This story is dedicated to all those who were left behind, to wait, to worry, to experience the fear. Only you truly know.
And special thanks from the deepest recesses of the heart to all of you who served. It is your pain, your suffering that we acknowledge. Please believe that we hurt along with you.
You'll never be forgotten.
Barnes & Noble.com
Destiny brought Susan Brittany and Steven Grant together during the summer of 1966. Their life started out with all the love and passion most people only dream about. But a mere seven months after their marriage, the Navy issued him a new set of orders. Those orders transferred him from his San Diego-based destroyer to a Seabee battalion in Port Hueneme, California, where he would serve as security officer. This particular Mobile Construction Battalion had already made one trip to Vietnam. Their next scheduled departure date was March, 1968. But this time, Lieutenant Grant would be going with them.
The conflict taking place in Southeast Asia would disrupt the Grants' lives beyond what they could have imagined as individuals, and as husband and wife. Every day for nine months, Steven would experience all the chaos and savageness of war. There were times he would question his own beliefs and values. And suddenly, he was brought face-face with his own mortality.
Although the horror taking place was thousands of miles away, it still managed to reach back to Susan, striking at heart and mind. Would Steven survive? Would their lives change? Would they be able to survive those changes?
All hope disintegrated as her prayers went unanswered, the final night arriving with little compassion. Relentlessly forcing themselves upon her, the evening hours ignored her feelings as they invaded the room, uncaring, unconcerned. Just as a pool of hot, melted wax inevitably suffocates a candle's flame, the night attempted to suffocate the life within her. Her emotions became irrepressible. A combination of fear and helplessness overwhelmed her.
The remaining night hours were not to be restful. She would resist sleep, believing that by staying awake the time she had left with him would pass more slowly. Every moment transformed itself into a precious gem, meant to be cherished, guarded.
The white sheet lay crumpled at the foot of the bed, no longer covering the two exhausted, naked bodies. But their serene appearance belied the turbulence stirring within them.
Even after falling into a light sleep, he still held her close. She rested her head on his shoulder, unable to do anything else but stare at him, straining her eyes in the darkness, trying to absorb each minute detail. She needed to touch him, to feel the body of the man who would be with her only a short while longer.
Carefully, so as not to awaken him, she laid a trembling hand gently on his chest, feeling it rise and fall with his breathing. She tried to move even closer to him, wishing she had the power to be absorbed into him so she could be with him at all times, there to protect him. If anything happened to him, she wanted the same to happen to her, as foolish as it sounded. Without this incredible man to share her life, her love, there would be no reason to go on.
Somehow he sensed she was watching him; he always knew. He turned over and put his arm around her, feeling the softness and warmth of her body as it pressed against him. Still somewhat drowsy, his voice sounded husky. "I love you so much, sweetheart."
"I love you, too, Steven, with all my heart."
The scent of her hair was like sweet, fresh roses, and he breathed in its fragrance. "I can't begin to imagine what it's going to be like not having you near me, not seeing you, or touching you." He lovingly caressed her back. "Saying that I'm going to miss you means absolutely nothing compared to how much I really will."
Burying her head in his chest, she fought to hold back her tears. Her happiness would leave with him in the morning, but the perpetual fear would remain for months to come. She could only pray that her husband would return, this man whom she loved so passionately. "Please come home. Please come back to me, Steven. I won't be able to live without you."
Her words caught him by surprise, but sadly, he believed her because he felt the same. He couldn't exist without her in his life. "I promise you, I will," he murmured quietly before kissing her.
They both had to believe in that promise, while realistically knowing promises could be broken--if fate decided it wasn't meant to be.
Through the tears, the heartache, they felt their passions rise, and once again, surrendered to each other, trying to savor every touch, every kiss, every feeling. Unable to control her tears any longer, they spilled over onto her cheeks. He felt them against his skin, tasted them on his lips.
They would be saying good-bye once again, as they had so many times in the past, but now the circumstances paralleled no other. Her husband was leaving in the morning, this time his journey taking him into unfamiliar territory. Nearly every day he would struggle to exist in a ruthless, chaotic environment, confronting adversaries, both human and emotional, and above all else, struggling for his own survival.
A small country in Southeast Asia was at war. That's where he was going...to a place called Vietnam.