Fallen soldier’s eerie final letters paint picture of Memorial Day meaning

 

Leroy

Recently, my mother handed me a scrapbook of letters my great-grandmother had received from her son – my great uncle, Leroy – while he served in the Army during WWII. As a writer, my mom thought they’d be great inspiration for my next novel. The letters were fascinating for many reasons, and I grew to know a relative I never had the privilege of meeting. I had head to toe goose bumps when I read how he had planned to be a writer after the war, wanting to buy a typewriter as soon as he got home. My grandfather (Leroy’s brother) had told me how the two of them had planned to start a band, but it was the first I’d heard about Leroy’s love of writing.

My great uncle was in the Army’s 4th Infantry Division and trained for years for one purpose: to storm the beaches of France, march through Europe and defeat the enemy. He’d told my great-grandmother about learning to use the bayonet, wade through swampy waist-high waters carrying supplies, and even meeting General Eisenhower. After missing Christmases and years with his family, D-Day grew closer but he couldn’t even tell them when he was to depart; it was all top secret.

Some of his letters were redacted, but he did manage to send my great-grandma a scrap of newspaper with the date and hid a message. He had scrawled, “My overseas physical is Friday. This is it, Mom. Don’t worry. Keep quiet.”

There were more letters once he reached England, and the last letter was dated May 30th (today!). He told her not to worry. His final words to her were, “It might be three or four years, but I’ll be home.” Leroy was among the first to hit the beaches of Normandy (code name, Utah Beach) under German fire.

My great-grandmother had a few letters that she wrote to him after D-day, but they are at the end of the scrapbook stamped “Return to Sender.” He was reported missing, and on August 8, 1944, two months after the invasion, he was officially reported as deceased. His final words to her came true when his body was returned to the U.S. “four years” later and laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

We were always told he died during the first day of the invasion, but his tombstone says, June 7th. No one knows exactly what happened, but he never made it home alive. Never made it past his 22nd birthday. Never formed a band and never became a writer. Or did he? Because his letters are richer than any novel I’ve ever read or could ever write.

But one letter in particular hit me directly in the heart and filled me with immense pride and gratitude for a man I never met, but share his DNA.  It was a letter he sent on his final Christmas on this earth. He lists each family member and what he imagined they were doing Christmas day – Grandma in the kitchen, cousins laughing, and then he goes onto say,

“That’s why I joined the Army, to fight, mom, so that those things can go on in the future. So that Americans can speak freely, read a newspaper that isn’t censored, so that a Christian may worship in any way he chooses. These are the things we are fighting for, why I joined to fight, and by God, I am ready to die fighting for them if necessary…I’ll see you after the war. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be back as good as I left. I’ll be a better man.”leroyletter

So, I did find inspiration for another novel in his writings, but really, I found inspiration to live my life to the fullest, to be grateful and proud to be an American, to thank him and all our military every day for the abundance of freedoms we enjoy daily. And to my great-grandmother: the glaringly empty pages at the end of the scrapbook tell the tale of her sacrifice she made for our country, as well.

Leroy Erickson did not die in vain and he achieved a goal bigger than writing a book or starting a band – he helped to protect our American way of life. His division went down as one of the most successful from World War ll. Those who survived stormed through and liberated France, participated in the Battle of the Bulge, leading to the eventual defeat of Hitler.

Thank you, Uncle Leroy, for your service and your sacrifice and to all those who fell with you. To those who did not go on to achieve another personal goal, but achieved the greatest goal of all. Thank you.

leroygraveVisit Lori’s website: http://www.lorimjones.com

 

Advertisements

Behind the “juicy” scenes of LATE FOR FATE!

Every author has a story behind all their published books. While my other books have more deeply personal reasons I brought those stories to life, my newest release, LATE FOR FATE, was born out of pure fun and a past profession.

Many years ago, I moved to Washington, DC to start a new life (you’ll have to read Renaissance of the Heart for juicy clues as to how that turned out) and I began working in downtown DC, one block from the White House as a paralegal. I would travel every morning on the Metro from the suburbs and quickly became captivated with all the hustle, bustle and beauty of our nation’s glorious capital and perpetually entertained – and often frustrated – by their subway system.

I worked for talented well-known defense attorneys and worked for the Employment Law group at Paul Hastings for many years. When some of the attorneys would come across a “juicy” case, they’d say, “Oh, Lori will enjoy this one!” I never knew then, but some of my experiences, and some plaintiffs, would become inspiration for characters in LATE FOR FATE. We even represented Bill Clinton’s attorney (from the Paula Jones case) during his own employment lawsuit, and that was partially inspiring for some of this book’s characters and scenes (fully, completely fictionalized!). We would see lawsuits and situations and often joke, “You just can’t make this stuff up!”

Without fail, the Metro provided me with many tales to report once I arrived in the office. From a man rubbing his leg on me, to another man killing a wasp on my leg, to me once busting a dude pleasing himself in a metro station, I saw it all. Colleagues would joke, “You should write a book.” Well, fifteen years later, I would. And many of those lively colleagues inspired some characters in this book as well. Thank you to all of them for a wonderful career in law!

Fast-forward to 2011. I had finished writing my first novel, Renaissance of the Heart, and thought, “That’s it. I’ll never be able to write another book. All my creativity went into that book. I’m done. I’m finished.” Then I saw an ad for a new Mindful Writers’ group that was starting to meet ten minutes from my home. Writers would learn how to meditate to focus their creativity and then write side by side for four hours in a back room of an Eat n Park family restaurant. Well, it worked! I tapped into my DC days and began to write. I also took a flash fiction piece I had written the previous summer, called Too Late For Fate and expanded it. (I’ve written two additional novels in that group as well!)

I’ve always been fascinated by twists of fate, those seemingly innocuous decisions that can change the course of our lives. How we then often blame God and others for things that go awry, when we should ask, who is really responsible?

On a side note, this story was written during the Fifty Shades of Grey phenom and may have influenced some “spicy” scenes! But, hopefully, you will see that it was all done artfully and purposefully and necessary for the plot (or for entertainment, you decide!).

Thank you to everyone who made this possible: my Northern Pittsburgh Writers Critique Group, My Mindful Writers Group (Madhu!), and my other writing group (CGGs) who helped inspire some key scenes! And of course, to my husband (See acknowledgement section of Renaissance!) and my kids for tolerating all my artist moodiness. Enjoy this DC journey! You can order LATE FOR FATE HERE:

Order Kindle ebook here!

Order paperback here!

Visit Lori’s website! COVER LateforFate_w9871_750