The Honor Was Mine by Elizabeth Heaney The Honor Was Mine carries readers into the lives and hearts of combat veterans who face the daunting task of finding their way back home. Elizabeth Heaney, a psychotherapist with thirty years of experience, arrives at her first military base with no previous exposure to the military, and no grasp of military culture. Gone are her comfortable counseling offices with polished wood floors and soft lighting; she now works in cement block rooms and motor pools, in hallways and parking lots. Her ignorance of the military leads her to address an officer by the wrong rank, mistakenly stand in a restricted area, and has her head spinning during acronym-filled chats with soldiers. Counseling sessions are also different than anything she is used to. Unlike her private-practice clients who arrived to sessions eager to share, Heaney discovers that the warriors’ reticence and pride make vulnerable conversations tenuous and difficult. She must learn to listen differently and inquire more carefully as she feels her way into their world. Paul tells her he’s been home for five days and isn’t sure how to talk to his wife: a year-long deployment doing solitary work left him more comfortable with silence. A staff sergeant meticulously prepares a dress uniform for his buddy’s funeral and speaks in hushed tones about the fine soldier he was. Deborah, a commander’s wife, sits on a park bench and talks about going to eighty-seven memorial services. These conversations introduce Heaney to the astounding burdens soldiers carry as they return from combat. One turning point comes as she speaks with SGT Devereaux. They stand in his cluttered, closet-like office, and he begins by joking about his struggles with PTSD. As Heaney gently invites him to say more, Devereaux becomes skittish and begins to stammer. Then he tells the story of his goofy, gregarious nineteen-year-old friend who went out on a mission and never came back. Devereaux’s voice fails him as his eyes fill with tears; in the silence, Heaney begins to fully realize how much pain is hidden in the hearts of our warriors. Over the years, Heaney speaks with privates and commanders, infantrymen and engineers, soldiers fresh out of boot camp, weary warriors who’d been deployed numerous times, and service members from every branch of the military. She helps them bridge the gap between war and home, working with those who have battles scenes burned into their memory, who fight debilitating battles within themselves, and who fear their hearts and psyches may be broken forever. Increasingly, Heaney becomes overwhelmed and scared as she realizes the steadiness she must maintain in order to listen to what the warriors need to say. As she returns to her temporary housing each night, the image of having spent her day “catching hearts falling through the air” haunts her. Eventually, she must come to terms – or not - with how the depth of the soldiers’ needs will never be met within the parameters of her job, which instruct her to help veterans with “short-term daily living skills.” Moving back and forth between the soldiers’ stories—told in their own words—and her own story of change, Heaney plays the roles of observer and helper, outsider and intimate. The Honor Was Mine gives readers an opportunity to sit next to her and hear the intimate accounts, not of what happens in war but of the heart wounds that fester but too often remain unspoken and unheard. Until now. The Honor Was Mine shows readers why the phrase “Thank you for your service” is not enough to bridge the divide between war and home. A deeper listening and larger compassion is necessary if our service members are ever going to truly come home.
Author: Elizabeth Heaney
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Audiobook, Kindle
Genre(s): Creative Nonfiction, Memoir
Number of Pages: 286