When Steve Bradshaw started cleaning out the basement in his house, he had no idea it would lead to publishing a book. He stumbled across a box of letters written while he was deployed to Iraq during Desert Storm.
The letters uniquely highlighted the struggles of deployed service men and women to maintain relationships with their families back home, and with that in mind, he decided to publish the collection in his new book Dear Diane: Letters from the First Gulf War.
Although he lives in Atlanta now, Bradshaw calls Savannah home – he’s an alumnus of Savannah High and AASU – and he still has family here. He makes a homecoming this week, and an appearance at The Book Lady book store. We caught up with him by phone last week to talk more about his new book.
Why go back 20 years later and read these? Had you been saving them with this sort of project in mind?
Steve Bradshaw: There was no thought of doing something with the letters. I didn’t even know my wife still had the letters. I happened to be engaged in a long overdue project – cleaning up our basement – and discovered this non–descript box with all these letters. Even at that time of discovery, my initial reaction was to leave them alone. After a while, curiosity got the better of me and I started to read through them. It was eye opening to go back in time and read those.
The reason that we decided to put it out there was two–fold. Number one: It’s been twenty years. That’s a nice round number. The other thing is, we’ve got soldiers deployed in two wars right now, and that, probably more than anything else, is what the impetus was because I wanted to highlight what that separation from loved ones is all about.
Everyone is cognizant of the sacrifices inherent in military life, but is that separation from family really the side that gets overlooked more often than not, and something that this book really speaks toward?
Steve Bradshaw: Soldiers get a lot of praise and credit, and rightly so, but I think the sacrifice of the families is the part that gets overlooked. When I was gone serving my country, my wife was here trying to just carry on, but without any clue about my well–being – what I would come like, if I did come home. The stress that that induces on family members is the story that is underreported.
Going back through these letters, was there a lot of stuff that you’d forgotten? What sort of process was this for you personally?
Steve Bradshaw: There were little things about day to day life that I’d forgotten. It’s amazing how adaptive we are as human beings. We lived in a desert for months. We didn’t have toilets. We didn’t have showers. I don’t want to paint too stark a picture, but the point is that environment became home. Life back in the United States was something else.
You get home, and it’s not very long before you forget what kind of a Spartan existence you actually lived through. It rekindled a lot of feelings and thoughts that were in the rearview mirror. A lot of the feelings you go through, from first getting there and not knowing what’s going to happen, then coming to the realization that the only way we’re coming home is if we go to war with these guys. Either I’m gonna come home in a body bag or I’m gonna come home fine. To go through that roller coaster of emotions all over again, it was difficult. I’ll be honest. It was an interesting journey to re–take.
Book Signing with Steve Bradshaw
When: January 15, 12 p.m.
Where: The Book Lady Bookstore, 6 E. Liberty St.