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.
The verdict is in – it's just okee-dokee to wear medals you didn't earn. Okee-dokee to wear a uniform you never served in. Okee-dokee to pawn yourself off as someone you aren't.
Free speech. That's what the courts said.
The 9th Circuit Court recently ruled that Stolen Valor is free speech, covered by the First Amendment.
The case at hand was a man convicted of the Stolen Valor law. He'd testified in a court case wearing a purple heart he didn't earn. He appealed his conviction and won.
Heck, the Stolen Valor law only made it a misdemeanor to impersonate a hero anyway. It's curious why this guy even appealed. I have a hunch it's about the bigger move to undermine our military. But that's a political topic I won't get into here.
So, why am I even bringing it up?
First and foremost, because it matters. Secondly, it's a topic that arises in True Valor, book 1 of the True Heroes series.
I'd love to hear your opinion. Reply on Facebook or Twitter.
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.
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.
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.
The legend goes back to the first PJs – 1971 – the Vietnam war.
A little swagger. A little cockiness. And, well, a lot of alcohol.
At 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.
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.”
“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.”
A recent article from GruntStyle named the Air Force PJ school the hardest of all special forces schools.
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 weeks
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.
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 another 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 years 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.
The 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.
A List from my Facebook Friends
X-Ray Vision smile emoticon
Fearless (runs into the danger)
Willingness to sacrifice all they have for all they believe in
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
I hope you’ll return tomorrow for Countdown day 6. We’ll talk about crashing helicopters.