Charlotte’s Honor VBT – Remembrance Day – Veterans Day

CH Book Tour Promo 100 (1)

Today is the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War!

Charlotte’s Honor, my new book, takes place during the Great War (1914-1918).

Synopsis: After receiving  a telegram that her brother — and only surviving relative — has been killed in action during the Great War, 21-year-old Charlotte Zielinski enlists as a medical volunteer. She eventually begins working in the death ward of the field hospital near Soissons, France, holding dying men’s hands and singing them into eternity.

Dr. Paul Kilgallen is a Canadian surgeon working at the field hospital. During a siege by the enemy, everyone evacuates except for Paul and Charlotte, who volunteer to remain in the basement of the chateau to care for the critically ill soldiers.

During those three days, Charlotte sees a side of Paul that very few have seen and finds herself falling in love with him. Before Paul leaves for the front, he abruptly tells her that he cannot love her, and it would be best to “forget him.”

Just when the war is coming to a close, Charlotte is surprised by two events that are destined to change her life forever.

Remembrance Day/Veterans Day

Today is also a day to remember those who served in wars. I’d like to remember in a special way my father, father-in-law and stepfather (all now deceased). Each served their country in war: my father-in-law was in the United States Air Force during World War II and was ‘Missing in Action’ for months, my father and stepfather (my father’s first cousin) both served in Korea. Today is also my father’s birthday. He died in 1978 at the age of 49.

Remembering Tony An article about my father-in-law, who was a gunner for the USAF in WW II. He was shot down over Yugoslavia, near his father’s birthplace.Tony in army

Remembering Dad A tribute to my own father, who served in both the USMC and the United States Army, and who died when I was 18.Dad in Army

This last post is a special way to remember, with fondness, the three father figures in my life: Remembrance Day/Veterans Day 2009

Lest We Forget…

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Veterans Day/Remembrance Day 2015

Today is Remembrance Day/Veterans Day. I’d like to remember in a special way my father, father-in-law and stepfather (all now deceased). Each served their country in war: my father-in-law was in the United States Air Force during World War II and was Missing in Action for months, my father and stepfather (my father’s first cousin) both served in Korea. This is also my father’s birthday. He died in 1978 at the age of 49.

Remembering Tony An article about my father-in-law, who was a gunner for the USAF in WW II. He was shot down over Yugoslavia, near his father’s birthplace.Tony in army

Remembering Dad A tribute to my own father, who served in both the USMC and the United States Army, and who died when I was 18.Dad in Army

This last post is a special way to remember, with fondness, the three father figures in my life: Remembrance Day/Veterans Day 2009

Lest We Forget…

Remembering Tony

Today is a day we remember those who gave their lives and fought in wars so that we might live in freedom. Last year, I posted about my father in an article entitled “Remembering Dad.”

This year, I’d like to share my father-in-law’s story. Tony Hrkach (1925-1995) served as a tail gunner in the United States Air Force during the second World War.

Near the end of the war, during a routine mission, Tony’s plane was shot down over Yugoslavia (coincidentally, near his father’s birthplace). Frantically, he and his buddies parachuted out of the airplane. Unfortunately, however, one of his friends hit the side of a mountain and was killed. Tony and the others made it safely to the ground and were captured as soon as they landed.

They were marched for miles until they reached a POW camp. Remarkably, they found the Germans running the camp to be kind and, while it was not easy to be a prisoner of war, they were treated humanely.

When an announcement came over the radio that Germany had lost the war, their captors immediately handed their weapons and guns over to the Americans. Then, in a strange moment of understanding, they exchanged small personal tokens as reminders of their time together.

“I don’t just think of myself as a citizen of the United States; I think of myself as a citizen of the world,” he used to say. His idea was that we should remember first and foremost that we are all human beings, especially in time of war.

Like my own father and many other veterans, my father-in-law enjoyed “Hogan’s Heroes,” the television sitcom from the 1960’s about a German POW camp. The show attempted to put a human spin on such horrific times…the very thing that Tony found in his real experience with the ‘enemy.’

While we remember all those who fought in wars so that we may live in freedom, let us also remember that the real enemy isn’t necessarily the people we fight against, but the evil circumstances that result from greed, lust and power.

Photo and text copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Remembering Dad

Last November 11th, I wrote a special post about the father figures in my life and their service in armed forces. Again, I remember all those who served or gave their lives so that my family and I could live in freedom.

My father, Frank Gable, served in the United States Marine Corps from 1946-1950 and in the United States Army from 1950-1954. However, November 11th has always held a special place in my heart because it is my father’s birthday. Today he would’ve been 82. He died suddenly and tragically at the age of 49, just before my 19th birthday. My family and I walked around in shock, trying to get through the days following his death.

Today, in a special way, I remember my father. Frank Gable was short in stature (around five feet six inches tall), enjoyed watching “Gomer Pyle,” “Hogan’s Heroes” and the “Honeymooners.” He loved playing Rummy and Monopoly. His favorite candy was Hershey’s Kisses. He had aspirations of being an author and, at the time of his death, he had two novels in progress. Over the years, he worked as a clerk and mailman. Years ago, my mom shared with me that he is the one who named me. And, when I was 15 or 16, he used to hug me and say, “El, you need to find a guy just about my size because you fit perfectly to me when we hug.”

For Christians, the consolation is that we will see our loved ones again.

I know that I will see my dad again someday. Until then…Happy Birthday, Dad. Remembering you in a special way today.

copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

One of Ours

Since it is close to Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, I wanted to post my review again of this remarkable book, since the theme is so closely connected.

During the climax of One of Ours, the extraordinary novel published in 1922 by Willa Cather, as men are dying by the dozens, I couldn’t help but recall the words of the moving WW I poem, “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian Dr. John McCrae: “We are the Dead. Short days ago, we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow; loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders Fields.” McCrae, who died not long after he penned those poignant words, wrote the poem after witnessing the death of his friend the day before.

When one reads a novel such as One of Ours, it’s hard not to think of those who have died giving the ultimate sacrifice fighting for freedom. And yet war is such a horrible experience for all those involved, most often the youngest and most vibrant of society. While some are forced to fight, many of these young men (and nowadays young women) are not only willing, they are eager and impatient to get to the front lines.

In One of Ours, Willa Cather tells the story of Claude Wheeler, who is impatient and unenthusiastic about his life on a Nebraska farm. He is especially frustrated when it becomes necessary for him to leave college and return home to run the farm. He has little enthusiasm for farm work, merely tolerates his family and feels a constant sense of agitation. Until, that is, the US enters World War I. All of a sudden, as if it’s a revelation, Claude feels a sense of duty, a sense of belonging, a sense of raison d’etre. The slow moving pace of the early part of the book reflects, I believe, Claude’s attitude with how slow and meaningless his life had been thus far. Cather makes use of this beginning section of the book to expertly develop his character as well as the long list of supporting characters.

In the first part of the book, Cather interjects some beautiful and pleasant imagery. When Claude and his friend visit together during Christmas break from college, “…they scrambled down the bank to admire the red clusters on the woody, smoke-coloured vine, and its pale gold leaves, ready to fall at a touch. The vine and the little tree it honoured, hidden away in the cleft of a ravine, had escaped the stripping winds and the eyes of schoolchildren who sometimes took a short cut home through the pasture. At its roots, the creek trickled thinly along, black between two jagged crusts of melting ice.”

During the latter part of the novel, when Claude experiences war, Cather’s imagery was so real and so emotionally provoking that I had a hard time believing that she had never been to war. As the reader, I felt like I was there in the trenches with Claude or walking alongside him. Towards the climax of the book, when Lt. Claude Wheeler arrives to take over at a trench, the description of what he found was visually and emotionally graphic: “The stench was the worst they had yet encountered, but it was less disgusting than the flies: when they inadvertently touched a dead body, clouds of wet, buzzing flies flew up into their faces, into their eyes and nostrils. Under their feet, the earth worked and moved as if boa constrictors were wriggling down there, soft bodies, lightly covered…”

Words so descriptive that as the reader, I found myself swatting the invisible flies away and covering my nose against the stench.

Along with Claude are a cast of characters who are real, engaging and diverse. His mother, a Protestant Christian, carries a underlying bias against Catholics, but truly loves her sons and her husband in the only way she knows. Claude’s father has little tolerance or acceptance of his son’s frustrations with life. Mahailey, although she works for the family and has been living with them for years, is the comic relief in an otherwise serious book, and more often is another maternal figure for Claude. Claude’s wife (Enid), who, under the guise of a self-deluded belief that she is doing “God’s will,” leaves Claude to serve as a missionary in China.

Claude, who would have considered himself Christian, “wanted little to do with theology or theologians,” and, in many respects, found himself leaning toward liberal ideology. However, in the climax of the book, he surprises himself (and the reader) by beseeching God in the face of tragedy and asking for nothing short of a miracle. In exchange, Claude makes his own promise with God.

Willa Cather was one of those writers who encompassed the entire package: great storytelling, exquisite writing and memorable characters, as well as visually clear and exciting imagery. This is an ideal book to read around Veterans Day in November.

I highly recommend this Pulitzer-prize winning novel to anyone who wishes to read a good story, but also for those who wish to understand that “Real freedom isn’t really free,” and to allow Colonel John McCrae’s words to sink in:

We are the Dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved, and were loved…

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach