Veterans Day is for healing…let’s not forget our wounded warriors who suffer not only the physical pains of war, but the mental as well.
PTSD was first talked about during the Civil War by physicians who described it as nostalgia, while others believed it was a disturbance of a soldier’s mental capabilities caused by severe trauma to the brain.
After World War II, John Huston directed a documentary called Let There Be Light, about the care of soldiers with mental disturbances suffered during wartime.
These are wounds you do not see.
But they are very real to the soldier with PTSD.
In my holiday romance, “The Christmas Piano Tree,” the hero, Sgt. Jared Milano, is a wounded warrior suffering from PTSD from his last mission in Afghanistan:
“His brain went into freefall and he couldn’t stop it. No matter how hard he tried, how much he squeezed his mind, the memory stayed lost in a thick, suffocating fog swirling around in his head.
Dead and forgotten.
Angry, frustrated, he tried to reach out and grab it, but whatever his buddy said to him before he died remained silent and still in his mind.
When would he remember? When?”
“The Christmas Piano Tree” is the story of a pretty young war widow who re-discovers the magic of the holiday season with the help of a homeless vet and an old piano. And Rachel, her little girl, who believes that Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a tree.
Even if it is a piano.
I’ll never forget the Christmas I spent stationed overseas in a small town in Italy. The hot chocolate and cookies I baked and gave to the soldiers who signed up for my Christmas Eve Midnight Mass tour. Off we went on that wintery night in an old military school bus…
We were a motely group of military and Special Services personnel attending the service in a medieval cathedral that was cold and damp, but filled with song and hope for a better future.
Many of those men had seen the horrors of combat and suffered from PTSD (what we called DSS–delayed-stress syndrome–back then). Their stories as they told them to me have stayed with me always…
Thank you for spending part of your Veterans Day here with me. We thank all those who have served for their courage and bravery in keeping us and our families safe. God bless you.
I’ll never forget the homeless woman I met outside a church in Versailles. It was a cold, winter day with a sharp wind whistling in my ear. I was about to go inside to get warm when I noticed her. She was wearing tattered, black half-gloves over her reddened hands, a torn scarf tied over her matted dark hair. A soiled white linen bandage wrapped around her leg.
She reminded me of the chiffonier, the homeless of another era who gathered under bridges and built fires to keep warm. It broke my heart to see they still existed.
I was on holiday in the lovely little town of the Sun King having arrived from Paris the day before by train. I was wearing a new silk scarf I’d bought in the flea market. I loved that scarf with its pretty floral print of bright red roses splashed over the heavy, rich silk. It made me feel like I was wrapped up in warm sunshine when I fastened it around my neck.
Then I looked at the homeless woman shivering, her eyes heavy from little sleep. Her frail shoulders hunched together to warm herself.
She needed it more.
With a wistful sigh, I unwrapped it and insisted she take it. She couldn’t believe I was giving it to her. She ran her fingers over the silk in a slow manner almost as if she was afraid to touch it. Then she became bolder and rubbed the luxurious material over her cold, wrinkled cheeks. Her eyes lit up with such a glow, my heart melted
She threw her arms around me and hugged me. Tears in her eyes, but a smile on her lips.
Then she disappeared into the crowd.
I went inside the church and said a prayer for her, imagining her sitting by the fire under a bridge. Wearing her new scarf. Touching the silk and humming to herself. I pulled up the collar on my coat and smiled.
I wasn’t cold anymore.
I never forgot that woman and thought of her often as I wrote about homeless vets in my holiday romance, “The Christmas Piano Tree.”
The hero is a wounded warrior suffering from PTSD when he shows up at the gate to the entrance to the Mary Huber School for Girls where my heroine, Kristen Delaney, works…she’s been feeding homeless vets with leftover food as a way of keeping her husband’s memory alive (he was killed in Afghanistan)–this is a very difficult Christmas Eve for her and her little girl Rachel…until this soldier shows up!!
Here’s a short scene where we first meet him. Kristen gets a funny feeling when she sees a tall man walking toward her…
“She pulled her steering wheel hard to the right to avoid colliding with the tall man bundled up in a black field jacket and khaki pants, a duffel bag strapped on his back, his broad shoulders dusted with falling snow.
“She stuck her head out of the window to give him a piece of her mind and then stopped.
“Something about him made her stare at him. He had that swagger she knew so well. Military. Seeing him touched a nerve. Another homeless vet. Kristen shook her head, understanding. He was the third one this week looking for a hot meal.
“Not surprising on Christmas Eve.”
“The Christmas Piano Tree” is the story of a pretty young war widow who re-discovers the magic of the holiday season with the help of a homeless vet and an old piano.
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