Back to Top

Tag Archives: memorial day

Last week, I fell into some kind of odd time warp and did not grasp that the day I thought was Wednesday was, in fact, Thursday. It’s actually worse than that. On Wednesday, I thought it was Tuesday and dutifully wrote and scheduled my Wednesday Riskies post.

Now, I work from home Thursdays and Fridays. So there I am, all day the next day, working away at the day job thinking it’s Wednesday. Even though I am home.

Then later when I was done with the day job portion of my day, I checked the Riskies post for what I was sure would be MASSES of great comments on my awesome post. And what do I see? That witch Janet Mullany posted over me! On my Wednesday! Nobody wants to read Thursday material on a Wednesday. I mean come on.

Just when I was about to add a flashing neon green background to Janet’s post, I said to myself, wait a second. Is is possible that I have somehow made a mistake?

I looked at my watch which helpfully displays the time, date and DAY, and holy cow, it’s Thursday.

Oops. Sorry I missed my day last Wednesday. In my timeline it was Tuesday.

Monday for us here in the US of A was a holiday and that means that the Tuesday on which many Americans went back to work functioned a lot like Monday. But I remembered in time that it’s not Monday, it’s Tuesday, and here I am my fellow Risky-Readers!

Since the holiday was Memorial Day, I want to mention that my son’s middle name comes from my mother’s eldest brother. He was a WWII veteran who saw hand-to-hand combat against the Japanese in Papua New Guinea. He passed away several years ago, at far too young an age. He spoke exactly once about the war, all though one night to my mother and the woman he eventually married, and then never again. It was only when he died and his coffin was draped in an American flag that his children and grandchilden learned he was a veteran. I knew, because my mother had told me. His own children did not.

My uncle was a wonderful man and I wish he’d lived long enough to meet my son. I wish my son could know the man he’s named after. I think my uncle is one of the only reasons my mother survived what happened to her in her childhood and if he’d lived he would have continued to make the world a better, safer place.

Soldiers and veterans put their lives on the line for the rest of us and, as we are slowly coming to understand, there is always a price beyond the physical when we ask someone to be willing to kill on our behalves. And this is as true in 1800 as it is today.

Lastly, May 30th is my sister’s birthday, if you’re on twitter please send her a happy birthday tweet. @majrite

Today I’m revisiting a blog I wrote in 2009 about Memorial Day and it seems very appropriate to revisit it.

Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer, the weekend of swimming pool openings, the Indianapolis 500, spectacular sales at the mall, picnics, clogged highways, and excursions to the beach.

Lest we forget, Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, a day to honor the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. Although there were early accounts of memorial activities around the country, the “official” birth of Decoration Day stems from an idea by Henry C. Welles, a small town druggist in New York state, to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead. A year later, with the help of General John B. Murray, a civil war hero, the idea got off the ground and on May 5, 1966, the town not only decorated the graves, but the whole town and held a solemn march to the cemeteries.

In 1868, the commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic proclaimed May 30 to be a day for “decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

By 1882, the day became more widely known as Memorial Day. In 1966 that New York town was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day. In 1971 its date was changed from May 30 to the last Monday of May.

The name of that New York town where Memorial Day originated and the reason why this is relevant to Risky Regencies??

Waterloo, NY

In 2009 I was steeped in research into the battle of Waterloo and was even more acutely aware than usual of the sacrifices of soldiers. Then and now. The book I’m writing now will involve the battle of Waterloo again, and readers will notice that most of my heroes have been soldiers or former soldiers.

My father was a soldier. He luckily was not required to engage in battle as much as other soldiers in WWII, but he did devote his life to being an Army Officer. So this is a thank you to him, to the soldiers of Waterloo, to those in the Civil War, and to those fighting and dying today. Still. Like they were in 2009.

Do you know a soldier, past or present? Tell us about him or her.

I’m also doing my very first Goodreads Giveaway! Here’s the widget!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Lady of Notoriety by Diane Gaston

A Lady of Notoriety

by Diane Gaston

Giveaway ends June 17, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Posted in History | Tagged , | 3 Replies

Today is Memorial Day in the USA, a day of remembrance that began as Decoration Day, a day freemen (freed slaves) decorated the graves of Union soldiers. The holiday eventually became a day to include remembrance of all who have died in defense of our country.

Most of us do not know first hand what soldiers face when they are sent into combat. We suppose their valor, their fear, their willingness to face enemy fire. We imagine it and recreate it in books and movies. I’ve certainly imagined battle for my Three Soldiers series.

Today seemed a fitting day to talk about my favorite war movies.

I’ll start with a Regency era one, of course.

Waterloo (1971) starring Christopher Plummer as Wellington, and Rod Steiger as Napoleon. The battle scenes in this movie are magnificent. Once scene almost perfectly recreates the painting by Lady Butler of the charge of the Scots Greys. The aerial photography of the French cavalry attacking the Allied squares was incredible. I loved how the important and memorable incidents from the battle were depicted.

The Longest Day (1962) from a book by Cornelius Ryan, a book I actually read! This movie tells the story of D Day, not with, perhaps, the graphic horror of the battle as in Speilberg’s Saving Private Ryan (which I have not seen), but a great movie for its scope of the battle and its ensemble cast including Henry Fonda, John Wayne (of course), a young not-yet-famous Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Eddy Albert, Paul Anka…and more. Like in Waterloo, important parts of the battle are shown and woven together to show how the victory was accomplished.

Zulu (1964), my favorite war movie of all time!  Zulu is the true story of an attack in 1879 by 4000 Zulu forces on a small hospital and supply depot guarded by 139 Welsh infantrymen, many who were hospitalized. Narrated by Richard Burton and starring Stanley Baker, Nigel Green, and a very young Michael Caine, this movie shows true valor and celebrates, in the end, the respect all soldiers are due.

Zulu and The Longest Day are available on Netflix and other dvd vendors. Waterloo might be harder to find but is worth the search.

Notice all these movies were made decades ago. The distance in time helps me favor them. I have a more difficult time watching more recent depictions of war, especially if the movies involve Vietnam or Iraq and Afghanistan. Too close for comfort…

Here’s a Memorial Day video that literally made me cry. It was created by a 15 year old girl and is going viral on the internet.

What are your favorite war movies? Have you seen any of my three? What do you think of them? What did you think of the video?

I’m writing the last chapter of Leo’s Story, my book connected to The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor. Have I mentioned it is due June 1?

Because today is Memorial Day, I could not think of a better blog than one I wrote in 2007, titled “Fallen Soldiers.” Who knew we would still be mourning fallen soldiers five years later?
Here is that blog, adapted for today.

Memorial Day is the day set aside by the US after the Civil War to honor military personnel who have lost their lives in service to their country. Memorial Day remains poignant for Americans today.

As the daughter of an Army officer, I have a particular regard for soldiers, which led to my Three Soldiers Series: Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady; Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress; Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy. In my other books some of the heroes are soldiers and I almost always mention the war with Napoleon.

I love my Regency soldiers. I secretly yearn to write some Napoleonic war romances, sort of like Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series, only love stories. I own a brazillion books on the Napoleonic war and its soldiers. It seemed fitting today to tell you about one of them: Intelligence Officer in the Peninsula Letters and Diaries of Major The Honorable Edward Charles Cocks 1786-1812, Julia V. Page, editor (1986, Spellmount Ltd)

Major Cocks served in various capacities in the Peninsular war. He was attached to the regular Spanish army for a time and also with the 16th Light Dragoons. He worked as an intelligence officer behind enemy lines, performed special missions for Wellington, and was a field officer commanding soldiers. His family wanted him in Parliament, but Charles, as he was called, loved soldiering more than anything else. He was the consummate professional soldier, very much in his element in the war in Spain.

In a letter to his uncle, Charles wrote:

Few regard soldiers in their true light, that is as a body of men giving up many individual pleasures and comforts for a general national advantage, coupled certainly with the hope of personal fame and at the same time preserving more individual independence than any class of men….Men unused to war and ignorant of its ways regard slodiers as pernicious characters because they always figure them as intent on the desruction of their enemy, but a soldier only meets his foe now and then and he is every day engaged in reciprocal offices of kindness with his comrades….for my part I think there is much less ferocity in putting your foe to death when you see him aiming at your life, than in coolly rejoicing in your cabinet at home at successes purchased by the blood of thousands–Your dutiful and affectionate nephew, E. Charles Cocks

On October 8, 1812, Charles was acting as a field officer in the seige of Burgos. In the hours before dawn he led his men up a slope to regain the outer wall. When he reached the top, a French soldier fired straight at him. The ball passed through his chest, piercing the artery above his heart. He died instantly.

That morning Wellington strode into Ponsonby’s office, paced to and fro without speaking for several minutes. He started back toward the door, saying only, “Cocks is dead” before he walked out. Later Wellington wrote, “He (Cocks) is on every ground the greatest loss we have yet sustained.” When Wellington stood at his graveside, ashen-faced and remote, none of his officers dared speak to him.

Admiration for valor, gratitude for sacrifice, grief at loss. Today is not very different than 1812.

Each book in my Three Soldiers Series is dedicated to a relative who served in the military.

The first book was dedicated to my father. My father, Daniel J. Gaston, pictured here circa 1940s, was not called upon to make a soldier’s ultimate sacrifice. He reached an advanced age, long enough to see his daughters well-situated and happy, and his grandchildren grown. He died peacefully in 2001 before my writing career took off.
The second book was dedicated to my uncle, Robert Gaston, who served in WWII and who remains a proud veteran to this day, and to my cousin, Richard Witchey who served in the Vietnam War.
The third book will be dedicated to another cousin, James Getman, an officer in the Coast Guard who lost his life one winter over 30 years ago while readying his vessel for service.

Do you have a soldier, real or fictional, who deserves tribute?

Would you like more war romances? Do you have any favorites?

To all our soldiers……Thanks

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 5 Replies

Memorial Day, the last Monday in May and a US Holiday, began as a day to remember those soldiers lost in the Civil War. It was later expanded to include all men and women who died in the service to their country, and many people use this day to remember all their departed loved ones. Every day we are heart-wrenchingly reminded of the sacrifice our brave soldiers make for the rest of us when we hear the names of the latest soldiers lost in Iraq or Afghanistan. Those aches are too raw, so I’m looking back to “our” era, the Napoleonic War and the War of 1812.

The Napoleonic Series has an article about one Battalion in 1809, listing the names of the officers and the biographical data they were able to piece together on as many of them as possible, lest they be entirely forgotten. (look under Biographies) They include men like Captain Joseph Bradbey, who among other things, was wounded when a general ordered his company of 470 men to attack French forces of over 2500. Bradbey was lucky. Most of his company died that day. Another was Lt. Charles Ward, unique among the biographies because no information existed of him before or after his military service. It is as if he existed only as a soldier.

The Napoleonic Series article quotes a lyric from a Stan Rogers song, “Macdonell on the Heights:”
So you know what it is to scale the Heights and fall just short of fame
And have not one in ten thousand know your name.

Stan Rogers, a Canadian folk singer, wrote this song of an officer who fought valiantly in the war of 1812. Canadian Lt. Col. John Macdonell lost his life during the Battle of Queenstown Heights. Seeing his name engraved on a plague on a rock near where he fell inspired Rogers to compose this song. Rogers lost his own life tragically at the age of 33, in a fire aboard Air Canada Flight 797 at Cincinnati airport. Here’s a YouTube tribute for both Macdonell and Rogers:

About 4,000 soldiers died in action in the War of 1812 (another 20,000 died from disease). Estimates of soldiers lost in the Napoleonic War are about 2.5 million, a staggering figure. When lists of casualties were printed, only the officers were listed. Can you imagine how many mothers, sisters, sweethearts, waited and hoped and ultimately despaired of ever knowing the fate of their private or sergeant?

The US Military honors those soldiers who previously (now with DNA testing almost all can be identified) could not be identified, at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery. Today, as on every Memorial Day, a wreath will be placed at the Tomb, to honor all soldiers.

I’ll bet each of us have lost someone tragically, maybe not to war, but someone who “falls short of fame,” someone who led an ordinary life and who lives on only in the memories of those who loved him or her in life.

My choice is my cousin, Jimmy Getman, a graduate of the US Coast Guard Academy, who died of a sudden heart attack in his 30s while working long hours to ready the boat he commanded for service during a very frigid winter in the 1970s. I just searched the internet and found nothing about him except a citation of an article he co-wrote in 1976. But I remember him from long before. I remember him as older and smarter than me and clever enough to fix my doll’s shoe. He was a hero to me that day and ever since.

Who do you want to remember this Memorial Day?

Don’t forget to visit me tomorrow on Diane’s Blog for the announcement of last week’s winner of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady, and on Thurday as well.
Blogging at

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 15 Replies
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By