Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Honor Was Mine by Elizabeth Heaney

On this day of remembrance, I thought it was fitting to welcome author Elizabeth Heaney to Thoughts in Progress to talk about her recent release, THE HONOR WAS MINE.

Elizabeth's nonfiction release, THE HONOR WAS MINE, tells the human stories she heard from service members when she served as a civilian counselor in the first program offering anonymous professional services to soldiers. The book starts with her adventures as a neophyte learning to provide clinical services in a military culture roughly as easy to navigate as the wilds of Borneo and follows her development into a seasoned counselor who knows how to seize on every subtle hint that a soldier may be struggling and willing to ask for help.

THE HONOR WAS MINE offers the reader a unique, compassionate window into the world of veterans and their families readjusting to life back home, and brings a counselor's equanimity to topics too often explored in strident tones. Elizabeth's neutral presentation of what she heard and learned from our servicemen and women makes us want to hug our children--and our neighbors--in recognition of our common humanity.

A therapist’s journey to heal the invisible wounds of America’s warriors...
When therapist Elizabeth Heaney left her private practice to counsel military service members and their spouses, she came face-to-face with unheard-of struggles and fears. The Honor Was Mine reveals the emotions running deeply—and often silently—in the hearts of combat veterans and their loved ones.
Presenting the soldiers’ stories—told in their own words—as well as her own story of change, Heaney offers readers an intimate perspective, not of war itself but of its emotional aftermath. Some of these stories scrape the bone; others are hopeful, even comical. Every one reveals the sacrifices of those on the front lines and the courage, grace, and honor with which they serve and struggle to truly come home.
For those unfamiliar with the military, this is an eye-opening portrait of the complex, nuanced lives of service personnel, who return from battle only to grapple with the fallout of war while readjusting to civilian life. For veterans and their families, the stories validate the sacrifices and honor of military service. For those who support veterans (doctors, social workers, caregivers and support staff), the book stands as a powerful resource.

Release: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Grand Harbor Press
ISBN: 978-1-50393-574-7
Price: $14.95
Kindle Price:  $3.99
Pages: 283
Distribution: Amazon/Ingram  
eBook Distribution: Kindle, Nook

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Elizabeth as she tells us a little more about what her book is all about. Welcome, Elizabeth.
          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.

Because of the counseling I was doing on bases, I had a view into military life that felt rare – and important. Combat veterans (and their spouses) were talking to me about their most crucial concerns, their most vulnerable struggles. I felt those exact same concerns were the ones that civilians often didn’t know about or didn’t understand. The general public hears a lot about veteran homelessness or PTSD or suicide, but they don’t often get to hear the personal stories, and I believe those have much greater impact than hearing about ‘issues.’ I imagined the warriors’ stories could help bridge the divide between military and civilians, could ‘translate’ some of their experiences – and sharing my own process of change might help others come to understand this part of our American culture.
I also felt compelled to write it because of the sheer emotional impact of the stories I was hearing from veterans. In order to sustain the work I was doing, I needed an avenue for processing what I was hearing because the next day I was going to hear more remarkable, heart-wrenching stories. Writing helped me make room for the next stories, helped me honor what I was hearing; writing the book is my way of standing with veterans I encountered and saying, “I hear you, I see you, I will to listen to what you’ve been through, and I will not turn away.”
It would be easy to imagine the book is pro-military, but it’s actually presented in a very neutral manner. The reader gets dropped into conversations and situations – and can make their own opinions about what they come to know.

I hope civilian readers will gain a much deeper grasp of what it takes to serve in our military, the dedication and commitment, the rewards and costs. Perhaps they’ll also gain a better sense of the great divide between war and home, and they’ll understand how terrifically difficult it is for veterans to navigate that chasm. I hope readers will gain inspiration for reaching out to our combat veterans, discovering new ways to engage, listen to and support those who have served.
I hope the book offers military readers validation, recognition and a sense of being honored for the complexity they bear in the job they do. I also hope they feel seen and heard – as a therapist, I know how healing that can be.
And I hope some of my readers will be those who serve the military in civilian roles: doctors, nurses, social workers, etc. – for them, I hope the book offers new insight into those they care for.

Elizabeth, thank so much for joining us today and sharing this insight into your book. Servicemen and woman need our appreciation, help and understand and hopefully your book will help us to better recognize and work together.

Author Elizabeth Heaney
Elizabeth Heaney, MA, had been a therapist for nearly 30 years before she began counseling military personnel. During her years on military bases, she spoke with thousands of soldiers and spouses; she talked with privates and commanders, infantrymen and engineers, soldiers fresh out of boot camp and weary warriors who’d been deployed numerous times.

Her stories are infused with a remarkable freshness, an outsider’s ongoing discovery of the military world’s values and honor, rules and norms, reticence and heart.

For more on Elizabeth and her writing, visit her website.

Thanks so much for stopping by today during Elizabeth’s visit. Today is a day of remembering those who lost their lives and those who sacrificed their lives. In addition, remember those who dedicate their lives to protecting us each and every day both at home and abroad. Do you know someone who has or is suffering from PTSD? Do you have suggestions for showing support to those who serve in the military?  


  1. Thank you Elizabeth. Sadly this work is essential, and has been let slip for too long in too many countries.

  2. What important work, and what a fascinating insight. Thanks very much, both.

  3. What a powerful book. My father is a veteran and the military life is so different than civilian life because of what they do and see. (Another reason so many struggle when they retire and become civilians.)
    She the military support by honoring and respecting them.

  4. American warriors LOL, more like American terrorists and invaders

  5. Those in the military tend to be "tough," which means less likely to open up. Elizabeth performed a miracle to reach those people.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.