It’s a balancing act between liberation and vulnerability for military spouse notes author Danielle Daniel who recently published her new book, The Dependent. The book chronicles Daniel’s life as a military spouse and the impact of the parachuting accident that left her husband paralyzed.
Steve Daniel served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 14 years as a paratrooper, based out of Garrison Petawawa throughout his career. He served two tours in Bosnia, a tour in Croatia and Afghanistan. Gone for nearly half a year at a time, Daniel kept busy, while her husband was away, with her work as a school teacher.
On June 30, 2005, as she wrapped up the school year for the summer holidays, she received a call at school from the military.
“I knew, of course, that something was wrong. You never get a phone call if it’s a good thing.
“That changed everything,” said Daniel.
Steve had been in a parachuting accident while training at CFB Trenton that would leave him paralyzed.
While the family was in Ottawa for three months for Steve’s rehab, Daniel recalls visiting bookstores and libraries, trying to find any sort of material on life in the CAF to find solace in.
“I remember feeling so isolated,” recalled Daniel.
The couple had lived two lives, says Daniel, and the challenges of this new life led her to journal and write as a way to channel her grief and feelings, something she had always done while her husband was on tour.
“At first I thought it was something I needed to do for myself,” remembered Daniel.
She started putting pen to paper in 2008, but it would be years before she started shaping it into a story for publication. In 2012, Daniel entered a story in the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and was accepted. It was here that she met her mentor, Canadian author Merilyn Simmonds, who encouraged her to take her life experiences and turn them into a memoir.
Piecing all her memories together to create a story was emotional, a healing process and almost a cathartic experience.
“It was so painful to go back and sit in the space where the pain just felt so real. I struggled to go back there, but for some reason, I was compelled to keep going and to finish,” noted Daniel.
However, through her self-described cathartic experience, Daniel was able to create a piece of art to share with others. Even the cover of the book holds meaning, splashed with the images of letters the couple wrote to each other during their separation and a picture of a couple, the man wearing Steve’s paratrooper uniform.
“I don’t paint us as perfect people in this book. We are deeply flawed, broken and really trying to do the best that we can. I think it just goes to show how far we’ve come as individuals as well that we both feel like. We are no longer these people in the book, but we had to be these people in order to be who we are today,” stated Daniel.
Through flashbacks and interconnected stories, The Dependent tells the tale of a military spouse’s life: deployments, separation, reintegration.
“It’s not just this romantic reunion that the media has portrayed. There’s a lot more layers there, and I thought somebody needs to start telling the truth about what it’s really like,” observed Daniel.
She then takes the readers on a journey through the ups and downs of the aftermath of the accident, a raw description of the impact it had on her marriage and how it changed the couple’s lives forever.
It was not easy baring her soul and to have people know intimate details of her life, however, she’s received nothing but support from her husband, who gave her his blessing after reading a final version of the story.
“If anything, he asked me not to remove things but to include them,” noted Daniel.
On Sept. 30 the book was launched, and after working on it for years, Daniel had finally let her story go.
“I think about all the people who have gone before me and told their stories so bravely and how I’ve benefited from other people sharing their stories with me. And I really feel like that’s what we are all here to do. I think we are here, to tell the truth, and share it with others and try to help each other along the way. If this book can help one person that would be wonderful,” said Daniel.
To order your copy of The Dependent visit the Latitude Publishing website.