During my writing of Beneath the Wall, I had the privilege of meeting many Vietnam veterans. Some talked, some didn’t and that was completely fine with me. But no matter what, if I passed a vet on the street, in a store or in a restaurant, I always thanked them for their service, because without them our world would not be free. (By the way, I always stop and thank veterans, interview for a book or not.)
Sel Louis in Vietnam
Now, I can extend my meeting grounds to the internet. As many of you know through my blog and in the acknowledgement of my book, I thank Sel Louis, the Asian-American Marine who fought in Vietnam, much like my character Mack did. Sel is a wonderful, gracious man and even today he sends me little notes via email about passing Beneath the Wall onto yet another friend or family member. To him Beneath the Wall, was a way to read the story of what he went through at a distance – protected and unharmed in comfort of his home. Here’s what he wrote about my story once he was through:
Just finished “Beneath the Wall” and all I can say is WOW. For a first novel Ms. LaPlant has a wonderful talent for story telling that puts the reader on an emotional rollercoaster. This is a romantic novel that spans the present time to a period in the 1960’s using the Vietnam War as a backdrop. Though she is probably too young to remember that time in history, her research is excellent which places realism into the story. We all love a good love story and this one has well developed lead characters that transcend time with a long forgotten period in American History. I am a Vietnam veteran serving with the United States
Marine Corp and can honestly say that I was emotionally drained when I turned the last page. BRAVO Ms. LaPlant, I believe you knocked this one out of the park for a first novel.
When I read his review, I was humbled because I did nothing but write a story. He fought in a war and endured the hardships that no man should go through. I know I’ve said it a million times, Sel, but I will say it again: Thank you.
My newest friend was also a Vietnam veteran, but he did not serve with the United States, he served with Australia. Graeme Sewell served with the Australian Army as a National-Serviceman to be exact. From 1967 to 1969 he saw service in Vietnam with the 4th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment.
I met Graeme on Facebook a few months ago while commenting on another’s girl’s post. We had gotten into a bit of an argument and immediately I felt bad because I didn’t know a thing about this person who I just verbally tussled with. So I visited his page and read his history about who he was. There I found he was a Vietnam veteran and I really felt bad. I wrote him an apology letter and segued into how much I respect those who gave their service to the war in Vietnam.
The first thing Graeme wrote back to me was: I’m very touched by your words, but I was only one of several thousand Aus & U.S. servicemen saw service in Vietnam. I must admit to, that the time I was there, in 68-69 were one of the quietest times. My unit, 4th battallion RAR was rotated out in March 69. We were mostly involved in patrol work and village security. We did have a few contacts with the Viet-Cong, but it was nothing that couldn’t be solved by calling in fire-support. Eryn, you are the first person on f/b that has asked me about Vietnam & my service with the Australian Force and all I can say is thank you.
It’s people like you, both here and in the U.S., that make us feel that we did the job we were called upon to do. We’re not hero’s, just ordinary men and women, Thank You.
To me, no matter what the work they did, those men and women were and are heroes. They didn’t have to go, (sure some may have been drafted, I’ve heard the stories about those draft-dodgers), but they did go. They gave up time with their family and lived in a foreign country that was being torn apart by war.
Graeme Sewell on Veteran’s Day 2012
And though Graeme joked that he didn’t see much action, what he did see probably did still affect him. He finished Beneath the Wall this weekend and Sunday night sent me a note, that I asked if I could share with my readers. He said yes and this is what he wrote:
I wanted to give you this personal message first before I post a comment on my time line.
I have just finished “Beneath the Wall”. THANK YOU for a wonderful book. I’m not normally emotional but I found myself reaching for a hankie at times while reading it and it certainly brought back a few memories for me.The tenderness,love and respect you put into your writing really stands out for me that you care.
The way that two outsiders, Julianne & Mack were drawn together, and the way their relationship blossomed was beautiful to read. This may sound corny, but there are certain things during your life that stand out and that I will remember “Beneath the Wall” as one of those moments for me.
Thank you again Eryn for a truly beautiful and wonderful book.
To say I was speechless was an understatement. He didn’t have to say any of that and yet he spoke from his heart. I don’t feel worthy, but I accept his compliment knowing I wrote every word of Beneath the Wall for readers like Graeme and Sel.
The fact that both of these veterans “felt” my book much more than reading it meant so much to me. That was my whole point. Some reviewers have read it and just took it at face value – a nice love story, which is fine. It is a nice love story. But there are a few out there who absorb it to it’s fullest and those are the ones who will not just read the story but live it as well.