Oct 1 2012 3:30pm

Author Julie Ann Walker on a Soldier Hero

Rev It Up by Julie Ann WalkerToday we're excited to have a very special post from author Julie Ann Walker, whose next Black Knights, Inc. release, Rev It Up, will be out tomorrow. At the end of the post, leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win a copy of the book!* Thanks for joining us, Julie Ann!

Let me tell you a little story about a mother, a daughter, and a father who also happens to be a soldier...

Picture this, if you will.  Me, sitting at my volunteer desk at the USO on Navy Pier in Chicago, doing my thing, answering the phone and the questions of the service men and women who've stopped by with their families for a day of sun and fun, when a harried-looking mother and a sullen, texting, belly-button-pierced teen come through the door.

“Go stand next to your father so I can take a picture,” the mother says, digging in her purse for a digital camera, sunglasses sliding off the top of her head and clattering to the ground. 

I look around the buzzing facility, wondering which of these handsome, uniformed men has the unenviable duty of dealing with a hormonal, pretty, and obviously bad-tempered teenage girl.

”Mom,” the teen complains.  “You know I hate having my picture taken.”

“It'll only take a second,” the mother replies, finally locating her camera and bending to retrieve her sunglasses.  Straightening, “And you're going to be happy to have these pictures one day.”

”No, I won't,” I hear the girl mutter as she shuffles past my desk. 

At this point, color me intrigued.  Because I've been volunteering at the USO for a few years now, and I've seen every kind of soldier you can imagine.  There's the puffed-up Marine, the shy, retiring Army lieutenant, the big-bellied Coast Guard captain with the infectious grin, and the joke-cracking Navy pilot... And I can't help but speculate which one of these soldiers is her father, and how exactly he's going to handle her attitude.  Will he indulge her because she's his little princess?  Will he call her on the carpet like so many military dads are known to do?    

Curiously, I watch the girl and her mother wind their way through the crowd.  But, strangely, they don't stop until they get to the back wall.  The Memorial Wall.  The one covered with white, ceramic stars carved with the names and ranks of fallen soldiers...

The girl turns.  She doesn't smile, but neither does she frown.  Now, she just looks sad.

The mother snaps the photo, deposits the camera in her purse, walks to the wall, raises a shaky hand and touches a star.  Just for a brief moment.  Then she turns to make her way back through the crowd.  But, instead of the buzz and chatter of three-dozen voices, the USO is now silent.  Hats are doffed in respect as the mother and daughter pass by, handshakes of gratitude are offered.  By the time they reach my desk, I'm standing, tears burning the back of my throat.

“Here,” the mother says, handing me a ten dollar bill.  “Put this in the donation box, will you?  You guys always take such good care of my Charlie.  His body was never found, and even though we have a marker at the cemetery, this place always feels more like his true memorial.”

”Thank you for your sacrifice,” I say, my voice hoarse.  Then, “If you don't mind me asking, how long has he been gone?”

In answer, the woman digs in her purse, pulling at a photo, handing it to me.  In it is a little girl, no more than four or five, her hair in pigtails, what appears to be a chocolate ice-cream stain on her shirt.  And she's standing in front of that back wall. In front of all of those white stars.

"She barely remembers him,” the mother says as I delicately pass the photo back to her.  “But someday she'd going to want to.  She's going to want to know who her father was.”

I nod.  That's all I can manage.

The mother turns toward the door where the daughter is waiting, and before they leave, I hear the girl ask hesitantly, “Mom?  How did you and dad meet?”

It seems someday really does come more quickly than we ever expect.  And right before my eyes, I saw that sullen teenager take her first step into womanhood...

For those of you who don't know, the USO is a nonprofit organization run by donations and staffed by volunteers.  It is dedicated to providing a home-away-from home for soldiers and their families, whether it be here in the States or overseas.  They provide way-station facilities, care packages, and entertainment... “until they all come home.”  To learn more, please visit

*To enter for a chance to win 1 of 2 copies of Julie Ann Walker's Rev It Up, make sure you’re a registered member of the site, and then simply leave a comment about the post below.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, fill out entry at beginning at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) October 1, 2012. Sweepstakes ends at 2:29 p.m. ET on October 8, 2012 (the “Promotion Period”). Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules at Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Black Knights Inc. Romantic Suspense Series. Visit her online at

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. wsl0612
Dangit! Don't make me cry at work, that was a great story and it sounds like you have good material for a book.
Elizabeth E.
2. Elizabeth E.
I too started to bawl at work. Thank you for your service to the USO. We forget how we touch people's lives in so many small ways and how often we are touched by others.
Elizabeth E.
3. Tracy S
Wow, that brought tears to my eyes! Thank you for sharing that story. The sacrifices the military families make are amazing and so very much appreciated by my family.
Cris Diez
5. etherealfury
Wow, what an incredibly moving story! Incredibly uplifting after a far-from-excellent day.
mandy troxel
thank you so much for sharing. my heart goes out to al of the fallen soldiers and thier families who sacrifice so much so we can have our freedom.
Rotten Banana
9. rottenbanana76
Oh my. Thank you for your volunteer work helping those that sacrifice for our country.
Elizabeth E.
10. terrymike
Wow! What a story----and tears are just a flowing. I hope the young lady appreciates what her mother is doing for her.
Jessie Llewellyn
11. jessiel62
Loved the excerpt! Thank you & I cannot wait to read this story. I'm sure this happens to alot more people than we even realize. I volunteer in my daughter's school & community, not for any recognition, but because I get so much from doing whatever I can.
12. sarahsreviews
That is a beautiful but heartbreaking story - you made me cry my eyes out! Huge thanks to all of our soldiers out there for everything they do for us and to their familes and the volunteers at the USO for everything you do to support them.

I'm not in the US so don't enter me in the giveaway but I want to add that I'm very excited about Rev It Up & looking forward to reading it.
Elizabeth E.
13. Cai
I hate having to explain to my coworkers why I'm sitting at my desk with tears in my eyes!! Lovely story and I hope that young lady does someday display those pictures with pride! The photos I have of my dad & grandfather in uniform are priceless to me.
Elizabeth E.
14. Nicole A.
That just broke my heart. Thank you for sharing such a touching story. And a BIG thanks to all of Our Country's service members and their families. Your service does NOT go unnoticed and is most appreciated.
Elizabeth E.
15. Staci S.
Thank you for an emotional and touching story. I had tears in my eyes while I was reading it and the mother was right. She will want to know... Thank you for volunteering at the USO. A huge thank you to all service members and their immediate and extended families. We appreicate their time, commitment and sacrifice.
Elizabeth E.
18. goddessani
My dad, who we lost last year, was career Navy. I grew up during the turbulant 60s and I marched against the war and put down the military.

As I got older, I became more and more interested in what my dad had done. Not to castigate him but to learn.

Sadly, my dad's memories were not good ones and it hurt him to talk about what he did. He shared stories of the guys he served with but would never, could never, really tell us what it was like for him.

I know that girl will come around because I did, too.

Thank you for sharing with us.
Kathy Kamrath
21. applik
Wow. Brought tears to my eyes. God bless our soldiers and their families
Brenda Southard
22. WooWoo58
You were right. It did bring tears to my eyes. I find myself much more concerned with our soldiers and there families as I get older. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. May God bless and keep safe our military.I know there is a special place in heaven for the dedicated men and women who give so much and get so little in return.
sandy haber
23. bookmom22
wow. things like this probably happen all too often. unfortunately. would love to know more.
Shana Bashaw
24. SBashaw
Thanks. I didn't know what the USO did. Thank God for them.
Lenna Hendershott
26. Glittergirl
Thank you for the memory and the reminder. I appreciate the information about the USO. I didn't know. I'd adore wining your new book. I have the other two I've managed to collect. Military romance is great with the alpha guys.
Mary Lynne Nielsen
27. emmel
what I found most touching was seeing the teenager's steps to maturity. In many ways, that's as rewarding as the other aspects of this story.
Elizabeth E.
28. Daddy's Girl
Wow! As a Coast Guard brat, I could totally see the men you described as the mother and child first made their way to the back wall. I'm sitting here in tears remembering all the pictures Mom took of me with my Dad - on a new buoy tender, the morning he left for a year of isolated duty on Iwo Jima and at his retirement ceremony with all his men saluting. Thank you for a wonderful reminder of my own youth.
Jolene Allcock
29. Jolene
Beautiful and touching! Thank you for sharing, brought a tear to my eye
Elizabeth E.
30. Angel M
Thanks for sharing that story. Had to explain to my 10 year old why I was crying.
Denise Carlson
33. nqdenise
Yes, you've just proven you're an excellent writer!
Elizabeth E.
36. lknott
Loved the story! Sounds like the start of a series!!
38. tadyena
that was hear warming. I served in the Army for 3 years. The USO always made you feel welcomed and helped you keep in touch.
Elizabeth E.
40. Veronica Garrett
It sounds great. I would love to read it. Thanks.
Heather Cowley
42. choochoo
Ugh! Thanks for making me cry! Wife of a former soldier here. Can't imagine having to go through that...
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