On this Veterans Day, five best-selling thriller writers are looking back at their experiences of visiting active-duty and wounded service members in the United States, Britain, Germany, and Kuwait as part of "Operation Thriller IV" the USO/Armed Forces Entertainment Tour.
Harlan Coben, Phillip Margolin, F. Paul Wilson, Kathleen Antrim, and Heather Graham traveled to four countries in nine days to boost the morale of service personnel and their families as well as the wounded recovering in hospitals.
Starting on October 24 at the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir in Virginia and carrying on through the Halloween season, the authors went to Walter Reed Bethesda National Military Medical Center to visit with wounded, ill, and injured warriors; attended the 2013 USO Gala for the Service Member of the Year honorees, and traveled to Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia before heading overseas.
The writers blogged about their experiences.
"My best memory is from the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where we visited a room where three seriously wounded troops were recovering. We had been told that one service member in particular was anxious to talk to the visiting writers because he wanted to be a writer," wrote Phillip Margolin, author of seventeen bestselling legal thrillers, including "Sleight of Hand," and a former criminal defense attorney for over a quarter of a century.
"This service member's face lit up when I introduced myself. He told me that he had already posted several chapters of a novel on his Facebook page and his excitement grew as we talked about the craft of writing fiction. His great smile and enthusiasm made the whole trip worthwhile," Margolin wrote.
F. Paul Wilson, bestselling author of the Repairman Jack novels, including "Dark City," and winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement, wrote: "Humbled. That's the word. I go to bed tonight a humbled man. We set up in the cafeteria of Building 62 where the wounded warriors transition from hospital life to real life."
"'Freedom isn't free.' Like me, you've probably heard that phrase often enough to dismiss it as an overused cliché. Let me tell you, it stops being a cliché when you visit a place like Building 62." Wilson concluded.
Harlan Coben wrote: "We make up heroes for a living. Now we get to meet real-live ones and express in some small way our gratitude. I can't imagine a greater honor." Coben is the bestselling author of "Six Years," "Stay Close," "Live Wire," "Caught," "Long Lost," and "Hold Tight."
Kathleen Antrim, the award-winning author of "Capital Offense," journalist, columnist, and radio personality blogged jointly with Heather Graham, who has written more than a hundred bestselling novels including, "The Night Is Forever," her latest.
"As thriller writers, we write about larger-than-life heroes, but nothing that we write can compare to the real life heroes in our military. It is such an honor to travel with the USO and spend time with our real heroes. Those who sacrifice so much to stand between us and those that would do us harm. We owe so much to these men and women and to the USO, a fantastic organization that quietly serves our military," writes Antrim.
Graham wrote: "Throughout my life, I have been in awe of and amazed and humbled by our troops, past and present. What they do for me, for all of us, is so great that it can't be quantified. I am humbled and privileged to be given a chance to cast a drop in the bucket that should be filled a thousand times over for the services our men and women in uniform perform for our country. There is no way to really thank them."
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