May 4, 1970 – Ohio National Guard shoot and kill four Kent State University Vietnam War protesters and wound nine others.
Mitch's orders to report to active duty say nothing about bringing his wife. (You know the old army saying: "If the army had wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one.") But I am not going to be left behind.
Skip ahead a few days after we have managed to secure an appointment in Muldraugh, Kentucky, a small town with no mail delivery. Mitch comes home from AOB one day with an invitation for me to attend a social function for AOB wives.
Of course I go – I am so bored in Muldraugh, Kentucky. And there I learn that we are going to be trained how to be a proper officer's wife. For our graduation luncheon there is a need for committee chairs. I shoot up my arm to be the entertainment chair.
"Now we usually have a fashion show or an etiquette lesson," a senior officer wife says. I nod, and think how I'll write a skit satirizing AOB. (To protect the innocent I set the scene at Valley Forge in 1776.)
To this day, while I remember everything else and have all my original army documents (some of which can be seen on my website at www.mrslieutenant.com), I can't remember how I got the four other members of my committee: a Southern Baptist, a black (the correct term in those days), and two Puerto Ricans – one of whom couldn't speak English.
The five of us spent the next few weeks together learning how to be a Mrs. Lieutenant. And from that day onward until now, I've wanted to tell the story of what being a new officer's wife in the U.S. Army was like during the Vietnam War.
MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL is the result 38 years later. I mashed up characters and incidents (some things I included at Ft. Knox really took place when we were stationed in Munich, Germany, the scene of the sequel I'm now writing – MRS. LIEUTENANT IN EUROPE), and I invented backstories for the main characters. Yet the overall story is an accurate depiction.
And in order to place the events in their historical context, the start of each chapter includes a news item as well as a quote from Mary Preston Gross' booklet "Mrs. Lieutenant" (Third Edition), which we used in 1970 to learn the rules and expectations for an officer's wife. One such pithy statement of the book: "It has been said that when a man acquires a commission, the government has gained not one, but two – the officer and his wife."
The story of MRS. LIEUTENANT may seem like ancient history. But today the U.S. is again involved in another unpopular war. And race issues, which are a theme in MRS. LIEUTENANT, are again in the news. Maybe I was destined to wait 38 years before publishing the book – until the time was ripe for this specific past to shed light on this specific present.
Please visit the author's website for more about her life and work.