Trips of Daisy, a journey through a thousand days of deployment

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Carmen Conners- The Morning Rush with KC O'Dea and Carmen Conners

"Susan Nelson had the unique ability to take my heart, fill it with love and pride then wring out tears of frustration, sadness and empathy for the families of our fighting men and women. She will show you that families of deployed soldiers are heroes in their own right. Kudos, Susan. What a lovely tribute to our military families."

Review by: Andrew Lubin, author of "Charlie Battery: A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq"
A husband at war…the neighbors (maybe) thank the wife for his service when he leaves, while to any young children ‘daddy’ is reduced to a voice on the telephone. But while America acknowledges the sacrifices of her deployed soldiers and Marines, the unknown collateral damage of the war is that suffered by the wives and children back home; an issue too-often ignored or glossed-over. Until now…

 Susan Oliver Nelson’s book “Trips of Daisy” details the thousand days her husband was deployed to Iraq. Two deployments lasting 2 ½ years within four does one keep a marriage and family together? Is this even a family?

In a blunt and open fashion, Nelson describes her efforts to be upbeat for her five children even as the war news worsened. With her husband deploying to Iraq in mid-2004, Nelson is watching the news reporting as the American body count tripling in twelve months while the CIA reports that Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. “Trips of Daisy” chronicle her thoughts and feeling during the holiday season as she plays Santa-mom-dad to her children, missed birthdays, or dresses them for Halloween. Watching the news is a mixed blessing; it keeps her involved in what is happening in Iraq, but also alerts her to the rising casualty counts, the horrific injuries caused by I.E.D’s, along with America’s shifting sentiments about the value of the war.

Fortunately, communication from Iraq were improved by mid-2004, so there was reliable email and telephone, however lack of a call after the news reported a bombing or IED strike only served to increase Nelson’s stress levels. She also recounts the change in their relationship when he returns during the two-week R&R the Army implemented in an attempt to relieve the stresses of the too-long deployments. Yes, he’s lying beside her, but he’s no longer her best friend and lover; he’s her soldier. And then there’s her reaction to the Army extending his second tour, and her anger when few in the Army would even admit the unit was being extended.

A writer by profession, Nelson clearly has chosen her words with care. Expressing the unexpressable; the fear of losing her spouse in combat, to PTSD, suicide, or divorce, she bears her soul in “Trips of Daisy”, in hopes that other wives, in reading about her struggles, will understand they are not alone. Highly Recommended!

Telling the story of 1,000 deployment days
By Julia LeDoux/News & Messenger

Updated: July 13, 2011 - 9:53 AM

FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Fort Belvoir author Susan Oliver Nelson tells the story of her military family’s journey of strength, sacrifice, and enduring love for one another during the 1,000 days of their soldier’s Iraqi deployment in her newly published book, “Trips of Daisy.”

Published by PublishAmerica earlier this year, the 126-page work reads like an emotionally-charged letter and is based on journals kept by both Nelson and her ArmyMichael, during his deployments to Iraq in 2004 and 2006. “Trips of a Daisy” mixes headlines from the Iraqi war with the couple’s recollections of what was going on at both home and downrange in Iraq. medic husband,

“I didn’t know how he was going to react,” Susan said of her husband’s first deployment, which came on Aug. 21, 2004. “We’d never been separated. I told him I wanted to start a journal.”

Keeping a journal came naturally to Susan, a reporter, but not quite so easily to her husband. He didn’t “get into it” as much as she’d hoped, she said, but he did share some of what he experienced while deployed via email and precious phone calls made while he was downrange.

“I think it did help him,” she said.

The couple wed in 1995, and have been together since 1993. Michael was 33 when he enlisted in the Army. By that time, the Nelsons had already been married eight years and had five children.

“The 1,000 days of deployment, that’s a quarter of our marriage,” Nelson said with a disbelieving shake of her head.

In the introduction to her book, Susan writes that the story “is a reminder of the sacrifices these families make that all Americans may enjoy freedom and peace at home.”

“It describes the emotion of soldier, spouse and country individually,” Michael said.

Michael was only home eight or nine months before his second deployment. In the book, he describes life on the frontlines, improvised explosive devices going off with deadly results, and missing his family back home.

“I have come to realize how far removed solider is from civilian,” he wrote. “There is certain simplicity about being deployed. As a soldier the mission is staying alive; watching the other guys’ backs and to make sure we all make it back alive. But once home, what do we do?”

And that is the other topic the book addresses, how military families resume their lives together when their solider comes home.

“I don’t know how we do it either,” Susan acknowledges. “But we do.”

The book also candidly discusses how the family continues to deal with Michael’s post traumatic stress disorder.

The book is available at; on; and at Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble.

Jessica Gozy
I had the pleasure of reading Susan Oliver Nelson's book, "Trips of Daisy."  I thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so, I read it in one sitting.  As a military spouse, it hit home in many areas of a deployment.  It was nice to read a book, written by a fellow military spouse, that portrayed lots of feelings, that sometimes spouses don't talk about. 

Tanya Nelson... A glimpse into life at the front line in war, and at the front line at home
Picked up this book the day it came out online and read it cover to cover. I couldn't put it down. This book allows those of us not in the military to get a glimpse in the life of one military family. I was compelled by the letters from the front line of the war. It makes me ever more grateful for the service our men and women provide to our country for our freedom, which I sometimes take for granted. It made me also grateful for the family of those in the military, who must cope to handle all that deployment and absence brings. It allowed me to see our service men and woman through a new light, from the front line at the war to the front line at home. It is a very easy read and kept me wanting more. I am already waiting for what the next 1,000 days have brought.

Cpl. Van M. Fayard Jr
I loved the book. It was so eye opening to learn how family members struggle with loved ones being deployed in war time. So often the attention is focused on the troops and the hardships they face, with good reason. We tend to forget about the ones left behind. Susan's story was very emotional for me when you thing about what she and her family members had to endure, yet she showed us how she was able to cope and stay focused on her responsibilities at home. She was fighting her own war at home with her thoughts of loneliness, depression and the added pressure of being mom, dad and a wife without the spouse, who often returns from war as a different person. Her references to the conscious and unconscious thoughts, the familiar smells etc, during her time spent alone made me realize how important our time with our family members is. She had to rely on her dreams, memories, sense of smell and touch to recall the good times and the special moments together to help her get through each day, most often minute by minute. I truly have a new perspective on what it takes to endure the long deployments of military families left behind. I recommend this book for all family members that are left behind and also to the soldiers. Thank you Susan for your heartfelt story and for sharing your struggle.