The Star Spangled Banner. Fire engine sirens and children laughing while chasing candy tossed from parade floats. Red, white, and blue flags, streamers, banners, and pennants. A sulfur tang in the air and God Bless America on the speakers as fireworks explode in the night sky.
But behind the sparklers, under the strains of America the Beautiful, outside the glittering lights reflected in countless eyes, we find the reason for our holiday parties and parades – the men and women who began the fight for our freedom that first Independence Day, and those who continue the fight so that we might keep it.
With respect, admiration, and grateful hearts this Independence Day, the Due South family is proud to share this list of patriotic reads in celebration of the men and women of our Armed Forces, and the birth of our great nation.
Happy birthday, America!
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this Continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means.”
-Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 1776
Duty. Honor. Country. That’s West Point’s motto, and every cadet who passes through its stone gates vows to live it. But on the eve of 9/11, as Dani, Hannah and Avery face four grueling years ahead, they realize they’ll only survive if they do it together. Everyone knows Dani is going places. With athletic talent and a brilliant mind, she navigates West Point’s predominantly male environment with wit and confidence, breaking stereotypes and embracing new friends.
Hannah’s grandfather, a legendary Army general, offers a stark warning about the dangers that lie ahead, but she moves forward anyway, letting faith guide her path. When she meets her soul mate at West Point, the future looks perfect, just as planned. Wild child Avery moves fast and doesn’t mind breaking a few rules (and hearts) along the way. But she can’t outpace her self-doubt, and the harder she tries, the further it leads her down a treacherous path.
The Green Soldier by J. Edward GoreJohn Gore is eighteen years old in 1862 rural Kentucky. He has struggled his entire life with stuttering and the ridicule associated with it. Unable to speak well, he has focused on writing. Seeing the opportunity for advancement in the military—and with it, respect—John joins the Union army.
Unfortunately, his stuttering prevents him from warning a friend of an enemy attack and John watches his friend die, leaving him racked with guilt and fear that others saw him fail at such a crucial moment. John meets a girl, but because of his stutter, they must forge a friendship through letters, allowing him to express to her what he can’t say in person. Meanwhile, at home, John’s impetuous younger brother causes trouble with garrisoned Union troops angry at Southern sympathizers.
Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird
The compelling, hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the only woman to ever serve with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers. Though born into bondage on a “miserable tobacco farm” in Little Dixie, Missouri, Cathy Williams was never allowed to consider herself a slave. According to her mother, she was a captive, bound by her noble warrior blood to escape the enemy.
Her means of deliverance is Union general Phillip Henry “Smash ‘em Up” Sheridan, the outcast of West Point who takes the rawboned, prideful young woman into service. At war’s end, having tasted freedom, Cathy refuses to return to servitude and makes the monumental decision to disguise herself as a man and join the Army’s legendary Buffalo Soldiers.
Waiting For Eden by Elliot Ackerman
Eden Malcom lies in a bed, unable to move or to speak, imprisoned in his own mind. His wife Mary spends every day on the sofa in his hospital room. He has never even met their young daughter. And he will never again see the friend and fellow soldier who didn’t make it back home–and who narrates the novel. But on Christmas, the one day Mary is not at his bedside, Eden’s re-ordered consciousness comes flickering alive.
As he begins to find a way to communicate, some troubling truths about his marriage–and about his life before he went to war–come to the surface. Is Eden the same man he once was: a husband, a friend, a father-to-be? What makes a life worth living?
The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey
It’s 1944 and Fiona Denning has her entire future planned out. She’ll work in city hall, marry her fiancé when he returns from the war, and settle down in the Boston suburbs. But when her fiancé is reported missing after being shot down in Germany, Fiona’s long-held plans are shattered.
Determined to learn her fiancé’s fate, Fiona leaves Boston to volunteer overseas as a Red Cross Clubmobile girl, recruiting her two best friends to come along. There’s the outspoken Viviana, who is more than happy to quit her secretarial job for a taste of adventure. Then there’s Dottie, a shy music teacher whose melodious talents are sure to bring heart and hope to the boys on the front lines. Chosen for their inner strength and outer charm, the trio isn’t prepared for the daunting challenges of war. But through it all come new friendships and romances, unforeseen dangers, and unexpected dreams.
Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations by William H. McRaven
Admiral William H. McRaven is a part of American military history, having been involved in some of the most famous missions in recent memory, including the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, and the raid to kill Osama bin Laden.
Sea Stories begins in 1960 at the American Officers’ Club in France, where Allied officers and their wives gathered to have drinks and tell stories about their adventures during World War II — the place where a young Bill McRaven learned the value of a good story. Sea Stories is an unforgettable look back on one man’s incredible life, from childhood days sneaking into high-security military sites to a day job of hunting terrorists and rescuing hostages.
Home Front by Kristin Hannah
Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades have to face the pressures of everyday life―children, careers, bills, chores―even as their twelve-year marriage is falling apart. Then a deployment sends Jolene deep into harm’s way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a soldier, she has always understood the true meaning of duty.
In her letters home, she paints a rose-colored version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth. But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could have foreseen. When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a battle of his own―for everything that matters to his family.
All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner
When Annie Jacobson’s brother Mike enlists as a medic in the Army in 1967, he hands her a piece of paper with the address of their long-estranged father. If anything should happen to him in Vietnam, Mike says, Annie must let their father know.
In Mike’s absence, their father returns to face tragedy at home, adding an extra measure of complication to an already tense time. As they work toward healing and pray fervently for Mike’s safety overseas, letter by letter the Jacobsons must find a way to pull together as a family, regardless of past hurts. In the tumult of this time, Annie and her family grapple with the tension of holding both hope and grief in the same hand, even as they learn to turn to the One who binds the wounds of the brokenhearted.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Depicting the men of Alpha Company—Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three—the stories in The Things They Carried opened our eyes to the nature of war in a way we will never forget.
It is taught everywhere, from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing, and in the decades since its publication, it has never failed to challenge our perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, and courage, longing, and fear.
When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin
It begins on the shaded town square in a sleepy southern town. A spirited seven-year-old has a brisk business at her lemonade stand. But the little girl’s pretty yellow dress can’t quite hide the ugly scar on her chest. Her latest customer, a bearded stranger, drains his cup and heads to his car, his mind on a boat he’s restoring at a nearby lake.
The stranger understands more about the scar than he wants to admit. And the beat-up bread truck careening around the corner with its radio blaring is about to change the trajectory of both their lives. Before it’s over, they’ll both know there are painful reasons why crickets cry . . . and that miracles lurk around unexpected corners.
We hope you’ve found a book (or several) here to fuel your patriotic spirit! From our Due South family to yours, we hope you have a wonderful Independence Day.