize him. He reached down with his left hand to clasp her left hand. There was a white line where her wedding ring had been, and his heart cracked a bit that she had removed it. He had saved two years for that ring, starting after their first date, certain she would be his. Her hand warmed at his touch.

He gazed into her eyes. “Jessie…did you doubt I would return for you?” He croaked the words out. The man who could speak with authority to soldiers in battle was struggling when faced with his wife. Uncertainty filled his heart. What if she didn’t want him? The thought was devastating.

Her eyes widened as she glanced from their joined hands to his wide gold wedding band and then up to his face. “Sean?” Tears streamed down her cheeks.

Reaching for a tissue with his free hand, he wiped the tears, then held the tissue for her to blow her nose. She did so noisily, like a foghorn . . . something he’d always teased her about but secretly loved. He smiled at her and tossed the tissue to the can by the side of the bed. Her eyes closed, and her grip loosened in his hand. “Jessi?”

She didn’t respond, so he sat back down to wait and pray as she slept.

Awhile later he returned from the snack room with a cup of instant coffee that tasted like heaven compared to what he got in the field. Entering the room, he saw her eyes open. She seemed startled when he turned the corner by her hospital bed. Little lines appeared on her forehead and between her eyes. He came to set the coffee down and put her glasses back on her face.

“You were listed as missing,” she whispered. “It was after a horrible attack, and so many died. But they couldn’t find you. They told me you were probably dead.”

He gave her half a grin. “Not happy to see me, Jess?”

“How are you here?”

“Later, Sweetheart. I’m sorry you had to go through all you endured in my absence. I’m home now and hope to make it up to you somehow.”

“Make it up? How can you make up the past year and a half? You waltz back into my life and want to pick up as if nothing happened?” He could hear the pain and loneliness in her voice. She never was one for surprises.

“You were drugged last night, Jess. If I hadn’t ‘waltzed in’ when I did, you would likely have been raped and dead by now.” His voice was soft, trying to take the hardness out of the reality.

She gasped. Her eyes held his as if to test the veracity of his words. “I don’t remember much. Only that you were like a guardian angel. I was safe in your arms.”

“I told you I would come back to you.”

“Pretty words, Sean, but you’re human, and I thought you had died. I thought God had taken my best friend from me.” Tears began again and Sean wiped them away with his thumb. She brushed his hand aside. “You couldn’t have called or emailed or Skyped to tell me you were well?”

“I was alive—but not well—and in enemy territory. Knowing you were waiting for me back home was the only thing that kept me fighting to come back from the hell I was in. I had no way to contact you. I can explain more later. I feel awful that you suffered so in my absence.”

Her body shuddered as she fought back more tears. Sean smiled. His redoubtable wife. She was his treasure, a gift from God he would try to never take for granted. He had missed her so much.

“If the doctor will let you come home, we can start fresh, you and I. Would that be okay?”

Jessica nodded. She reached to touch his unshaven chin, and he leaned forward to make it easier for her. Her frown deepened as her hands moved to his head and traced the scars amongst the short hair and along his cheekbone and forehead. “You almost died, didn’t you?”

Sean nodded. “But I didn’t. I came back for you. I’d hoped to surprise you for our anniversary. I had so many dreams of how wonderful our reunion would be.”

Jessica dropped her hand. “I was heartbroken you might never be coming back. Connie, a friend from work, invited me to meet her at the bar to visit and play pool. I didn’t want to be in our apartment. Alone. Missing you.” She shrugged. “I kept getting hit on and finally decided to leave.”

“But someone had other plans for you. I’m glad I came in time, Love. I would have been inconsolable to learn that anything had happened to you.”

Jessica smiled. “But you are here now. Thank you, Sean.”

“Anytime.” He smiled down at her.

The nurse came in to disconnect Jessica from all her apparatus and Sean left so she could dress. When he returned, he held out a bouquet of flowers. “Happy anniversary, Jessi. I’m home.”

Jessica walked to him and took the flowers. She brought them to her nose, inhaled, then set them on the bed. Clasping her arms around his neck, she pulled his face down to hers. His arms went around her waist as he waited for her next move.

“Kiss me, Sean. Please? I have so missed your kiss.” He willingly obliged. Her kiss felt like home.

Mission accomplished.

This story was one of 39 published in I Choose You, an anthology by Oak Tara Press.

The rights reverted to me last year. 

Discarded Heroes Series by Ronie Kendig (Book Review)

I’ve become a fan of romantic suspense. What can I say? There’s something about the danger and a man of honor willing to lay it all on the line for his team, his country and the people he loves. This series looks at a group of men assembled for black-ops. Undercover international operatives that are not acknowledged by the government but go in and do the dirty work no one else wants to. The name of this team is Nightshade (also title of the first book) and is made up of men with dark pasts who have been spat out by the military and struggling with issues related to what they did (like PTSD) struggle to fit into the real world again. Nightshade gives them a purpose and a community to rehabilitate in as it were.

discarded heroes all four in one

Discarded Heroes Series by Ronie Kendig

Nightshade

The first book tells the story of Max Jacobs (aka “Frogman”)– a former navy SEAL who is on the verge of divorce because of his anger issues. He’s still in love with his wife, who works as a reporter. Max is is the leader under the authority of “The Old Man” General Olin Lambert, a member of the joint chiefs. He equips them and gives them their orders and works to help them when they need it. General Lambert grows to love these men like they are his sons.

Max’s wife Sydney is distraught – and unbeknownst to her soon to be ex-husband, pregnant. Her nosey news search almost uncovers the very rescues her husband is undertaking, putting the team at risk. Her journeys take her directly into his path and things get messy. With the help of his friends, Max finds his way back to what’s really important to him in this life. Oh, and they defeat the bad guys too.

Digitalis

Colton “Cowboy” Neeley has a four year old daughter and is falling in love with a woman working at a department store. “Cowboy” loves wearing the hat and boots and talks with a Southern drawl. In book one he is the man who has the common sense on the team and is a close friend to Max.

Unfortunately, Piper Blum, the woman he falls in love with, has her own secrets, secrets that put Colton’s family into a life-threatening situation as well as his team. The struggle for faith in the face of grief and deception all around is a riveting read as Colton faces his flashbacks and finds love along the way.

Wolfsbane

Canyon Metcalfe, aka “Midas” is a former Green Beret and medic who left his service to his country under threats and a weight of shame and blame for a mission gone wrong. His brother rescues a woman who had been held captive for months in Venezuala, raped and tortured but escaped to try to deliver top secret information to her god-father, “The Old Man.”  Her name is smeared and the only way to preserve her life and reputation is to return to Venezuela with Nightshade. She has already fallen hard and fast for Canyon who fights his attraction to her in deference to his brother’s “staked claim.”

A mission gone bad, a secret addiction and growing attraction lead to unforeseen consequences and deep pain as they are captured, separated and tortured. Canyon finds that the past and the present come together to exonerate him but along the way he acquires a family while alienating his brother after trying to “man up” and take responsibility for his mistakes.

Firethorn

This was probably the hardest book in the series to read. It’s like a massive puzzle piece of points of view as Nightshade has been attacked and dismantled but they don’t know by who. A spy, Kazi Falcon is hired by the  General to bring the team together again. Her first job is to break Griffen “Legend” Riddell out of a maximum security prison. Once on the run and out to save the others, Griffen falls hard and fast for the secretive Kazi.

Kazi however has her own battles to fight as she tries to complete the mission that the General has hired her for and has learned that men are not to be trusted. As the team reassembles from various areas of the globe the tension ratchets up with every page turn and the ending had me in tears.

Conclusion

These are fast moving, adrenaline pumping books and hard to put down. One caution – do not read them too close to bedtime, if you do, give up sleep and just finish the novel. You’ll rest better for having gotten to the end! It’s sad that this is the end of the series because I am sure I could have read far more books about this team. Ronie encourages readers to connect with www.soldiersangels.org to adopt a military man and offer support for those who put their lives on the line for our freedoms.

A Mood

James B. Pollard  (10/1/1920 – 1/22/89)

This piece was written during my paternal grandfather’s time in India in World War II – as part of a journal he kept. I had this read at my wedding, which he did not live to see. He was a hero, a gentle and gracious soul and I still miss him all these years later.

J.B. Pollard (WWII pic)

My Grandpa in 1944

Nightfall is once more preparing to enshroud Assam in its blanket of pitch darkness. An American soldier sits alone in his tent on the edge of his canvas cot, his heavy G-I shoes unlaced to cool his burning feet, a cigarette smoldering listlessly between his fingers.

He gazes out at the lengthening shadows in the nearby jungle. He listens to the weird cry of the small jungle wild life – and the insects. He becomes aware of the steady purr of the diesel generators which run constantly day and night supplying power for the small garrison.

Outside he hears the crunch of the guard’s boots on the gravel path as he starts his first tour of duty around the area on his long night vigil keeping his sleeping buddies from harm.

He hears the steady drone of jeeps and trucks racing back and forth on the nearby Stillwell Road. A G-I in a nearby tent is strumming a guitar and singing Western songs softly, while another next door makes a feeble attempt to blow some jazz out of a squeaky clarinet.

The generator coughs and sputters, then catches again and continues on and on with its steady rhythm.

The soldier’s eye falls to on a picture of his family, of which he has been thinking. The children’s locks of hair are in the little frame. He looks closely at it, then back at the picture. He wipes the mold from the leather frame and replaces the picture in its spot on the crude rough cupboard he has made. He continues to look at his pretty young wife and sees many things – First, the woman he is so deeply in love with. His mind flashes quickly back over the few preceding years and he is doubly homesick. He also sees the mother of his children – the financial wizard who makes ends meet somehow on a meager monthly sum. He sees the wonderful cook, who in happier days planned and prepared his menus. He sees many things in that wonderful wife. In his children he sees the happiness of days past and in those to come.

The tent door slams and the Sergeant from Tennessee appears, whistling loudly, “Flying Home.” He reaches over the rough table, snaps on the light and suddenly becomes quiet. His happy mood has been killed by the sullen expression on his friend’s face.

“What’s the matter ‘J.B.’ . . .  homesick?”

A dull reply of “Yeah. . . “ and the cigarette is ground into the concrete floor. For a moment, silence, except for the sounds of nature – and the machinery.

The Sergeant breaks the spell again, “Let’s get out of this rat trap, wander over the day-room and I’ll beat the pants off you in ping-pong.”

The door slams – the two men walk down the narrow path together, staring into the black jungle ahead. Neither man speaks. . .they are thinking. . .

It is nighttime in Assam.  . . .