When Kristine Schellhaas set out to record the private details of her marriage to a Marine officer, she knew she had a story that military families would appreciate and understand. Coming from the corporate world where both my husband and I had safe and lucrative jobs, I wasn’t sure I could relate. However when I read her book, the normality of Kristine’s story engaged me. I could understand why she supported her husband’s career—and why she dealt with family tensions alone while he had eight tours of duty and they moved eleven times in fifteen years.
Electronic communications have changed the way military couples deal with loneliness and family decision-making while one spouse is deployed. Skype is almost a tease when babies are being born, and it is totally useless when maternal exhaustion sets in. Yet video chats allow the distant parent to develop or maintain relationships with young children. And emails can provide loving reassurance to partners who must face stressful situations.
The Schellhaases share their lives in 15 Years of War, and it’s both refreshing and heartbreaking. The layout of this book supports the content and keeps the reader’s empathetic reactions for each partner fresh. When Kristine speaks, we feel her concern for Ross, her frustration at being pregnant and alone, her irritation with her mother-in-law, and her stress-filled struggle to care for her children. When Ross talks, he describes the horrors of war, his worries about his Marines, his aggravation with his mother and his deep love for Kristine and their children.
The tale winds through several deployments and two pregnancies before tragedy rips through the soul of a family already toughened by war. Their second baby, George, drowns in a swimming pool. As Kristine and Ross deal with their horrendous loss, Ross is sent back to war a few months after the accident and Kristine discovers that she is pregnant again. Will this be the test that tears them apart?
15 Years of War is reveals the fight for love like few nonfiction books I’ve ever read. I highly recommend it.
MWSA Reviewer: Joyce Faulkner
Less than 1% of our nation will ever serve in our armed forces, leaving many to wonder what life is really like for military families.
He answers the call of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Pacific; she keeps the home fires burning. Worlds apart, and in the face of indescribable grief, their relationship is pushed to the limits.
15 Years of War: How the Longest War in U.S. History Affected a Military Family in Love, Loss, and the Cost Of Service provides a unique he said/she said perspective on coping with war in modern-day America. It reveals a true account of how a dedicated Marine and his equally committed spouse faced unfathomable challenges and achieved triumph, from the days just before 9/11 through 15 years of training workups, deployments, and other separations.
This story of faith, love, and resilience offers insight into how a decade and a half of war has redefined what it means to be a military family.