It won’t take you long to run into the event called CAX in A Marine Discovery (which I’ll shorten to AMD going forward). I didn’t want to go into too many details and slow down the story. Instead I’ll share a little behind the scenes information here.
When I went to CAX, which stands for Combined Arms Exercise, in October of 1999. My experiences were very different from Cam, Sharon, and Sarah’s because I was on mess duty, which means I worked in the mess hall (kitchen) for that month instead of my normal job.
Some people, like my characters, would hate it, as they’d be separated from their friends. I loved it, as I didn’t have friends in the unit. That month was a break from the constant stress of my unit. Unbeknown to me, that month also became the roots of my writing career. But I’ll circle back to that.
First, CAX is a time when the air wing and the ground units train together with life ammunition. It’s a chance to train in ways that wouldn’t otherwise happen. Twentynine Palms, California is a massive base, as you can see in the map below. Most of the LA metro area would fit inside. And almost all of that base is devoted to blowing things up. It’s thrilling, until they are bombing the range nearest your house in the early morning hours and you work nights.
My experiences on mess duty will be heavily utilized in A Marine’s Heart book 5, so I won’t go into them here, except to explain how it relates to everything I do today.
This is Susan Giesemann, who I should have met earlier, but didn’t until we both volunteered for mess duty at CAX. These are the only two pictures I managed to sneak, because Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (dadt) was very much an issue for me. Also, notice that everyone is a mess, and not just because this was a very fun party with a large amount of alcohol. CAX is a messy time, with minimal showers and little to no laundry. I genuinely can’t remember how the laundry situation worked, but it’s hard to imagine a month supply of underwear.
Now that I’m distracted trying to remember how we handled laundry… back to Susan. I didn’t know why at the time, but Susan and I grew close very quickly. It was a confusing month. And the long story is… very long. But the short story is, some kissing happened, but nothing more. For reasons, including dadt. I moved on until a few years later when I learned she had died. From a lightning strike.
This really messed me up, for reasons I wouldn’t understand until I was in the middle of writing Dal Segno. She’s the reason Cam’s back story is what it is. With A Marine Discovery, I’ve come full circle to the event and woman who would become my muse.
Some people know the full story. I choose not to share it with everyone because it gets into beliefs that not everyone shares. But, if you’ve enjoyed my books, you have Susan partially to thank for them. She is a truly special soul and one that will always hold a large portion of my heart, along with my wife and daughter.
Just so your only impression of Susan isn’t from CAX, here’s a nicer picture. She works hard as my muse, she deserves better than my hastily taken pictures.
Thank you, Susan. Now if you could just tell me what I need to know to write a short story from Sharon’s perspective, that would be great.