Meet Laurell Galindo.
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Hi Laurell! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
I was raised in Meridian, Texas, and graduated from Meridian I.S.D. in 2003. In 2004, I enlisted in the United States Army Reserve to serve as a Public Affairs Broadcast Specialist. I was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2005 to 2006. There, I completed multiple missions to create broadcast news stories and anchored the Baghdad based program, Freedom Journal Iraq for the American Forces Network. I separated honorably in 2012. I was prompted to write VET-ONATION because of a personal goal I’d set for myself. In May 2016, I began writing. I wrote several chapters but had to put the book on hold due to my late husband’s illness. He passed away on April 1, 2017. Afterward, I took some time to re-evaluate my life moving forward as a widow and single mother of three. Then I took a deep breath and recommenced writing. I did not want to write a book about war. It has been done. I’ve read several. In my opinion, war should never be glorified. In many of these types of novels, it is. War is a misogynistic and challenging endeavor. War changes a person dramatically. I wanted to address the internal aspect of war, but more specifically, military sexual trauma. I wanted to provide a narrative women could relate to in VET-ONATION.
How did you feel while writing your first broadcast?
One of my first broadcast stories was about the Iraqi referendum which took place on October 15, 2005. The threat of terrorist attacks did not phase the Iraqi people. They took advantage of the historic political process by voting in record numbers. At that time, approximately 15.6 million of Iraq’s 26 million people were eligible to vote. On that day, election officials confirmed as many as 65% of those people made their way to polling stations throughout Iraq, surpassing the 58% recorded in the previous January elections. The high voter turnout caused several polling stations to run out of ballots. Iraqi police and election officials rushed to re-supply these stations so voting could continue. It was an amazing day to witness and document. The Iraqi people made a great stride toward democracy. Their determination to vote showed they were open to a new way of combating violence and political problems in Iraq. It truly was an honor to be able to cover this historic event.
Was there a story at any point in your life that really struck you; that then you needed to tell people about?
A story that I was fortunate to be a part of and like to share is that of the Ibn Sina Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq. This hospital took Yugoslavian architects and Iraqi engineers nearly two years to build. In 1964 the hospital opened, meeting Iraq’s need for a medical facility in Baghdad. The aim of the founders was to provide a hospital giving the highest standards of medical care and attention to its patients.
During his reign, Saddam Hussein took over the hospital using it as his own private medical facility for his family and the Baath Party elite shutting it off to the Iraqi people. After the U.S. invasion, the hospital became the referral hospital providing medical care to the majority of U.S. Troops, Coalition Forces, and resuming care of the Iraqi people.
Dr. Kadhim Shubber was one of the founders of this facility. I was able to document the day his children, Anisah Shubber and Dr. Jawad Shubber, toured the hospital for the first time in many years. Their visit brought back many memories which they shared as they posed to take pictures in front of their father’s old office. It was touching to see how proud they were to see their father’s hospital. Dr. Jawad Shubber shared that he was very proud of his father’s legacy and added it was a privilege to tour the hospital and to see the work of the U.S. forces in its mission to restore the facility. He added that he felt his father’s hospital was in good hands. I was privileged to be a part of many different stories. While some were happy occasions, others were somber ones. I feel blessed every day to have gotten to experience as many stories as I did.
Are there any characters or scenes in VET-ONATION that are influenced by real life experiences?
A scene that is influenced by a real-life experience is that of the sexual assault in chapter seven. I am a survivor of a military sexual trauma (M.S.T.) which took place in Baghdad, Iraq. I chose to remain a silent survivor for many years due to shame much to the dismay of my sanity. That choice almost destroyed me. Even after I disclosed the event through the proper channels, this information was on a need to know basis as far as I was concerned. I then wrote a book which discussed sexual assault. Unfortunately, I erroneously thought I would be able to skirt the issue and not address my own experience with inquiring minds. I was wrong. It’s difficult to talk about something you’ve kept a secret for so long.
Since VET-ONATION’s release, I have had a lot of tough, anxiety-inducing, emotionally exhausting conversations. I’m still working through the lasting effects of M.S.T. within myself. I hope others who have been affected by sexual assault will read VET-ONATION and be inspired to continue working on their recovery as well.
What is your writing process?
My writing process isn’t too technical. I start by contemplating the topic I’d like to write about. Then I work on a general outline. I try to have at least five main points I’d like to cover within each chapter but keep these general as to allow the characters to grow and change through a natural progression. I don’t give myself deadlines because I don’t want my writing to read like it’s forced. The most important thing is to start writing. The first draft is not going to be great, but at least it’s out of your head and on paper. I never write hungry. I don’t beat myself up over writer’s block. I am patient with my characters and myself. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how VET-ONATION would end until the morning I sat down and wrote the last chapter. It had been two months since I’d written anything. I needed to give myself and my character, Lauren, time to decide what was best for her. It came to me unexpectedly, and I knew without a doubt it was exactly how the book should end. When I read the ending now, I’m so glad I gave myself time.
From VET-ONATION, what is the main thing you want readers to take away from the novel?
Although the protagonist, Lauren Mayer, is a veteran, she’s still just an average woman struggling with her journey. She faces many tests along the way. While she doesn’t navigate them all well, she’s determined to confront her failures and overcome her obstacles. Her life is a tangled mess of romance, sweet memories, painful moments, and regrets. Lauren’s strength demonstrates what’s possible when we shine a light on our demons and embrace the changes in ourselves.
VET-ONATION is a fictional story. I wrote it with the hope that the protagonist would resonate with any woman who has struggled with a life-changing event and difficult circumstances. It is a book that is close to my heart.
What to you makes a strong storyline?
A strong storyline is made through storytelling and creating believable characters whom the reader truly cares for.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
VET-ONATION, which is derived from Veteran’s Detonation, talks about relationships, service in Iraq, military sexual trauma, mental health, and recovery from a female veteran’s perspective. VET-ONATION is an excellent book for female Veterans or any women who has struggled with aspects of service and life following this type of traumatic event, including addressing sexual assault and mental health.