Jeff Edwards was a junior sailor on a guided missile destroyer stationed in Japan when his wife flew back to the States with their toddler son to visit her parents. Military spouses often take advantage of inexpensive space available airlift flights home, but have to stay flexible about when they come and go. “It took her a week to catch a flight to the U.S.,” recalled Edwards. “Then the plane developed mechanical trouble and had to land at an air base in Alaska. My wife and son were stuck in Alaska. This was before internet and cell phones. Setting up an overseas call was extremely difficult and expensive. She finally got in touch with me. She didn’t have enough money for a hotel or regular airfare to get back to Japan. I was running around my division trying to borrow money. My chief heard about it and called me aside and said, ‘Let me introduce you to Navy Relief.’ He took me to the office on base. I sat down and explained the problem and they made a few phone calls. Next thing I know, my wife and son are on a flight back to Japan. The Society rescued my family at a moment when I was panicking.”
Out of gratitude for the Society’s assistance to his family, Edwards donated to NMCRS through the Active Duty Fund Drive for the rest of his 23 years in the Navy. He also spread the word about the Society. “When I was a chief petty officer, I would send my junior sailors to the Society when they had financial problems. Not only did someone help them but they sat down and talked to them about what they could do differently in the future.”
Retired now for 15 years, Edwards is once again giving back to the Society, this time as an author. He’s written six novels, including a military-themed series and a futuristic detective series. His latest book in the Sea Warrior Files, Steel Wind came out in June. Edwards is donating $2 to the Society from the sale of each copy sold between October and December.
“I feel a strong kinship to the Navy, with people who are active duty and retired,” Edwards said. “I belong to several online groups for various ships I’ve served on. And I’m constantly hearing people ask how they can help service members. I always recommend the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society because they rescue families in need.”
Although he had more time to write after he retired, Edwards has always been a writer. “My father grew up during the depression and his father died when he was young. My father was basically working from the time he could walk. He missed out on some of the things we take for granted as part of a happy childhood – like bedtime stories. He had never heard any of the stories most of us grow up listening to. So when I was young, my father made up stories about a bear named Oliver who drank chocolate milk, and a little boy named Charlie who was his best friend. It didn’t occur to me for years that my dad was named Charles Oliver. My dad passed away when I was seven. Not wanting to let the tradition slip away, I started to sit down with my little brother and tell him an Oliver the Bear story, when I suddenly discovered I couldn’t remember how it ended. I realized I was in danger of losing the stories, so I had better write them down. When I was 8 years old, I started writing them down and I’ve been writing ever since.”
Later in life, Edwards studied the principles of novel writing, such as plot, character development, and dialogue. “I realized I could write something good.” His first novel was published in 2004.
Writing military thrillers, Edwards weaves real-life stories with pure imagination – based on his own experiences. “There’s a story in Sea of Shadows called the Goat Boy story that is 100% true. We were doing a search and seizure of a ship in the Persian Gulf. A member of our team was down in the cargo hold and heard something moving around. Something jumped on him in the dark. It turned out he had frightened a goat that was loose down there. It was incredibly tense – followed by incredibly funny.”
When he started writing, Edwards was reluctant to throw himself into the crowded genre of military fiction, until he realized what he could make a unique contribution. “I wanted to write a military thriller in which there’s no Hollywood hero. My books are about collective heroism—ordinary people working together to accomplish extraordinary things. I’m telling the stories of generation after generation of people whose names you never hear but who are keeping you safe every night. They would never use the word hero to describe themselves, but they are heroes.”
Interested in reading Steel Wind? Go to https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DBQRGS9.
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso