Editor’s note: Enjoy this excerpt from SOFREP author Kevin Wilson’s book, Sully’s Squad. The book will be published on May 25, 2020. The main characters of Sully’s Squad are rooted locally to upstate New York and the novel is partially based and dedicated to a local war hero. Sully’s Squad is not only a WWII epic, but also a moving coming-of-age tale, told through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old Arty, who lies about his age to enlist. The story is poignant and sensitive in terms of describing battlefield deaths, shellshock and the emotions that surround them along with the impact on those families back home.

I’d been prepared to enlist—since December 7, 1941, to be exact. Dad and I had just returned home with a six-foot evergreen whose fragrance filled the home, competing with the sweet smell of my mom’s sugar cookies. I stuck a pine needle between my lower front teeth; it was sharp and pleasantly spicy. Dad set the stand in the far corner of our living room and I held the tree upright while he tightened the screws against the trunk.

My parents’ favorite Sunday afternoon show, “Sammy Kaye’s Sunday Serenade,” played on the dining room radio while Suzanne, Catherine, Dad and I began trimming the tree. Mom was busy baking in the kitchen. I stepped outside onto the back porch to gather a few extra logs for the woodstove. A stronger wind had replaced the brisk morning air and dark blue clouds covered the sun. It felt like snow. I shivered with cold and excitement. Maybe tomorrow would be a snow day!

Back inside, Dad checked on the wood stove and returned to the tree. “Arthur can you grab…” He stopped mid-sentence and focused on the radio.

We interrupt this program to give you a special news bulletin,” a journalist announced. Mom joined us in the living room as he continued. “The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii by air… thee attack was also made on all naval and military activities in the principal Hawaiian island of Oahu… A Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor would naturally mean war. Such an
attack would naturally bring a counter-attack and hostilities of this kind would mean that the President would ask Congress for a Declaration of War… We return you now to your regularly scheduled program and will give you more information as it comes along from the White House.

Dad turned off the radio, pulled out his pipe and slammed the back door on his way out. The words “declaration of war” lingered in the air. I felt as if I stood in cement. It was as if time had suspended itself and we were all statues. Mom sat down on the couch and began to pray quietly. The next day in school we listened to President Roosevelt declare war on Japan. A feeling of anger came over me as he described the attack; so many lives were lost. I could feel my body become stiff as I clenched my hands and jaw. By the end of the week, Germany also declared war on the United States.

In the days to come, all everyone talked about was the attack. Dinner conversations centered around who enlisted. My friends and I talked less about sports and more about strategies for enlisting early. For a while, our daily basketball games were replaced with watching activity around the military recruitment offices on South Broadway. We were just shy of sixteen. This was going to present a problem. Then my friend, Billy, learned about a guy forging free fake ID’s for anyone who wanted to enlist before the age of 18. The following Saturday afternoon a bunch of us went to the pool hall and picked up our fake IDs. None of us, though, had the courage to actually join up. Six months later, I would be the first.

A flag hangs by the door of the recruitment office, waving slowly in the morning breeze, just like the flag that hung off our porch at home. My father worshipped the flag. He knew all the rules around flag maintenance, but I never paid much attention when he rattled them off. More than once I’d wondered why he went to so much trouble for a piece of cloth. But I didn’t feel that way now.