Honors the Greatest Generation (Which Raised Me)
By Jeff Salter
Topic: If you could be remembered (as an author) for only ONE of your books… which book would you choose?
Though I’d forgotten when I suggested this topic, we’ve already covered some aspects of this… and fairly recently, too. In late June we were asked to select ONE of our own titles to be made into a movie. My final selection for that blog is the same as my pick for today’s topic: Called to Arms Again — my tribute to the Greatest Generation.
Bear with me as I share a little background on how I came to realize the importance of honoring the Greatest Generation. Back about 25 years ago, I guess, I sought to replace a few WW2 military items that were lost (never returned) after I loaned them to a friend. In the course of collecting those items – a helmet liner, a pistol belt, a canteen and its pouch, and a first aid pouch – I realized that there were many related pieces of militaria that “fit” with those items and gave them more complete context. One thing led to another and soon I was often on eBay, finding more and more items that piqued my varied interests in military history.
As my militaria collection grew – eventually including some 100 years of items (from the Spanish-American War all the way through Desert Storm) – I realized I had an obligation to SHARE what I’d learned about the gear and uniform pieces of those who’d served our country.
During that period I was an administrator of a sizeable public library system serving Shreveport and Caddo Parish in Louisiana… and our system had a HQ building, 9 full-time branches, and 9 part-time branches. Many of those facilities had nice, lockable display cases that I was able to schedule for exhibits. By the time I’d retired, I’d mounted several displays in the HQ cases, as well as four or five of the branches. Since I retired and moved to KY, I’ve mounted exhibits in the local library at least three or four times.
In the course of installing and removing those displays, I had many interesting contacts with viewers, young and old. One of the most meaningful was a man named Clifton A. Farrar, a sergeant with a howitzer unit (in the 29th Infantry Division) who landed at Normandy shortly after D-Day and fought at St. Lô, among other battles. Farrar saw my exhibit at one of the branches and contacted me, asking me to visit at his home so he could show me some of his own memorabilia. He still had some of the original battle maps and other significant documents that he tried to give me. I couldn’t accept them because I believed they were worth a lot of money (to the right collector). Then he pulled out his WW2 uniform and said he wanted me to have it for my displays. I said I couldn’t accept it, because it should go to his own family.
This is the part that broke my heart. He replied, “Nobody in my family wants them.”
Right then and there, I realized my mission to acquire and display militaria was definitely the proper way to honor those individuals who served and fought, as well as those on the homefront who sacrificed. I accepted his uniform items and told him I’d alert him whenever they’d appear in new displays. Which I did… as long as I remained in that area.
Somewhere along the line, I got to thinking that I should WRITE something that complemented my collection of military items. But I couldn’t figure what to write. I remember telling this to someone in Shreveport, who asked WHAT I might write. “I don’t know,” I replied, “if nothing else, I could collect oral history from these veterans before they pass away.” [At that point, the widely-quoted figure was that WW2 veterans were dying at a rate of 1000 per day. In the nearly 20 years since then, the number of WW2 vets still living has (obviously) dropped drastically.]
A few years passed: I retired, relocated, and began writing fiction. In the back of my mind, I still wanted to write that SOMETHING which would honor the Greatest Generation, whose military items I’d so carefully collected and lovingly displayed for others to appreciate. Finally in around 2007, as you can see in one of the blogs linked below, I got the idea for a story which could include a number of characters from that generation. And to show the world that they were not all washed up… or ready to be forgotten.
Called to Arms Again – after multiple overhauls and drastic cuts of some 55,000 words – was the product of that effort. My goal with that novel, released in mid 2013, was to get it into the hands of every surviving WW2 veteran who was interested. Sadly, my sales have not reached even a tiny fraction of that number… and those vets are dying faster than my promotional efforts can reach them.
There’s a lot more I could say – especially about the MANY characters in my novel who were inspired by real-life individuals I know – but I’ll close this blog here. The generation raised during the Great Depression, who suffered and sacrificed during the Second World War, deserve our appreciation and reverence. This novel was my way of honoring them. And if only one of my published works stands to represent my writing career, let it be Called to Arms Again.
[An excerpt from my 7-2-2021 blog about the novel I’d like to see as a film]:
My selection for screen treatment is my tribute to the greatest generation, Called To Arms Again. This novel is so special to me in so many ways that it’s nearly impossible to condense them into this limited space. Suffice it to say that my characters honor people like my parents, my uncles and aunts, my teachers at school and church, the leaders of my little town (growing up). And some of these many characters were directly inspired by specific individuals from that group. I think viewers would appreciate the humor, would cheer at the action, and would feel the warmth of the noble patriotism and self-reliance of those senior citizens who were called to arms again, six decades after WW2’s sacrifices.
Called to Arms Again is available in E-formats, in paperback, and as an audio book.
For more information about my tribute to the Greatest Generation, see the following blogs:
[JLS # 557]