When we first meet Calli Coleman, a classically trained musician from a well-connected Baltimore family, it is the summer of 2005 and the United States has been at war in Iraq for two years. She has been uprooted from the hometown she adores and abruptly lands in the role of Army wife in provincial Sackets Harbor, New York outside of Fort Drum. Naïve to all things military, Calli has no idea what’s in store for her when Luke’s infantry unit deploys to the Iraq War to an area CNN dubs “The Triangle of Death”. Left back in New York with their three-year-old daughter Audrey, black Labrador Satchmo, and a fat cat named Charlemagne, Calli has a steep learning curve as she tumbles into a complicated social hierarchy where she finds her well-heeled childhood does her more harm than good. Desperately missing her friends and family and amid the impertinent Army wives, unlikely friendships evolve with Josie, Rachel, and Daphne. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, and certainly unlike her dynamic, jet-setting best friend Eula, these women will nonetheless come together for courage, support, and to embark upon the deeply emotional roller coaster ride of being an Army wife.
I want to make a difference in people’s lives. Whether it’s through my upcoming novel THE IMMORTALS (a semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age story), a speaking engagement, a meal I’ve prepared, quality time with a mug of tea or glass of wine, or as a thought leader on military wives.
I was born Victoria Freeman Dukehart in Baltimore, Maryland in 1970, when Richard M. Nixon was President, US troops invaded Cambodia, The Beatles broke up, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died of drug-related deaths at age 27 (separately), Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and John Updike’s Bech: A Book were published, George C. Scott won the Best Actor Oscar for his turn as General Patton but refused the gold statuette, and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series (4-1). My father was a stock broker and my mother stayed home to raise my two younger brothers and me. I loved ponies and dogs from the moment I entered the world. My first pony was named Nancy.
Eventually, my parents divorced. I went off to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York where I majored in English with a concentration in creative writing. After college I lived on huge yachts in the Caribbean as a cook and deck-hand (read: vassel). For a brief while, I was a waitress in Colorado where I learned to ski. Eventually, I made my way back to Baltimore for a ‘real’ job in business development. Then the three Moirai (Fates) decided it was time I met the love of my life, Matt Eversmann, an Army Ranger and American hero from his combat tour in Somalia in 1993.
Soon I became Mrs. Black Hawk Down and walked down the red carpet at the Hollywood premier of the movie Black Hawk Down. Hanging in L.A. with the Hollywood glitterati wasn’t permanent but it certainly was a blast. Life was looking pretty good; I had a semi-celebrity husband, a beautiful baby girl named Molly, two dogs, LJ and Sambo, and a really fat cat named Genghis Khan. But the events of 9/11 changed it all.
I found myself living outside Fort Drum, New York, thirty-miles south of Canada in a tiny village called Sackets Harbor on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario with no friends, no family, and no knowledge of the ‘real’ Army and it’s nuances. Matt deployed to Iraq for what was supposed to be 12-months but ended up being a 15-month deployment. It was during the three years in Sackets Harbor that I befriended the strongest women I’ve ever known - The Diva War Brides, met courageous soldiers and uplifting wounded men, brooked my fear in the face of adversity, and went through a profound personal transformation.
My novel, The Immortals, is based on those three years.