By Sherri Coner
The sound of silence
During Linda Minton’s 29-year teaching career, she often requested that her elementary school age chatterboxes stop talking.
After retiring in 2009, Minton broke her nearly three-decade-long request for silence when she started asking veterans to talk, especially those who served in World War II.
Some veterans had never talked about their experiences and weren’t sure they wanted that to change.
Others were open to sharing their memories. Some still had a few photographs and newspaper clippings.
Of course, participation in Minton’s new project was voluntary.
Her intention was clear.
Minton wanted to provide veterans with a safe place to say whatever was on their hearts about their military service.
Once Minton and her husband, Ray, also an educator, settled into retirement, she finally had time to document her family’s military history by sifting through newspaper clippings and photographs.
Soon after taking on that long-awaited goal, Minton found herself staring happily at binders filled with family stories about her four maternal uncles who were all veterans.
From buried secrets to eager memories
Somewhere along the way, she not only fell in love with her family’s military stories; she realized that other veterans surely had beloved stories, some shared and some buried.
“I decided everybody should have a chance to share their story,” Minton said.
When a book title came to mind, “WWII Heroes,” Minton accidentally found her “do this next” mission in retirement.
She got busy, writing a questionnaire and thinking about how to find beloved WWII veterans.
Through the grapevine, several Hoosier veterans and their families reached Minton.
Others, she shamelessly approached if she saw them wearing military hats.
It wasn’t long before veterans from other states found her contact information.
Published in 2016, “65 stories from all branches of service” were on the pages, Minton said proudly.
But she was just getting started.
Recognizing women veterans
When her daughter suggested the same opportunity to the often-unsung female heroes of those years, Minton again stepped into the role of book author.
Between 1939 and 1945, taking aim from fox holes or piloting helicopters were not female-friendly jobs. More often than not, most military women served as cooks or nurses.
Women on the homefront were also serving their country.
Most women simply said, “We were just doing our jobs.”
Countless women went to work in factories, performing the jobs of male counterparts who were serving overseas in the war. Without their husbands, they worked alone on family farms, planting and harvesting while also raising their children.
Minton also spoke with a woman who “took in orphaned children and took care of different families as well as her own. She also rolled bandages.”
Those women’s voices resulted in yet another book, “Remembering WWII Women.”
Minton then found she needed a break from working on the often deeply emotional military stories.
During that break, she wrote 11 books for children.
As if she completely forgot that she should make some time to retire, Minton found herself yet again feeling driven to help soldiers tell their stories.
An unwelcomed homecoming
She started looking for veterans of Vietnam.
“Several of those guys said things like, ‘We didn’t get a parade when we came home. We were spit on,” Minton said.
The bitterness for some was still heavy on their hearts.
Some veterans initially refused to participate but then contacted Minton later, to say they changed their minds.
“It’s time – past time – that these guys got some recognition,” she said.
In this latest book, 55 Vietnam veterans from all military branches share their stories.
They speak of suffering for years with horrendous nightmares or struggling with health issues brought on by exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical herbicide used by the U.S. military as another form of warfare.
“I heard from veterans with Purple Hearts and so many who showed so much patriotism,” Minton said. “Regardless of what they thought about the war, they loved their country and they were going to do what they were called to do.”
One of the first stories for Vietnam was from one of Minton’s former high school classmates.
“He said, ‘I’m mad at God and I hope God can forgive me because I can’t forgive myself,’” she said.
Suffering in silence
His words were a heartbreaking reminder that many veterans suffer in silence after they return from war. Many of them never fully recover from war and never truly get their lives back.
After “Remembering Vietnam Vets” was published, more veterans contacted Minton to say they heard too late about the project, or they initially didn’t want to speak but changed their minds.
It is no surprise at all that Minton is now working on a second book for Vietnam veterans.
After all, every soldier should be able to share his or her story.
To participate in the next book, contact Minton at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To purchase Minton’s books, visit Amazon.com