November 11, 2021

On Veterans Day, Darkhorse Press honors our veterans

Therese Apel

Matt Apel, Mary and Therese's cousin, serving in the Army overseas.

Nicole McCardle

Nicole at her wedding, and her stepfather, the late Mike Hanley, USMC (Ret.)

A lot of people grow up knowing someone who served in the United States military. Having parents that immigrated from Europe, I was not familiar with the concept of ‘serving your country’ until later in life.

My first memory was when I was in 4th grade I met my best friend, Tyler-Marie. Both of her parents had been in the military, with her dad still serving. He loved to instill respect of time and property by waking us up via cowbell, and making sure we made the bed with the covers tucked in. I still remember his first deployment, and what a hard time that was for Tyler- Marie and her family. We had Skype at the time, so they were able to talk to him every once in a while; but it was not the same as having him there. I want to thank Mr. Ken and Ms. Patty for their service.

My own personal experience with someone in the military was when my mom met my step dad, Mike. I was 18 years old, and had already moved out of the house when he moved in. He was a retired Marine, and he looked like it. Towering, large, intimidating. But he loved us like we were his own kids. He went to the ends of the word for us, and made sure NOBODY ever messed with us.
He loved fishing, hiking, and pranks. But the thing he loved the most was us, his family.

Mike Hanley, USMC


He rarely spoke of his time as a marine, but we know it had a huge impact on him. He served in the Persian  Gulf and was awarded the Rifle Expert Badge 2nd award, Pistol Expert Badge, and Good Conduct 2nd award.

Mike passed away almost three years ago, and was led to his final resting place at the Biloxi National Cemetery by a group of wonderful people who dedicate their time to honor and pay respect to veterans: The Patriot Guard Riders.

For a person whose life didn’t start out surrounded by veterans or military members, it sure had changed a lot since then. I’m proud to work for Darkhorse Press, and being able to tell the stories of people that are actually out there making sacrifices. May we all remember those who served on this day of remembrance. Veterans Day is a day to honor all those who have made and still make sacrifices for our country. We thank you today, and every day.

Therese Apel

On Veterans Day every year, we use words like”hero,” and “courage,” and “sacrifice.” While they are accurate and relevant, I don’t believe most of us civilians will ever really understand the depths and colors and levels that each of those words has to someone who has seen combat. Whether he or she dies for our country or not, every soldier sent into battle loses his life as he knew it. No one comes home unchanged, and they do that so we don’t ever have to know what that is like.
Matt Apel, Mary and Therese’s cousin, serving in the Army over.

A few years ago, someone tried to tell me me there shouldn’t be such a thing as a veterans’ discount. “They aren’t special,” she said. “They knew what they were signing up for.”

At first I was infuriated. Then it dawned on me: She’s just never been to that hell, and she’s never loved someone who has.

She’s never watched his eyes go to a far away place when she talks about losing someone she loves because he’s thinking of the guys he called brothers blown away in front of his face. She’s never been awakened in the middle of the night by HIS nightmares. She’s never heard him sob through a drunken haze neither of them would ever admit to being there for that he’s nobody now because he’s a has-been — in his head, he’s no longer a part of anything that matters because THAT was a higher calling, and now he just has a desk job.

She’s never had to think, “No wonder he can’t make small talk. NOTHING will ever matter as much as what’s going on in his head every day.”

She doesn’t know what it’s like to think about death as much as you think about life. She’s never had her heart smashed by a hero who is so broken that he can’t even make normal life and regular relationships make sense anymore. She’s never had to worry that this time he’s telling her how useless he feels it might be the last time she hears his voice.

She’s never had to worry about whether he’s coming back from a deployment. The guys that she dates have problems like car troubles and mean bosses and “Where am I going to find another reasonably-priced suit?” Not death, and war, and enemies that blend in with the rest of society, ones that are born with one mission: to kill them.

Dr. Otto F. Apel serving as one of the original MASH doctors in Korea.

On the other hand, I’m sorry for her, because that also means she’s probably never known what its like to look into those eyes and see what courage looks like, and it’s not just the courage of the battle, it’s the courage to live life after it’s over.

To the girl who said that: No, they didn’t know what they were signing up for, any more than you know what they signed up for. They knew the principle of it, but they live the reality, and it’s deeper and louder and much more intrusive than anything you will ever know. And it means more. It means more to them, it means more to me, and in a way you will obviously never understand, it means more to you.

Thank you is not enough of a word, Warfighters. We owe you more than we’ll ever be able to even understand, much less repay.

My grandfather, Otto Apel, was one of the original MASH doctors in Korea. He didn’t talk about it or tell his stories until close to the end of his life, when he finally opened up to my dad, Pat Apel. They wrote a book together, and it has some of the most poignant stories you’ll read about wartime experiences. My dad is a veteran too, as is my brother, my grandfather on my mother’s side, my cousin Matt, and so, so many friends that I love and admire because of their willingness to lay down their lives for mine.
A 10-year-old Therese in a terribly embarrasing photo with her Dad, Pat Apel, who served in the US Army.

Dealing with police, fire, and emergency medicine, I work every day around heroes and rescuers and people who know the real meaning of sacrifice. So many of them are veterans. Many of them have changed my life.

To every veteran I know and to all those I never will on this and every day, thank you. We have holidays like this because we will never truly be able to thank or repay you. God bless America and her selfless heroes.
“But within the willingness to die for family and home, something inside us longs for someone to die beside. Someone to lock step with, another with a heart like our own.”  – Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, NAVY SEAL, Killed in Action

Share this Article


Related Articles