Tami and Jolene had even gotten pregnant at the same time, sharing that magical nine months, holding each other's fears in tender hands. Their husbands had nothing in common, so they hadn't become one of those best friends who traveled together with their families, but that was okay with Jolene. What mattered most was that she and Tami were always there for each other. And they were.
I've got your six literally meant that a helicopter was behind you, flying in the six o'clock position. What it really meant was I'm here for you. I've got your back. That was what Jolene had found in the army, and in the Guard, and in Tami. I've got your six.
The Guard had given them the best of both worldsthey got to be full-time moms who still served their country and stayed in the military and flew helicopters. They flew together at least two mornings a week, as well as during their drill weekends. It was the best part-time job on the planet.
Tami climbed into the passenger seat and slammed the door shut. "Happy birthday, flygirl."
"Thanks," Jolene grinned. "My day, my music." She cranked up the volume on the CD player and Prince's "Purple Rain" blared through the speakers.
They talked all the way to Tacoma, about everything and nothing; when they weren't talking, they were singing the songs of their youth Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson. They passed Camp Murray, home to the Guard, and drove onto Camp Lewis, where the Guard's flight facilities were housed.
In the locker room, Jolene retrieved the heavy flight bag full of survival equipment. Slinging it over her shoulder, she followed Tami to the desk, confirmed her additional flight-training period, or AFTP; signed up to be paid; and then headed out to the tarmac, putting on her helmet as she walked.
The crew was already there, readying the Black Hawk for flight. The helicopter looked like a huge bird of prey against the clear blue sky. She nodded to the crew chief, did a quick preflight check of her aircraft, conducted a crew briefing, and then climbed into the left side of the cockpit and took her seat. Tami climbed into the right seat and put on her helmet.
"Overhead switches and circuit breakers, check," she said, powering up the helicopter. The engines roared to life; the huge rotor blades began to move, slowly at first and then rotating fast, with a high-pitched whine.
"Guard ops. Raptor eighty-nine, log us off ," Jolene said into her mic. Then she switched frequencies. "Break, Tower. Raptor eighty-nine, ready for departure."
Jolene began the exquisite balancing act it took to get a helicopter airborne. The aircraft climbed slowly into the air. She worked the controls expertlyher hands and feet in constant motion. They rose into the blue and cloudless sky, where heaven was all around her. Far below, the flowering trees were a spectacular palette of color. A rush of pure adrenaline coursed through her. God, she loved it up here.
"I hear it's your birthday, Chief," said the crew chief, through the comm.
"Damn right it is," Tami said, grinning. "Why do you think she has the controls?"
Jolene grinned at her best friend, loving this feeling, needing it like she needed air to breathe. She didn't care about getting older or getting wrinkles or slowing down. "Forty-one. I can't think of a better way to spend it."
. . .
The small town of Poulsbo, Washington, sat like a pretty little girl along the shores of Liberty Bay. The original settlers had chosen this area because it reminded them of their Nordic homeland, with its cool blue waters, soaring mountains, and lush green hillsides. Years later, those same founding fathers had begun to build their shops along Front Street, embellishing them with Scandinavian touches. There were cutwork rooflines and scrolled decorations everywhere.
Excerpted from Home Front by Sarah Hannah. Copyright © 2012 by Sarah Hannah. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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