The Disabled Hero
by Arthur M. Doweyko
While the veterans of World War II were greeted as heroes, instead of parades, the veterans of the Vietnam War were welcomed by the American public in a very different way. Many veterans were mistreated—called rude names and even spat upon. The public was sick of the War and took out their hatred of the highly unpopular conflict on the patriots who were unlucky enough to return alive.
That War savaged our young heroes. Over 150,000 came back as wounded or amputees. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) afflicted 700,000—a medical problem that was only recognized by the Veteran’s Administration in 1979. The lack of employment, crime and depression led to 100,000 suicides.
It is within this appalling frame of mind that As Wings Unfurl creates a reluctant hero out of a Vietnam War veteran. Applegate Bogdanski is missing a lower limb as a result of what he believes was his own miscalculation that further led to the deaths of a number of his fellow soldiers. He returns home burdened with guilt and an addiction to pain-killers. He finds a dead-end job and waits for a drug-besotted end to arrive. But something rather unexpected happens to change everything.
A disabled hero is a bit unusual to find in a science fiction story. That is not to say the trope has not appeared in the entertainment media. There are a number of examples. The Six Million Dollar Man TV series comes to mind, as does Geordi LaForge (Star Trek Next Generation). And there are others. However, most of these characters have something in common—their handicap is usually overcome with technology, or somehow becomes a major asset (like in the X-Men). That’s the beauty of Science Fiction. We rarely encounter a hero who ignores the handicap.
I lived through the so-called Vietnam Era. Although I was fortunate to have served at home in the National Guard and Army Reserves, I knew many who went abroad, and many who never returned. Maybe it was the way those veterans were treated that gave rise to Applegate, the hero in As Wings Unfurl. Maybe it was time for a story about an individual’s redemption from a dark chapter in our history.
Apple (his nickname) is not special. He has no super powers. He has no extraordinary talents or mechanical exoskeleton or telepathic powers. Quite the contrary, he is a broken human being, both physically and mentally. He has no family and no prospects. Tortured by a survivor’s guilt, each day he sinks deeper into a morphine-induced stupor. He knows the end is coming and like many other veterans, he looks forward to its arrival.
What walks into his life is nothing short of a miracle. Angela claims to be his guardian angel, but of course, she’s no angel. She brings with her a revelation, sweeping up the two of them in a monumental conspiracy which will test Apple’s determination to survive. He will need to rise above his addiction and depression, and place his trust with this strange woman. Thus, the story of As Wings Unfurl unfolds, but that’s enough of a tease.
As Wings Unfurl
By Arthur M. Doweyko
Genre: Science Fiction
Applegate Bogdanski returns from Vietnam with a missing leg, a Purple Heart, and an addiction to morphine. He stumbles through each day, looking forward to nothing and hoping it will arrive soon. When he attempts to thwart a crime, he is knocked unconscious and wakes up to discover that people are once again calling him a hero, though he feels undeserving of the praise.
Apple returns to work and meets Angela, a mysterious woman who claims to be his guardian. Immediately, he feels a connection to her, which morphs into an attraction. But he soon discovers that Angela is much more than she seems.
Apple and Angela are swept up in a conspiracy that stretches through time and space. Together, they must fight to save everything they hold dear from an alien race bent on destroying humanity.
After retiring in 2009, Arthur M. Doweyko took up writing fiction. His novel Algorithm garnered a 2010 Royal Palm Literary Award. He has also published a number of short stories, many of which have been selected as Finalists in the Royal Palm Literary Award contest, and two Honorable Mentions in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.
Arthur was awarded the 2008 Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for his contribution to the discovery of Sprycel, a novel anti-cancer drug successfully brought to the marketplace in 2009. He has authored over one hundred publications (papers, abstracts, patents, book chapters) and has been an invited lecturer in a number of drug-discovery and computational venues.
Arthur lives in Florida with the love of his life, Lidia. When he’s not writing, he’s happily wandering the beaches.
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/@aweyken