By Richard Rhinehart
Holbrook, New York, July 22, 2013 – For a Marine who has spent his entire life in service to his country, returning home to America can be a traumatic and isolating experience. Oregon author Baer Charlton’s upcoming novel, “Stoneheart,” brings to life the many challenges faced by a Marine who is medically retired and returns stateside.
Charlton’s story, to be released this October by Missouri publisher Ambrosia Arts, will resonate with many servicemen and women who return home under unforeseen circumstances, often without a post-military plan of action. Though Charlton’s protagonist, Gunnery Sergeant Percival Stone, finds connections to individuals whose lives he touched through his long national service, he also discovers he knows very little about his country or society after spending his life in the field and at military bases worldwide.
“Stone is the kind of guy you wanted for your squad leader, your dorm’s Resident Assistant, the cool older guy that lived at the end of the block you grew up on who tinkered in his garage and didn’t mind you hanging around and asking stupid questions,” said Charlton in an exclusive interview from his home in Oregon. “Stone is also that person you hear stories about who sees the little old lady counting pennies over her lunch, and takes the check from the waitress and pays for it. He says don’t tell her until he’s gone. Stone is the guy or gal we need more of.”
Growing up with a father who served with the Army Corp of Engineers during World War II, Charlton’s uncles include Navy and Marine Corps veterans. “My oldest brother was Army in Vietnam, and I was slated for the window seat on a fast attack sub. I know a lot about the disappointment of a medical discharge.”
Like most authors, Charlton writes about what he knows, and what he has learned through life. “When I was a kid, I worked with a dishwasher,” he recalls. Having survived the Bataan Death March and held in a World War II prisoner of war camp, the dishwasher and his best friend “tried with everyone else to rush the front gate and escape. The Japanese turned the large radar on them. Many didn’t survive. Those that did, had their brains or insides scrambled or cooked. These two guys were top of their class to be PhDs in chemical science, and astro physics. When I knew them, their combined brain power barely would have hit 90.”
As he grew older, Charlton reports he worked in many fields. “I met many people who didn’t come home,” following their service. “I also met people who never left and through one misadventure or another, couldn’t find their way home.”
A California native, Charlton knew fellow students with disabilities. “There was always a class of students who were mentally challenged,” he said. “As many of these kids reached their teens, the school system moved the class and the teacher, Jack Reeder, over to the high school. Jack became the counselor for the service booth that sold snacks and pop at all of the games. There were a few ‘normal’ kids that got lucky when Jack roped us into service to keep the change counted correctly. Amazingly, all of those kids knew how to count change back.”
“In college, I repaired wheelchairs, including my own when I spent a year with both Achilles’ tendons torn in a skiing accident. I learned a lot from being seated, and watching people that knew me well, walk past and not even see me.”
Charlton reports he has disabilities that affect him to this day. “Now with operating on only one lung, legs I really can’t feel, and a mind that can and does freeze up, the only thing people are aware of are the braces on my arms – the least of my altered abilities. But they do give me a certain caché and even disarming entré to speak to others in braces, or in a chair or even deaf or other altered abilities. With each new person I meet, it adds a little piece to my soul, and gives me more understanding.”
In Charlton’s novel, his protagonist Stone manages PTSD and TBI from various engagements in wars and conflicts worldwide. Traveling the country by motorcycle, Stone visits colleagues he served with overseas in a series of encounters that lead to the story’s dramatic conclusion along the southern Oregon coast.
“[The NBC television program] ‘Then Came Bronson’ had some influence on me,” Charlton agrees. “But that was more in the way of my long time love affair with motorcycles. I have a lot of experience riding across the country on less than four wheels. In my opinion, you will never get the same ice breaker sitting on the curb next to your sedan in middle America as you can sitting there next to your motorcycle with pack and bed-roll strapped down.”
In the small fictional community of Fall, Oregon, Stone is the key to resolving a long personal conflict among the townsfolk, and helping to rebuild lives after a terrible tragedy. Working with members of the disabled community, along with active servicemen, women, and civilians, Stone changes lives.
Charlton said he created his story to be about the people. “We don’t ‘get’ people if we just watch them do something. The only time we really learn about a person is when we experience them doing something, or listen to them talk.”
The author of a 2011 young adult’s book, “The Very Littlest Dragon,” Charlton is currently working on additional projects. “Three projects to be exact. One is another strong character driven story that takes place over the course of a century about a woman surgeon’s life.” In addition, Charlton is not ruling out a sequel to his new novel. “Stone’s story is actually finished. Well, maybe not ‘Stone’s,’ but Stoneheart.”
“Stoneheart” will be available in both print and digital format through independent and online booksellers nationally beginning in October, 2013.
Richard Rhinehart serves as Director of Communications for World T.E.A.M. Sports.