Bonnie Bartel's Reviews > The Final Salute: Together We Live on

The Final Salute by Kathleen M. Rodgers
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Nov 01, 2011

it was amazing

Reviewed by: Bonnie Bartel Latino

Kathleen Rodgers, whom I have never met, spent twenty years as the spouse of an Air Force jet jockey. Rodgers lifts the red, white and blue veil on the world of the contemporary fighter pilot and families.

The novel, the author says, was written “in memory of fallen friends, too numerous to mention” and dedicated to the author’s husband, retired Air Force fighter pilot Tom Rodgers, “whose ghosts first inspired this story.” Many of Rodgers’ former wingmen, now gone to glory, appear disguised as spirits in the novel’s most compelling chapter, which partially takes place in a cemetery.

Kathleen Rodgers leaves no doubt that she intimately knows what it’s like to love a fighter pilot and to be in endless competition with his mistress, the love of flight.

The fictional setting, Beauregard Air Force Base in Bolton, La., resembles England AFB near Alexandria, La., where Bolton is an old and respected family name. Rodgers lived at England AFB during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, although her husband only deployed during Desert Shield. She fictionalized her family background and has deftly woven it into “The Final Salute.”

Interestingly, it is not the Gulf War chapters that are the most captivating. Rodgers has created richly layered characters that compel readers to keep flipping the pages. Protagonist Lt. Col. Tuck Westerfield represents the finest of America’s military. He leads by example and leads from the front. However, he is disgusted to the point of retirement by those few whose defective moral codes diminish squadron morale and tarnish the reputation of the entire force. But before Westerfield can make his retirement official, the world tilts when Iraq invades Kuwait, and his squadron deploys to the Middle East.

Rodgers’ characters deal with the anxiety of separation, the fear associated with wartime combat, teenagers that rebel, spouses who cheat, and unbounded grief. Comic relief is provided in the character of Wynonna Sandford, Westerfield’s animal-crazy neighbor and Purple Passion cosmetics beauty consultant. However, even the outrageous Wynonna isn’t one-dimensional. Her love of all creatures great and small is fueled by her inability to bear children.

The Army Wives Network selected “The Final Salute” as their July 2009 Book Selection. The novel also recently won a prestigious silver fiction medal from the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA).

“The Final Salute” is a great read and would be an appropriate gift for anyone who has served in the military or for those who just want a realistic glimpse into the lifestyle. However, since combat pilots have been known to use language not appropriate for a Junior League soiree or a function at the base chapel, “The Final Salute” is perhaps not a gift for your church altar guild chairwoman.
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