Published in Military Voice & Community News March/April edition 2010 and the Town Crier
After three years of dating, as a brand new military spouse at age 26, with jobs at Eglin and Hurlburt, I thought I was prepared for my husband’s first deployment. Boy, was I wrong! Seven months, no big deal…until the loneliness set in. When you aren’t used to it and are forced into it, silence is not golden, it’s deafening.
A friend introduced me to the Emerald Coast Writers group, a non-profit consortium of writers of all skill levels, abilities, and genres in this area. Members are retired, young moms, middle-aged dads, homemakers, snowbirds, and military, both active duty and retired. Some are high school grads, others have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s, and at least one has a PhD yet they are all equal in their common interest: writing.
Through ECW I was put in touch with author Vicki Hinze, spouse to a former Special Ops officer. I was so excited to contact someone who knew what I was going through and survived it! I had seen her books in the library but never knew she shopped at the same stores that I do. We chatted on the phone and through email; she was so welcoming.
I learned that her successful writing career, over 20 novels published with a contract for three more, started when her husband PCSed to follow AFSOC from Scott AFB to Hurlburt. Like many spouses, she stayed behind to sell the house, let the kids finish the school year, and she continued working her full-time job (a blessing many of us struggle towards). With the stress of juggling kids’ activities, work demands, and preparing the house for open-house showings all by herself, writing became her me-time outlet. By working late nights and getting up in the wee hours before dawn, Hinze finished her first book in four months–one month shy of the family moving to the new base.
Although seemingly “unqualified” to be an author, she was undeterred. Writing helped her through the loneliness and anxiety of another military PCS and move. These military life trials had colored her experience and allowed her to reach out to other spouses and service members through her books. I still was not convinced she was the woman next door who would say hello while watering her plants. That is, until I heard the following story.
Hinze’s military-themed writing began in 1994 during a trip to the commissary. While grabbing items off the shelf to fill her cabinets she overheard a young couple debating between buying a jar of peanut butter and a can of tuna; purchasing both was not an option for their budget. Stunned, disgusted at the forced choice on food, and outraged that the heroes both active and on the homefront would need to go without basic necessities let alone the comforts many take for granted, Hinze called her editor and scrapped her current contract for a novel with a military-theme revolving around women. Her publisher agreed and fully supported the change. Her successive books dealt with active-duty service members, custody battles and divorce, romance, biological warfare, TDYs, alcoholism, deployments, risks, and the varied dangers inherent in service. Hinze’s single point in all of this was not to sell books, although that was a plus. It was to help the general public see that these hardships exist and understand that military families face specific stresses and dangers every day. This is what made Vicki Hinze a real person, a neighbor, a mom, a spouse, in my eyes.
She used her strength to bring awareness to a much ignored aspect of life, of my new life. She has used a number of pen names for different book series, but when it came to her twelve (so far) military books, no other name but her own felt acceptable. Hinze was on a personal mission and she wanted to stand behind the things expressed and to be an active advocate in the struggle to raise awareness on the concerns and welfare of military families. My new family.
Since I was very young, I’ve moved around quite a bit. A job search brought me to this area, thanks to the bases’ missions. Hinze’s family moved from Mississippi to California to Illinois and finally to Florida. She hailed from New Orleans, Louisiana while her husband was and is a Texan at heart. She confided to me that the varied cultures and lifestyles both of her own family and that of the wider military family helped to broaden her perspective. All of this helped expand her insight and creativity and aided in building relatable, empathetic characters.
After learning all this in bits and pieces, I couldn’t wait to meet the person. I wanted to pick her brain for every joy and heartbreak she sustained as a military wife with a full family. I am glad she will be attending the ECW Conference in April so I will have three days to chat with and learn from her. My husband and I would like to have a family some day, but he was deployed to Afghanistan one month after we wed. I have so much to learn, but now I know as a military spouse I am never alone. In the wee hours of the morning, I can pick up one of Vicki’s books and know someone is with me in this.
Emerald Coast Writers Inc. http://www.emeraldcoastwriters.org/
Vicki Hinze http://www.vickihinze.com/