By Don Helin
After graduation from college, I entered the military, serving in Vietnam and other overseas tours as well as stateside assignments, including eight years in the Pentagon. The time in the Pentagon provided me ample material for my thrillers.
When I began writing fiction, it was natural, with my military background, to feature a military protagonist. My first thriller, Thy Kingdom Come, found my hero, an army colonel, fighting white supremacists. In the second, Devil’s Den, my hero was faced with the possibility of ghosts in Gettysburg as well as a struggle with the Irish Mafia. In the third novel, Secret Assault, my protagonist dealt with antagonists driven to right wrongs from a past war.
As I developed a theme for my next novel, I happened upon an article in the paper about sexual abuse against females in the military. My research showed the problem to be far worse than I had originally thought, and it also seemed to be growing.
For any young soldier, enemy attacks like those which occurred in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been stressful. However, I read one soldier’s story that she didn’t feel respected by the men around her. She was definitely considered the weaker gender, and the men in her unit had no problem telling her that.
When another female soldier returned home from Iraq, she said she didn’t realize how much things had changed. She came home to a stack of boxes and an almost 3-year-old who didn’t know her anymore. Her son couldn’t understand his mother’s disappearance and developed self-destructive tantrums and other behavioral problems. Not only is sexual abuse a problem, but statistically, the marriages of women enlistees are more than twice as likely as men’s to crumble.
In summary, over 20 percent of female VA patients who served in Iraq or Afghanistan reported sexual assault or repeated threatening sexual harassment that had occurred during their military service. By 2040, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that women will comprise almost 18 percent of all veterans. Therefore, it appears the effects from this problem will be with us for a long time.
My concerns led me to think about and finally write a novel bringing to light the harassment and abuse female soldiers might face in the military, and what one group decided to do about it. The story opens when a military officer has been found murdered, branded with the words Dark Angel, castrated, then dumped on a beach in New Jersey.
While my protagonist, Colonel Zack Kelly, investigates the murder, he discovers a plot to hack into the Pentagon’s data base and steal classified material on the military drone program. Next a Predator drone turns up missing. Zack follows a trail of dismembered bodies from explosions at military installations, all the time seeking to determine the potential target for the drone.
My hope is that all who read ANGEL’S REVENGE will realize the price many of our young women are paying to serve in the military. I believe this is a problem that permeates our society whether it be on Wall Street or in our colleges. It’s time to stamp this out. Our daughters deserve better.
Using his experience from the military, including eight years in the Pentagon, Don Helin published his first thriller, Thy Kingdom Come, in 2009. His second, Devil’s Den, was selected as a finalist in the 2013 Indie Book Awards. His latest thriller, Secret Assault was selected as the best Suspense/Thriller at the 2015 Indie Book Awards. Don is an active member of International Thriller Writers, Military Writers Society of America, Pennwriters, a state-wide writers group in Pennsylvania, and a mentor with the Mystery Writers of America. He makes his home in central Pennsylvania where he is hard at work on his next thriller, Long Walk Home.
To learn more about Don, please visit his website.