How about some drama under the Christmas tree? If that’s not for you, how about adventure, fun, inspiration or healing? All of these can be wrapped up inside the simplest of gifts: books. Here are my suggestions for books to give – at Christmas or all year long – for those who live the military life and those who love someone who does.
Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength and Spirit, is the inspirationally written autobiography of Army veteran J.R. Martinez. In spite of disfiguring injuries he suffered in Iraq, Martinez became a cast member on a daytime drama and a winning contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.” His story is upbeat and forthright about his difficult childhood, his family, romantic relationships and the price he paid for his military service.
In His Stead by Judith Sanders is a fictional story of the consequences of war. Retired Army Ranger Thomas Lane and wife Christina lost their oldest son, a soldier, to an IED in Afghanistan. When their youngest son, a National guardsman, is tagged for deployment as well, Thomas is determined to serve in his place rather than sacrifice another child to war. To return to active duty, he has to do battle with the Army and his family, including the son he hopes to save.
Taming the Fire Within by Anne Freund is a guide to the real life consequences of war. The author is a clinical psychologist who works with the VA, but her language is not clinical. In layman’s terms, she addresses the wide range of post-combat reactions most warriors experience after returning home. This book is not just for those diagnosed with PTSD, but can help any military family to navigate post-deployment life.
War Stories, is a collection of creative works by veterans and military family members. Available only as an e-book, this anthology by MilSpeak Books features short stories and artwork that reflect the influences of military life and military experiences from past and current wars. Sales of this book benefit the MilSpeak Foundation, which exists to increase the awareness about and influence of creative work in the military community. All MilSpeak books are available to deploying units at no cost. More information at milspeak.org.
Standing By by Navy wife Alison Buckholtz is an inspirational but not sugarcoated account of military family life. The author tells her family’s true stories in a way that will encourage and inspire.
For military kids, I’ve recommended Kimberly Willis Holt’s “Piper Reed: Navy Brat” series before and happily do so again. The newest book about the irrepressible pre-teen is Piper Reed, Forever Friends. The author, also a Navy brat, puts her memories to good use, portraying military family life authentically and positively from a grade-schooler’s perspective. The newest Piper book is about making new friends and staying in touch with old ones.
For younger readers, Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You, a picture book by Nancy Tillman, is a sweet reminder that geography can’t stop love. Though not specifically about military life, this book is a good fit for our kids who are often separated from a parent, grandparents, other relatives or close friends.
Lily Hates Goodbyes by Jerilyn Marler, was inspired by the experiences of the author’s 4-year-old granddaughter during her father’s deployment. Young military children will relate to Lily’s various emotions, sad, mad, even stubborn. Readers may also want to try the activities Lily’s mother uses to help her cope with the time and distance that separate Lily from her father.
Many military brats know that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking the Christmas Eve travels of Santa Claus since the 1950s. The story of one eventful trip is told by Michael Keane in The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas. One Christmas Eve when the weather is particularly treacherous, St. Nick disappears from NORAD’s radar screens. The U.S. military steps in to find the jolly old elf and help him deliver presents around the world. Readers can follow Santa’s travels via NORAD throughout December, especially his journey on Christmas Eve.
More books for for anyone on your Christmas list who is connected to the military:
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
The War that Came Home by Andrea Carlile
1001 Things to Love About Military Life by Kathie Hightower, Tara Crooks, Star Henderson and Holly Scherer
While They're at War by Kristin Henderson
The Homefront Club by Jacey Eckhart
The Military Spouse's Employment Guide by Janet Farley