By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneMarch 26, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- As with any historical war, books on Vietnam - both fiction and non-fiction -- tell the stories of war heroes, pivotal battles and tremendous challenges.
But very few tell the stories of the wives left to struggle with their own battles as their husbands were sent to fight in Vietnam.
Rosalie Turner hopes to change that.
This award-winning author has taken her experiences as one of those service wives and written them into a novel about four very different women who become friends when their husbands go to war. Turner will be in Huntsville this Saturday to sign copies of her novel, "Sisters of Valor," during a book signing at the Veterans Memorial Museum from 1 to 3 p.m.
"At the time I started writing this book, there were hundreds of books about Vietnam, but none on the wives," Turner said.
Turner was one of those wives. Her husband, Frank Kile, was a Marine Corps captain. In addition, her brother, John, was a Marine first lieutenant. Both served in Vietnam.
And, while they both returned home, the husband of one of Turner's friends did not.
"A few years after my husband returned, one of his company commanders prior to Vietnam, was killed. He left a wife and six kids," Turner said. "This book is dedicated in his memory. His death seemed so powerfully sad to me, and it started me thinking about the wives and families who are left at home to live with the loss."
"Sisters of Valor" was chosen for the Army Wife Network Book Club and listed as a "must read" on the Marine Corps Hangout website. Recently, Turner was selected as the "Author of the Month" by the Military Writers Society of America. Her book has received several accolades and endorsements, including an endorsement from Alma Powell, wife of retired general and former secretary of state Colin Powell.
"This book evokes poignant memories ... Our silent service to our country resonates through the years," Powell writes in her endorsement.
Turner's main character and the other wives in "Sisters of Valor" ban together in friendship during a politically unstable period in U.S. history. They also help each other as they cope with raising their children alone, endure loneliness and doubts, and face the public's growing animosity toward the war.
"It was so different then than it is today," Turner said. "Protests against the war were so personal and we also had so little contact with our husbands. We would get a letter every week or two. There were no phone calls, no e-mails. We never really knew what was happening to our husbands."
Yet, the role of the service wife was much like it is today.
"The feelings and emotions expressed in the book are just as relevant today. The feelings are universal," Turner said.
"Whenever a spouse is deployed to a war zone, it is scary. All through the deployment, you are wanting a sense of normalcy for yourself and your family, but inside you are facing a life and death situation. This book reaches out to service wives and gives them a voice."
The book's story is also universally appealing. For service wives and their husbands, they can relate to the challenges facing the characters and, often, they can see themselves in a specific character. For non-military readers, the book gives them an idea of what it is like to be a wife of a servicemember going to war.
"This book is about relationships between husbands and wives, wives and their children, and wives and their country," Turner said. "Some of the things in the book happened to me, some to others I know. This is a story I needed to tell from my own heart, from what I remember and lived through."
Turner, who has lived in Birmingham for 25 years, actually wrote her first draft of the book during a period eight to 10 years ago, when one of her two sons, Joel, was deployed as a Marine to Iraq.
"Because of his deployment the feelings I had during the Vietnam War were brought back very strongly," she said.
Some parts of the book were difficult to write, others easy and free flowing.
"A couple of parts really stirred up very strong emotions from my own memories. One was during the R&R in Hawaii and writing about how painful it was for the main character's husband to leave. The other was the death of one of the husbands," Turner said.
"But I really enjoyed writing about the interaction between the four women, and how they really grew and found their strength. I'm 68, and looking back and thinking about the relationships I've had, I know how other women have strengthened me."
The book also "portrays an era that was such a turbulent time in our history," she added. "There was the war and then we were on the cusp of the women's movement and we had the civil rights movements, all during that era."
The characters each represent different people of that era. The main character - Susan - struggles with her husband's deployment while Magda is a military wife with a free spirit, Rose is a very traditional military wife and Texanne is an independent wife that matures greatly through the story. The male characters also exhibit their own personal growth through their experiences.
"It's about finding themselves and what they're all about. The spouses change and grow while they are apart and then they come back together as different people," Turner said. "The questions we should all ask ourselves are 'What did we learn from it' What did it mean to us''"
The book is popular with book clubs, Turner said, as it is used to develop discussions on Vietnam, women's liberation, and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also used as a reference book for college courses.
"Sisters of Valor" is Turner's fourth published book. She is both a Christian and historical novelist. Her other books are "Going to the Mountain: Lessons of Life's Journey," a book to help overcome grief and loss; "My Very Own Book of the Lord's Prayer," a children's book based on the Lord's Prayer; and "Freedom Bound," a true-life story about slavery in east Florida.
Some of the proceeds from the sale of "Sisters of Valor" have been donated to the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire, N.M., where she and her husband live during part of the year. Some proceeds are also being donated to Cell Phones for Soldiers.
For more information on Turner and her books, visit www.sistersofvalor.com and www.freedombound.net.