As you read this, I will be enroute to Guam. Or perhaps I’ll be there already; this time zone thing is completely confusing.
I keep telling (promising!) my husband that I will cut back on travel. But when the IRA representative from Guam approached me about a year ago, extending an invitation to visit, I couldn’t say no. The reason?
My latest book, Duke,is about a boy, Hobie, who lends his dog to Uncle Sam during WWII. Hobie thinks Duke will stay stateside, possibly helping to guard the Boeing airplane factory. But Hobie has done such a great job training Duke that he’s a perfect candidate for the Marine’s War Dog unit. So Duke is sent off to Camp Lejeune for training and Hobie is left home to worry, and cook up a scheme to get him back.
At Camp Lejeune, Duke – like the other loaned dogs – is paired with a trainer. I borrowed the name of one of the real War Dog trainers, Pfc. Marvin Corff, and gave it to Duke’s handler. (I’ve actually had a note from Pfc. Corff’s family since the book came out!)
How did I learn about Marvin Corff and the War Dogs? From this wonderful and heart-wrenching book:
Capt. William Putney, a veterinarian, did everything he could to keep the War Dogs safe and sound. But when the unit is shipped to Guam, nothing he can do keeps dogs like Skipper and Bunkie and Missy and their 22 four-legged comrades safe from harm. These brave dogs sacrificed their lives to save many, many soldiers.
Capt. Putney could never forget those dogs, nor how much they meant to the men they partnered with. He made sure they were given appropriate burials on Guam, in their own dog cemetery. But when he visited the site in the 1980s, he found the cemetery overgrown and unkempt. Capt. Putney was not about to let his “Marines” down and began to fundraise to create a real memorial, complete with statue and plaque.
The memorial is on a military base and requires special permission for a visit. But my hosts have graciously made arrangements and tomorrow (or at least, my tomorrow!) I will get to see the place that inspired me to write Duke.
I am grateful that my books not only challenge and surprise me in the writing (sitting in my little office in Kenmore, Washington), they challenge and surprise me once they’re out there in the world. In addition to nearly every state in this country, my books have sent me to Germany, Lebanon, Qatar and, now, to a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
I can’t wait!