Joe Cooper is a hero and active duty Marine sent to Mike’s Place to complete his recovery from injuries sustained during a firefight. His one-in-a-million injury includes a bullet to the back that cracked a bone in his spine, but left the nerves intact. His right leg was shattered in two places. Extensive reconstructive surgery and weeks trapped in a wheelchair haven’t dampened this wounded warrior’s pride or his devotion to duty—but they have left him needing to be needed because he is not an idle man. His waiting is very soon rewarded when recently widowed mom Melody Carter moves in next door.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is different from my other Always a Marine books as it is releasing in Decadent’s new Challenge series and addresses a silent tragedy within the military, one of domestic abuse. Most military families live on one income and, like all domestic abuse victims, the battered spouse faces a stigma if they admit they are being emotionally, verbally, and/or physically abused. Too often this silence is due to shame and a commitment to the marriage. For veterans returning from conflict zones, spousal abuse may be a symptom of other problems or merely just a part of the abuser’s psychological make-up.
Sadly the battered spouse is loathe to report what is happening for fear it will damage their spouse’s career. Constant moves can also leave the spouse isolated and alone with few to confide in. With the rise in reported cases, the military seeks to support these spouses and help through two different tracks: the Military Justice System and the Family Advocacy system. Family advocacy involves identification, intervention and treatment, not punishment. However, the right to privacy does not extend here and evidence gathered during an intervention can be admissible under the UCMJ if the abuser is military. If the abuse is from a civilian, they can be banned from the base and information may be turned over to civilian authorities.
While I have no right answers for this, battered spouses need to find help and support whether by reporting to their spouse’s commanding officer or unit members or through a hotline. Melody Carter’s story is sadly not unique, but writing about her gave me hope for those who find themselves in this situation.
At the end of the day, Marines and other military members are human. They have flaws. My admiration for those who serve as a whole is not diminished by the reality that spousal abuse happens—but the urge to reach out, to give those who are battered and those who batter help to make their lives better and improve their situations.
In Whiskey Tango Foxtrot we meet Captain Joe Anderson, a man who put himself in harm’s way and is working on his recovery. His need to help the widow of an abusive Marine becomes more than a mission—and this was a painful story for me to write, one that made me deeply sad and yet gave me such hope as they two souls struggle to overcome, connect, and find love in the process. Joe reaches out to Melody and understands that he can’t defeat her demons, he can only stand firm in the face of her fear and show her that not all men abuse. Thankfully, I believe he is definitely the right man for the job.
If you are being abused, you are not alone. Call for help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Military OneSource – 1-800-342-9647 (To locate a victim advocate in your area).
Defense Centers of Excellence Outreach Center – 1-866-966-1020 (Helps you find resources in your area)
Department of Defense (D.O.D) Child Abuse Safety and Abuse Hotline – 1-800-336-4592
Or visit Real Warriors “Domestic Resources for Military Families”
Have you ever woken up every day afraid of everything?
For single mom and widow Melody Carter, six months passed since an IED ripped her life apart. Everyone is sympathetic and offers platitudes of comfort and support. Everyone thinks they know why she's grieving but Melody isn't mourning her broken heart. She's ashamed to be grateful her abusive husband won't hurt her anymore and scared for her child. Born with a mild heart defect, her daughter needs lifesaving surgery and with her funds tight and her emotional scars tighter, she’s running out of options. When she receives an offer for assistance from Mike's Place, can Melody put her faith in the men her husband called friend?
Have you ever woken up, day after day, to discover your body's betrayal?
Marine Captain, Joe Anderson Cooper, received the Silver Star for Valor when he led his unit through heavy fire to rescue fellow Marines. Despite numerous injuries, the Captain refused medical aid, insisting that the medics attend others. A broken back and shattered bones put Captain Cooper in a wheelchair and every day is a battle to keep his recovery on track and his sanity intact. When a single mom moves in to the apartment next door to his and he recognizes a kindred—damaged—soul, can he overcome her fear and be the man she's always needed?
Can these two lonely souls rise to the challenge or will their scars trap them forever?
Letting herself out of the apartment, she locked up and turned to find her neighbor locking his door. He caught sight of her and smiled. “Good morning.” His deep baritone hummed over her senses. She appreciated the low voiced greeting.
“Good morning.” She wanted to say something more, but her brain locked up around the words. He eased his wheelchair back until nearly off the sidewalk and motioned for her to precede him. Biting her lip, she found another smile for him. “Thank you.” Her heartbeat accelerated and sweat cooled her spine. She didn't hug the wall, but she couldn't help widening the distance between them.
The wheels made the faintest squeaking noise after she passed, and she glanced back to see him following her down the path toward the parking lot. Maybe she should have offered to push. He wore an olive green t-shirt and a matching pair of slacks, though they were cut up the side of the large cast encasing his right leg from mid-thigh to his toes.
He—Joe, he said his name was Joe—met her gaze and gave her another easy smile. His eyes crinkled at the corners and the dimple in his cheek deepened. The sidewalk widened and she slowed to let him catch up.
“I'm sorry. I'm not the best company this morning.”
“No worries, ma'am. Little ones take a lot out of a body.” The buttery softness of his voice washed over her like a soothing balm—like the night before when he knocked on her door and introduced himself. He scared the hell out of her, but not in the same breath.
I must be tired. I have no idea what I'm feeling from one moment to the next. As if summoned by her thought, fatigue wavered through her and she stumbled. The diaper bag swung down her arm. She couldn't catch it and hold the baby at the same time. Joe stopped the bag's arc, and gave her a chance to catch her balance.
“May I?” He offered, still holding the bag.
May he what…? He wanted to carry the bag for her and she winced. It was heavy and he…
“I have plenty of room and then you don't have to worry about it taking you off balance again.” The sound logic quashed her natural objections. She shifted Libby carefully and let the strap fall off her arm. Her internal alarms sounded. Giving him the bag didn't give him some kind of power over her, but her gut tightened at the surrender of her possession.
He settled the bag against his lap and nodded encouragingly. “Just point me to your car…”
“Oh, I don't drive. Well, I do but I'm not driving here. I'm actually just staying here for a few weeks and I'm waiting for the shuttle.” She tacked the last on with a grimace. “And apparently I'm as muddleheaded for real as I feel. Sorry. Thank you. The shuttle is scheduled to pick us up here in about…” She couldn't look at her watch.
“Two minutes.” The captain supplied. “I'm waiting for the same shuttle.” His warm brown gaze turned studious. “Are you okay?”
Don’t miss these upcoming titles in the Always a Marine series: