Irene Onorato’s Veteran’s Heart series celebrates the bravery and spirit of our Armed forces. Coupled with uplifting and inspirational messages, Irene writes sweet love stories born out of the reality of soldiers returning home, adjusting to life stateside and eventually to civilian life. Irene herself was briefly a military spouse, having married a Vietnam veteran, to whom she is still happily married to this day. In A Soldier’s Song, Special Forces sergeant Jason Dexter finds himself facing an unusual dilemma when a chance encounter with his CO’s daughter leads to unexpected sparks….
An excerpt from A Soldier’s Song by Irene Onorato
“I can’t do it, Mom. I know you want me to stay, but there’s just no way.” Sergeant Jason Dexter tossed his bag on the back seat of his rental car, laid the garment bag containing his tux across it, and closed the door. “I should’ve known nothing would change between me and Dad.”
“Jason, please don’t leave.” His mother’s tears broke his heart.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I hate that it has to be this way, but there’s only so much I can take of Dad’s uppity, condescending remarks about my job.” Remarks that had begun not more than an hour after he walked through the front door of his parents’ house. “I’m a Spec Ops soldier. It’s what I do. And I’m damn good at it. If he can’t accept that, so be it.”
“Please reconsider. This friction between you and your father has to stop.”
“I’m not the one who’s throwing gas on the fire with inflammatory digs and jabs.” He kissed his mother’s cheek and gave her a hug. “I called Pop. He said I was more than welcome to stay with him for the next few days while I’m in town for Hank and Cindy’s wedding. I’ll go over there tonight, after the reception.”
“All right, then.” Mom’s warm hand stroked his wind-chilled cheek. “Tell your grandfather I said hello. I love you, son.”
“Love you too. You’d better go inside. It’s too cold to be out here without your coat.”
“Bye, sweetheart.” Eyes brimming with tears, she smiled sadly and hurried into the house.
He got in the car, drove around the circular driveway, and pulled onto the road. The guys would be at the church in half an hour to hang out for a while before the ceremony. All of them soldiers, except for Hank who’d been medically discharged, their camaraderie would soothe the mental wounds his father inflicted. He passed through Poughkeepsie, crossed over the river on the Mid-Hudson Bridge to the east side, and headed their way.
Just once in his life, he’d like to hear his dad say he was proud of him. Pfft. Fat chance of that ever happening.
He turned on the radio and cranked up the volume. Tonight, he’d enjoy his buddy’s wedding, find a pretty girl or two to dance with, and have fun.
* * * *
Aria Greco put on her blinker, passed a rusty old beater, and merged back into the right-hand lane. The GPS on the dash estimated her arrival at the wedding chapel in twenty-two minutes. The speedometer edged toward the right, reflecting her excitement. She slowed to the speed limit.
Now twenty-three, she’d been an army brat all her life but had never met any of the guys under her father, Major Greco’s, command. The mysterious men of his Spec Ops unit piqued her curiosity for more than purely patriotic reasons.
Because of the stories her dad told, she could recite the names of his current team members. But their faces remained blurred images wedged between tactical helmets and battle-dress uniforms in the fertile playground of her mind. Tonight, she would get to meet some of them.
Her father’s muffled ringtone played from the confines of her purse on the passenger seat. Without taking her eyes off the road, she plucked her smartphone out of a zippered compartment. “Hey, Dad. What’s up?”
“I just checked the traffic report and saw there was an accident on the Tappan Zee Bridge. Figured I’d call and see if you got caught up in the jam.”
“Nope. Must have happened after I crossed over. I’m about twenty minutes from the church. Chapel. Whatever. I’m running low on gas, so I’ll have to stop and fill up, but I’ll still be plenty early to run through the music a few times before the wedding.”
“That’s another thing I wanted to talk to you about. After I asked you to play the piano for Hank and Cindy’s wedding, I realized I’d probably ruined your whole weekend in the city with your friend. Maybe I should have thought it through and just let them use canned music.”
“You didn’t ruin anything, Dad. Libby and I played for a snazzy penthouse dinner party last night, got back to her apartment late, and stayed up talking into the wee hours. We enjoyed ourselves. Plus, Libby scratches out a living with her violin, just like I do with the piano, so she understands how gigs can pop up on the spur of the moment. Please, don’t give it another thought.
“Besides, I’m honored that you asked. Especially since I’d be playing for a wounded warrior and his bride. Oh, here’s a gas station. I’m pulling in now. Talk to you in a little while.”
Aria traded goodbyes with her father, got out, and pumped gas.
The invitation to play hadn’t inconvenienced her in the least. She didn’t even have to stop at home on the other side of the Hudson to get something to wear. The dress she’d worn for last night’s dinner party would be perfect for the wedding.
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About Irene Onorato
Irene Onorato was born and raised in Bronx, New York. Her father, a first-generation American whose parents were born in Italy, was an Army veteran who had served with the 178th combat engineers during WWII. He told numerous stories of battles, hardships, tragedies and triumphs. The glimpses he gave into the hearts of many American warriors would later become the inspiration for much of Irene’s writings.
In 1972, a few months after graduating high school, Irene met James Onorato, a soldier who had just returned from Vietnam. After dating two weeks, they married, raised three children, and are still happily married today.
Irene and James, both radiation protection technicians, retired from the nuclear power industry in 2014 and now reside in Louisiana. Readers can visit Irene’s website at ireneonorato.com, and find her on Facebook.