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Guest Post & Giveaway: American Red Cross Heroines by Cat Gardiner, Author of A Moment Forever

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If you visited in the last month or so, you’ll have heard of Cat Gardiner, a voice who was new to me in the world of Austen-inspired fiction.  What really drew me to her writing was her love of WWII-era fiction and her thorough research for historical fiction.  She takes research to a whole new level.  She creates playlists for her books, Pinterest boards, and her and her husband often attend and participate in re-enactments!

Her latest novel, A Moment Forever, is a sweeping epic in which Juliana Martel is bequeathed a home that looks like a time capsule from 1942 and the mysterious love affair of her great uncle.  Martel embarks on a journalistic journey to uncover the past, which could end up healing herself.

Read more about the book on GoodReads or, better yet, buy it!  It’s sure to be a winner!  It’s available on Kindle or in paperback at Amazon.

Without further ado, please welcome Cat Gardiner.

Hi Serena & Friends! Thank you for inviting me back at Savvy Verse & Wit with my debut WWII romance novel, A Moment Forever (AMF). It’s swell to be here! Some of your readers who know me have recently learned―upon my own outing―my big secret: I’m a WWII Living Historian.

“A what? Is Cat really that old?”

No! I’m a WWII reenactor alongside my husband with the 1 st Infantry Division Reenactment Group out of Bradenton, Florida. He wears the GI combat uniform and I wear the frock and snood ―or hat― depending on the season. Together with the other “boys” of the 1 st I.D, we educate the public at various events and, on occasion, I’ve been seen hanging on my sweetheart’s arm, swooning after 23 years of marriage. I do so love a man in uniform. (In case you’re curious: Visit Here)

When considering this guest article, I, of course, wanted to discuss some relevant theme within AMF, but there were many. So I thought I’d share with you my own 1940s Experience in reenactment and how writing AMF has infused my commitment with new ideas!

This past Memorial Day (AMF’s book birthday,) the third year at a local museum where the 1 st I.D had encamped, and as the norm, I accompanied the men. Nothing more than their informative groupie, looking pretty (I hoped) in the bivouac, I reflected on one of AMF’s main characters and how her wartime service could be one that I could emulate at these events. I absolutely love engaging with the public and sharing with them a little about the home front experience and explaining the various military personal items in the display cases. On occasion, I’m even asked to pose in my vintage apparel and discuss gloves, hats, and handkerchiefs! But at this last event, I really got to thinking, “Can I teach more?” And that was when I considered A Moment Forever as my guide.

You see, Lillian Renner, our heroine’s “Irish Twin” volunteered locally with the American Red Cross’s Motor Corps. However, after training in late 1942 for the newly created Clubmobile service, she left for England and, although the service ended in 1945, she didn’t return back to the states until 1946. Personally, I had never heard of the clubmobile when I began writing the novel in 2013, but as research goes when putting together a saga such as AMF, you follow the lead-and it led me to WWII’s “Doughgirls”. In the following Korean and Vietnam wars, they’d come to be further loved and known as Donut Dollies.

Sitting in that hot canvas tent this past Memorial Day, I thought of Lillian and the other two girls driving their “club on wheels” ―a 2 ½ ton truck―from, at first, airfields and docks in Great Britain, and then four days after D-Day, they began their trek with the troops across Europe. These ARC clubmobilers also served along the very dangerous India/China/Burma front. Wherever the boys were, so were the doughgirls. They traveled behind and received their assignments from the army, serving the troops resting from battle at the frontlines. I could reenact this, I thought. I want to. I have to. If I had lived then, I would have done it! All I need now is a truck, a uniform, and all the qualities those girls had. Bravery being the first and foremost.

“The clubmobile consisted of a good-sized kitchen with a built-in doughnut machine. A primus stove was installed for heating water for coffee, which was prepared in 50-cup urns. On one side of the kitchen area, there was a counter and a large flap which opened out for serving coffee and doughnuts. In the back one-third of the clubmobile, was a lounge with a built-in bench on either side (which could be converted to sleeping bunks, if necessary), a victrola with loud speakers, a large selection of up-to- date music records, and paperback books.” – Official website clubmobiles.org

“The clubmobile consisted of a good-sized kitchen with a built-in doughnut machine. A primus stove was installed for heating water for coffee, which was prepared in 50-cup urns. On one side of the kitchen area, there was a counter and a large flap which opened out for serving coffee and doughnuts. In the back one-third of the clubmobile, was a lounge with a built-in bench on either side (which could be converted to sleeping bunks, if necessary), a victrola with loud speakers, a large selection of up-to- date music records, and paperback books.” – Official website clubmobiles.org

Although the concept of bringing doughnuts to the boys in battle began with the Salvation Army during WWI, in 1942, pretty girls between 25 and 35 years of age, trained with the American Red Cross. In Washington, DC they learned to dance, play poker, shoot the breeze, and make coffee and doughnuts―from a truck. What they couldn’t prepare for was the reality of war when fliers landed, returning from a mission. Nor could these American girls ready themselves for the tears―and yes there were tears―when battle-weary GIs saw in them SO MUCH MORE than just “a” woman from back home. To them, they were home; they represented the girl next door, their sisters, their sweethearts who they missed. The cigarettes and magazines, the music and candy were life savers, but the smiles and compassion, the attentive ears, laughter, and the dances were soul savers. These trailblazing clubmobiler girls were so much more than ARC volunteers offering hot coffee and doughnuts. Everything from the truck was free, but the shoulder she offered was priceless. Resting upon that shoulder was the power to restore the man and his humanity, particularly when the clubmobile was there at POW camp liberations.

Clubmobile Airfield

Finally recognized by the United States Senate in 2012 for their self-sacrifice and morale boosting efforts, these girls, oftentimes slept in the truck. They wore special field uniforms and if attached to an artillery unit, withstood the shelling. They also endured their own hardships, the homesickness and the heavy hearts they carried into their solitude after a long day of service to our fighting boys.

So, two weeks ago, after pondering these heroes, I told my husband to reach out to a few of his military vehicle collector friends and put out the word: find my wife either a truck we can convert or an actual clubmobile. Of course, I said it tongue and cheek, but he does have such a friend with big, deep pockets who loves this stuff. The guy even has three or four WWII tanks! What’s a little ole’ GMC 2-ton truck for a modern girl wearing a snood?

It’s my dream to be AMF’s Lillian Renner attached to the 1 st Infantry Division, attending reenactments and selling doughnuts to visitors. All proceeds would go to The Honor Flight or another worthy veteran cause. I’d have a uniform specially made and tell the stories of heroic girls such as Captain Elizabeth Richardson (see book: Slinging Doughnuts for the Boys) and tales such as this former volunteer:

I absolutely adored learning about this little-known piece of ARC history, and I’m delighted that Serena has given me an opportunity to tell you about these brave women who served during all the wars. Thank you!

Thanks, Cat, for the wonderful guest post! Readers, that’s not all, enter to win some swag below!

Check out her blog tour:

 

Giveaway!

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For domestic entries, I’d like to offer a special swag giveaway, which represents key themes within A Moment Forever.

  • An e-book A Moment Forever
  • Glass blown swans statue
  • Bath and Body Works gardenia hand cream
  • Bath and Body Works gardenia scented candle
  • A Moment Forever bookmarkDSC03877

Don’t think we forgot our international commenters!  You’ll be entered to win an ebook of A Moment Forever!

DEADLINE June 30, 2016.

GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED

  • Darla

    I know this lovely post & contest was a while ago, but was the winner announced on the blog?

  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

    Wow, I’ve never heard of the Clubmobilers. How fantastic! I find the WWII reenactments fascinating as well!

    • I was so fascinated by this post.

    • The Clubmobilers were new to me as well, Anna. At our local museum there was small display from the ARC Donut Dollies of Vietnam and it got me thinking about the brave ladies. I recalled something from the TV show China Beach, too. Remember that show? I started my research and knew I had to include it in my book.

      • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

        I remember the show, but I never watched it. You’ve made me so excited to read AMF!

  • Dung Vu

    Love all the history lessons! I still think about the characters from AMF occasionally especially Ducky & Pistols romance and all there heartache during the war. Thanks for making learning about our history so much fun Cat!

    • Aw, shucks! You are welcome. I love details and I’m happy to hear you do to. Thank you, Dung for being one of the Sisterhood of the Swan. Hugs, Cat

  • Silvia F

    This is such a great post! It does well to remind me to appreciate all the things i have in my daily life. My family is from Germany and many still live there so I got a very unique view on this part of history. My fathers side of the family is actually from East Germany and escaped before the wall went up. I often think had they not escaped I would not be here today living in America .

    • What a lovely comment, Silvia! Thank you for sharing. It would be incredible if you could write their story of escape. These personal memoirs teach history to the next generation. The stories of emigration alone are profound and fascinate me. What was the driving force to their long journey? How did they survive and flourish in a new country are stories that should be shared. Best of luck in the giveaway!

  • Darla

    Awesome book and facts

    • Thank you, Darla!!

    • Darla

      Forgot to say I’m US 🙂

  • Maria

    Despite the tragedy they faced, sometimes I think that the people who lived during those terrible years had some great values that today are lost. We are discouraged by silly things while they had nothing and yet hoped for a beautiful future. Thanks for this post!

    I’m international.

    • Hi Maria! I was at a military museum yesterday for a special event, sitting surrounded by images of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Newsreel footage played on a large screen – and I read your incredible comment. On the heels of the Great Depression, brave men and women answered the call for even more sacrifice. The greatest being their lives. Your reflection sums it up beautifully. Thank you. Good luck in the giveaway!

  • Suko

    Wonderful guest post! How interesting that the author and her husband are WWII reenactors. Thank you for hosting this giveaway, Serena!

    • Thank you so much, Suko! We have such a blast and I love how the public is so interested and asks questions. Good luck in the giveaway and thank you for your comment!

  • anne

    Thanks for this captivating and fascinating post which I loved. A topic near and dear to my heart and my favorite era of all for novels, movies, styles but most of all because it was so important, profound, meaningful and filled with integrity and courage. The values which make our lives worthwhile. Wonderful giveaway which I adore.

    • What a lovely comment, Anne! Thank you. You list the exact reasons why I love this era. There is so much to learn, so many to honor. I adore everything from the sweetheart back home to the quickie wedding. The bravery of men and women alike. I try to keep it real though in my stories. The ugly is there beside the beautiful. Best of luck in the giveaway. The gardenia and swans are significant themes in the novel.

  • Vesper Meikle

    I’m with Pricilla concerning the giveaway but still would love the ebook

  • Pricilla T

    I sometimes wish I lived in the USA just to win one of Cat’s glorious giveaway packs.