TOML – Helping our Heroes

On May 1st, I announced on Facebook that, after searching for the right fit, I have teamed up with That Others May Live Foundation.

 

Over the years spent with Nic, Cruz, Rick, DQ, Clancy, Cowboy and Gabe, I have yearned to be able to help my USAF Rescue heroes in some way.

There are so many good charities that help our military. But only That Others May Live is dedicated to helping those in the USAF Rescue community.

It's a perfect fit.

So began the Buy A Book Help a Hero program – where I will give a portion of the sale of every #TrueHeroes book to this amazing Foundation.  Please visit the website for more information. 

Very grateful to my #TrueHeroes and their families for the sacrifices they make every day.  Very grateful to my new friends at That Others May Live Foundation for helping my heroes.  Glad to help in any small way I can.

 

Countdown to True Heroes – Day 1

It’s day one, people.  That means tomorrow is release day.  It’s pretty danged cool to hold new books in your hand, to know that folks will be falling in love with these people that you know so well.  Nic and Julie, Rick and Lily, Gabe and Claire – and, of course, Cruz.  (You’ll get that soon.)

But what does one write on day one?

I guess I’ll tell you a bit more about me and then leave you with one of my favorite videos – one that says it all for me.

Some of my proudest and most humbling accomplishments in life revolve around being there for someone when they’re having the worst day of their life.

At age forty – I became an EMT.  For me, life really amped up after forty.  That learning curve scared the peewaddlin’ out of me.  Could I think fast enough?  Could I stick someone with a needle?  Could I remember what to do?

I had great teachers.  One my very first run, we pulled up on scene and the EMT with me turned to me and said “You’re in charge.”  I’m sure my face lost all color and I stammered. . . 

Then she said, “Don’t worry, I won’t let you fall.”

The perfect words.  I’ve used them myself when I trained new EMT’s.

That sentiment actually sums up my love for heroes.

shaldag

They have each other’s backs. They’re good at what they do. They know what they’re capable of and they put aside fear and rush in when it counts.   

“None of you have to go,” said Ty Woods, “but we’re the only help they have.” 

Of course they went.  That’s what heroes do.

 

Kandahar, Afghanistan: Supervising Producer and Editor John Collin and Airman First Class (A1C) Steven laugh after a military exercise in the Kandahar desert. (Photo credit: National Geographic Television)And when they have down time, they shoot each other with squirt guns and give each other a hard time over anything and everything.  They share their care packages from home.  They take “one for all and all for one” to a higher level.

They never stop being heroes.  Like “once a Marine, always a Marine,” these guys never become ex-heroes. 

These guys are the face of valor, courage, honor, virtue and gallantry. 

And I truly love them for that.  I hope I've captured that in these books.

Hoo-yah.

Garth Brooks | The Change | September 11 Tribute from Kristen Carrier on Vimeo.

 

Countdown to True Heroes – Day 2

Ahh, the tattoo.

Legen—wait for it—dary.

The legend goes back to the first PJs – 1971 – the Vietnam war.

A little swagger.  A little cockiness.  And, well, a lot of alcohol.

648dd7ad73ca26a7e0137f491009ba9bAt the time, the PJs’s taxi was the famed Jolly Green Giant helicopter.  So, what could be a more fitting symbol for combat search and rescue than the Jolly Green Giant footprint? 

Thus was born the PJ tattoo.

“But where to get said tattoo?” they wondered?  They wanted a place that, when showed off, would command respect and awe.  Some place unique.  After much consideration and a few more drinks, our stalwart heroes came to a decision. 

A tradition is born.

The Jolly Green feet tattoo.

On the butt of every PJ.

photo-1 IMG_5260-2

Shhh.  It’s a secret.

Come back tomorrow for Countdown day 1. 

Cheers

Jax

 

PS – Be sure to join my email list for updates, contests and giveaways, and more!

 

Countdown to True Heroes – Day 3

I lied.  I promised that today would be about the tattoo.  Alas, I took a day off and went to see 13 Hours in the theater.  Wow, that was True Heroes on display. 

So, tomorrow I'll brief you on the tattoo.

Today, I though it would be fun to just sit back and see what these guys are all about.  BTW, the entire NatGeo series is available on YouTube if you want to get inside the lives of the PJs.

Here's a tribute.

 

I hope you’ll return tomorrow for Countdown day 2.  The Tattoo!

Cheers

Jax

 

PS – Be sure to join my email list for updates, contests and giveaways, and more!

 

Countdown to True Heroes – Day 4

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Welcome back for Day 4 of the Countdown to the True Heroes Military Romance series.

Today, we’re going to talk about THE PIPELINE. 

 

Excerpt from True Honor

At seven minutes after midnight, Chris gave up the battle and dialed the phone.

“You can't sleep, either?” Claire said when she picked up the phone.

“Not for weeks, it seems.”

“Where are you?”

He smiled—it came hard. “Is that like what are you wearing?

She laughed. “No, I just wondered if you were in bed.”

“That doesn't sound much better, Captain.”

“I'm thinking that attorney-client relationship doesn't include phone sex, Champ.”

He laughed. “That's all right. I have a headache.”

“Really?”

“For weeks, it seems.”

“You want to come swim in my pool?” she said.

“It's not closed for the night?”

“It's not locked. What are they going to do, throw us in jail for swimming after midnight? I know a good lawyer or two. We'll be out in five on good behavior.”

“I'll meet you there in fifteen minutes. And Claire, be quiet about it.”

In the end, they didn't swim much after the first burst of frustration had them racing. She was good. He was better.

Then, they sat on the steps in the pool—the water was warmer than the air—and talked.

He told her about the pipeline. She'd been unfamiliar with the nickname.

“It's a succession of schools for pararescue—Superman School. Let's see. Indoc. Airborne. Combat Diver. Underwater Egress.” He enumerated on his fingers. “Basic Survival. Freefall. Combat Medic. Recovery Specialist. We had to swim two thousand meters in open water in BDUs, drown proof. You name it, we did it. Few of us got through without drowning at least once.”

“I've heard you guys are actually better trained than SEALs.”

“Don't let a SEAL hear you say that.”

****

U.S. Air Force Capt. William Chase, a pararescueman with the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, looks out as red smoke from a smoke grenade engulfs his position during a joint mass casualty exercise near Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, on May 20, 2009.  A Guardian Angel team from the unit worked alongside U.S. Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit to recover simulated isolated personnel in an austere environment.  DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph L. Swafford Jr., U.S. Air Force.  (Released)A recent article from GruntStyle named the Air Force PJ school the hardest of all special forces schools.

Here's the list from the Pararescue.com:

The process of becoming a PJ is informally known as ‘The Pipeline’. Almost two years long, it’s one of the longest special operations training courses in the world. It also has one of the highest attrition rates in the entire U.S. special operations community at approximately 80%.

Air Force Basic Military Training – 9 weeks

Air Force Pararesuce/Combat Rescue Office Development Course – 2 weeksdc27bd6fa6c65753457529c5eeb5c10c

Air Force Pararescue / Combat Rescue Officer Indoctrination Course – 9 weeksAir Force Combat Diver Course – 6 weeks

Air Force Underwater Egress Training – 1 day

Air Force Basic Survival School – 3 weeks

Army Airborne School – 3 weeks

Army Military Freefall Parachutist School – 5 weeks

Air Force Pararescue EMT-Paramedic Course – 22 weeks

Air Force Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course – 24 weeks

***

You see why Claire was impressed.  Better trained than SEALS?  Well, don't tell a SEAL that.

Join us for day 3 of the countdown tomorrow when I'll tell you about the tattoo.

Cheers

Jax

 

 

PS – Be sure to join my email list for updates, contests and giveaways, and more!

 

 

 

 

Countdown to True Heroes – Day 5

Senior Airman Jason Cunningham

True Hero

Jason was 26 years old, an Air Force PJ.

The battle is called Roberts Ridge, named for Neil Roberts, a SEAL who had earlier been thrown from a helicopter that was downed by enemy fire.  Roberts was stranded on Takur Ghar, a 10K foot mountain in Afghanistan.

Two rescue helicopters were sent in to rescue Neil, but they were too late.  Neil was dead.  The two helicopters were quickly disabled by the guerrillas and a 17-hour battle began.

Our hero, Jason Cunninghan and Army medic Cory Lamereaux gave medical care to the wounded.  Jason moved his wounded team mates three times, each time coming under enemy fire while doing so. 

As the enemy moved in, both men fought off the attackers.  Both men were shot.  Lamereaux was hit in the belly but survived. 

Jason was shot in the small of his back, through his pelvis.  The bullet shattered his liver.  He was really ticked about the whole thing and said he couldn’t believe they shot him. 

Lamereaux and anotheJason Cunningham funeralr medic knew Jason needed surgery immediately.  They worked to save him as the commander called for help. 

There would be no help for hours, until after dark when it was safer.

Nothing the medics did could keep Jason from slipping away.

The former sailor, who had become an Air Force pararescueman because he wanted to help others, died at 6 p.m.

The medivac arrived 90 minutes later.10531494_114833270022

Jason Dean Cunningham is buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Jason was a True Hero that day.  But not just that day.  He fought to save lives every day of his PJ career.  One battle he won changed field medicine forever.  Jason spearheaded the battle with the DoD to get blood products into the prehospital setting – first in the military and now in civilian emergency systems.  There is no way to know how many lives Jason Cunningham saved because of his determination to push that through. 

Certainly more than the ten he saved on Roberts Ridge.

United_States_Air_Force_Pararescue_Emblem_'That_Others_May_Live'

Countdown to True Heroes – Day 6

Welcome back for Day 6 of the Countdown to the True Heroes Military Romance series.

Today, we’re going to talk about crashing helicopters.

Yesterday, I pointed you to the blog post about my technical advisor and friend Bill Leroy.  If you read that post, you know that Bill was instrumental (get it – instrumental) in helping me write the scene in which our Colonel crashes his Black Hawk.  I could have researched for a year and not gotten the scene right.  Leave it to the guy who actually flew the PJs in and out of danger.  What a hero our Cowboy Bill is.  (Could be why the call sign of that helo is Leroy08 – just sayin’)

Over Coffee

 

Over coffee we wrote and then tweaked that scene until it was just right.

 

 

But before our Colonel crashes his helo, let’s see how he feels about watching another commander crash his.  The prologue of True Courage has our heroes watching as this event unfold on their television. 

Prologue


 

The first commandment of aviation: Thou shalt maintain thy airspeed, lest the ground rise up and smite thee.

Lieutenant Colonel Rick McIntyre’s PJs often attributed a sinister motivation to the mountain. Sometimes they even kept score—Yosemite, 3, Humans, 0.

But he’d never really bought into it. Now, as he watched the Black Hawk tumble down Mount Hood, he was beginning to reconsider.

Retirement—fishing to be exact—was looking pretty good right about now.

He didn’t know who the pilot was, but he felt for him.

Rick had been in midsentence, leaning over the map-strewn table that took up over half of David Quillen’s office. He still wore his coat, not having gotten warm yet from the walk inside. If he wanted to be this cold, he’d live in Colorado or go home to Minnesota.

It was the tone of the voice, rather than the words, that reached in from the outer room and silenced him. Made him listen.

“Sirs, get out here,” someone hollered again.

On cue, both David and Rick moved. Fast.

Not ten minutes earlier, Rick had passed the dayroom, saying hello to members of Bravo Element who lounged around the room, eating a late lunch and watching Fox News. Their lack of movement when he passed by made him smile. Yet, he fervently hoped—not for the first time—that had a general walked in, the boys would have shown a bit more respect.

It had taken him years to instill their casual disregard for his rank, and when it came right down to it, they never balked when he gave an order.

Now, as he entered the dayroom, there was no lounging. Nic D’Onofrio and Eric Cruz sat forward on the couch. Chris Gabriel stood behind them. Joey Amonte and Will Pitkin flanked the television in raggedy, mismatched recliners, fully engaged with the drama playing out on the nineteen-inch screen.

“The chopper was hovering when it just seemed to dip its nose into the mountain and then it just dropped and rolled,” said the stunned commentator. “This Air Force rescue helicopter is part of the 304th Rescue Squadron based in Portland…”

“Holy shit,” Quillen whispered in a most un-Quillen-like way.

Rick’s stomach clenched as the ten-ton Jolly Green nosed into the snow and pitched obscenely—almost in slow motion—down the side of Mt. Hood. Its rotors splintered as it tumbled, and about the third time they showed it, he could make out one of the crew members being ejected before the chopper rolled over him.

Every commander’s nightmare—endangering the lives of your guys. Every pilot’s nightmare—getting your crew, your patient or yourself killed. At least, the crew had the foresight to release the hoist cable to the Stokes litter that held the patient, dropping him to safety before the tumble.

Never mind the high-dollar frown on the faces of the pencil pushers.

And, in this case, never mind the complete humiliation of crashing your bird as the cameras rolled.

For the next few weeks, every time he flew, that image played in his head. God only knew how the crew, several of which having been rolled over by the helo on its slow descent, lived. The others, initially enmeshed in the wreckage, miraculously made it as well.

Wild ride.

Lucky bastards. It wasn’t their day to die.

***

I hope you’ll return tomorrow for Countdown day 5.  We’ll talk about a true-life hero. 

Cheers

Jax

 

PS – Be sure to join my email list for updates, contests and giveaways, and more!

Countdown to True Heroes – Day 7

Hello and WELCOME to the countdown to the True Heroes series.   For the next seven days, I’ll tell you a bit more about my PJs, about True Heroes, and about. . . well . . . me.

Today is Day 7 (since we’re counting down).  Kinda wonder if it should be Day 1 – but then how would you know if you'd ever get there?  Never mind.

I’ve already introduced both PJs in general here, and my PJs here.  I’ve told you about my extraordinary technical advisor here.  So I won’t repeat those now. 

When I first was looking for a hook for a romance series, I knew I wanted to do military romance.  It seemed like there were many romance writers featuring Navy Seals.  And I considered that for a while.  But I’m just a bit too rebellious, I guess.  I wanted something different.

I’d worked for yccsarears on a high mountain Search and Rescue unit and considered using SAR as my hook.

I’d been pondering for a while when I turned out the light one night and I had an AHA moment.  PJs.  We worked with the PJs when we had helicopter rescues.  I knew a little about them but decided at that moment that I’d found my hook. 

After a lot of research and my infamous search for a technical advisor, I jumped in.

Great_Plains_Eastern_New_Mexico_2004The first book True Valor, was born one day when I was driving from the city up to my mountain paradise.  It was a long stretch of flat road – you know the sort – that road when you wonder if there’s anyone left on earth.  Well, as I drove, I was listening to something on the radio and sorta zoned out for a couple seconds.  When I zoned back in, for an instant I didn’t know where I was. 

Thus Nic and Julie’s story was born.

What if you found yourself in your car, dressed in your pajamas, and you could only remember your first name?  What if you were a PJ who had just buried his best friend and comes upon this damsel in distress?

So that’s the origin of the first book.  From there, I planned out the rest of a five-book series. 

And since I truly believe that our military men are True Heroes, that’s what I titled the series. 

Just for fun recently, I asked my facebook friends to tell me the qualities of a hero.  Here’s their list.

TRUE HEROES

A List from my Facebook Friends

Heroic Qualities

Self sacrifice
Patriotism
Bravery
Strength
Perseverance
Tenacity
X-Ray Vision smile emoticon
Courage
Noble
Moral
Honor
Integrity
Fortitude
Fearlessness
Humility
Loyalty
Wise judgement
Selfless
Free
Honesty
Compassion
Generosity
Fearless (runs into the danger)
Loyalty
Sincerity
Empathy
Willingness to sacrifice all they have for all they believe in
Determination

Pretty good, huh?  I thought so too.

Then, I had to come up with five titles.  And thinking of the heroes and the stories in each book, that part was pretty easy.

    VALOR – COURAGE – HONOR – VIRTUE – GALLANTRY

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I hope you’ll return tomorrow for Countdown day 6.  We’ll talk about crashing helicopters. 

Cheers

Jax

 

PS – Be sure to join my email list for updates, contests and giveaways, and more!

Who’s this Bill Leroy guy?

Bill Leroy Wanted: Technical Advisor Extraordinaire!

This is the true story of how I found my AMAZING, FABULOUS and EVER GREAT Technical Advisor:  The Great and Powerful Bill Leroy.

When I first started writing the True Heroes military romance series, I wanted to make sure I got things right.  My heroes were PJs – the Air Force elite special forces.  Pararescuemen.

So, I started online, finding every home page from every pararescue unit I could.  I emailed each one, asking if there was someone that would be willing to be my technical advisor for these books.  I promised that I wouldn't pester them much, just wanted to make sure my facts were straight and that I had the right flavor, so to speak.

Crickets.

No one even emailed me back to say no.

So I went to work, reading everything I could find.  Books, websites, you name it.  

Enter Cowboy Bill. 

I'd just finished True Valor, the first book in the True Heroes series.  I'd just started True Courage – book two.

Living in the high mountains of Colorado, in a town of 800 people, I sometimes went to the local coffee place to write.  There I sat on this cool Autumn day when the door opened and in walked a handsome fellow wearing an Air Force flight jacket.  He sat at the table next to me and sipped his coffee.  I struck up a conversation.

"So, Air Force?"

"Yes," he said.  He was really very friendly.  "Retired pilot.

"Really," I said, trying not to over-react.  "What did you fly?"

"Helicopters."

Now I fought the urge to get up and Snoopy dance. 

He continued,  "I flew Search and Rescue."https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dd/HH60_Pave_Hawk_-_American_Air_Day_Duxford_(7125012961).jpg

SCORE!!!

I gushed about what I was writing and he verified that he had, indeed, flown the PJs.  Turns out he lived two doors down from me in the condos I lived in at the time. 

We became fast friends.  And, over coffee, we spent hours crashing a helicopter for the True Courage book. 

Thanks, Bill. 

Oh, and he agreed to write the intro to the Meet the 506th page.  Go check it out.  You'll see why I love Bill Leroy!