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Military wife, widow chronicles story in new book

May 29, 2014 |

Nancy Hale, M.Ed, LMHC, holds a copy of her book, “My Journey: A Military Wife’s Story of Faith, Hope, and Courage,” which has several messages on its cover – including a cross and dove, a heart and wedding band, and a battleship and flag.
Reminder Publications submitted photo

By Lori Szepelak

WILBRAHAM – Nancy Hale’s first book of faith, hope, and courage is not all gloom and doom.

“My Journey: A Military Wife’s Story of Faith, Hope, and Courage” is the true story of a 27-year-old widow suddenly faced with the challenges of being alone in Cuba with 48 hours to leave the island with her two young children and her husband’s casket.

Hale is that widow.

During an interview with Reminder Publications, Hale recalls the moment in 1974 when she saw her first husband Chester “Chet” Emery Clark killed while on a motorcycle. She was following her husband in the family’s Volkswagen camper with her two sons in tow when he hit a patch of sand. Clark was a Construction Mechanic 2nd Class with the U.S. Navy on Guantanamo Bay.

In her recently released book she details that fateful day as well as the journey that brought her family to and from Guantanamo Bay, and the years following the tragic accident.

Hale notes that what began as an “adventure” in the U.S. Navy turned into a life changing event, opening new doors that proved there are no chance happenings.

One of those “doors” was when Chet met Ronald Hale when they were re-enlisting with the Navy at the receiving station in Springfield and rode together by train to the naval center in New York.

“They struck up a friendship,” she said, adding at the time Ronald was engaged but eventually broke it off.

“Chet brought Ron home on a weekend pass when they were waiting for orders in New York,” she said. “Ron met the boys and me that weekend and we began visiting as couples and when they got orders we began to write letters back and forth.”

On orders, Hale reported to Rota, Spain, and Clark was sent to Guantanamo Bay.

“The kids and I had to wait for housing to become available,” she said, and after five months, agreed to live in “substandard housing” to be together as a family.

After Clark’s death, Hale noted she found comfort journaling, which helped her “keep sane.”

Hale remarried later that year to Ronald and the couple will celebrate 40 years of marriage in November. Hale served in the Navy for 23 years, retiring as a U.S. Navy Chief Boatswain’s Mate.

On April 19, 1989, while serving on the USS Iowa, Hale was among those on board when the Turret Two explosion occurred, killing 47 crewmen. After two investigations, evidence pointed to an accidental powder explosion rather than an act of sabotage.

“Nineteen men were Ron’s men,” she said. “A lot of them were just young kids, 18-, 19-, 20 years old.”

Since that fateful day, the Hales join the shipmates for a memorial service every five years to work on the healing process. Their latest trip was during the Easter weekend when Ronald celebrated his 65th birthday.

“His shipmates gave him a surprise cake as he has always been looked up to because he was their go-to adult after the explosion,” she said.

Hale, a mental health services counselor, said it was her faith that kept her strong through “the trials and tests that a military wife faces.”

Hale added that once she decided to publish the book it seemed to take on a life of its own.

“The book offers hope and joy for all those brave enough to stand up and praise God and thank him for the challenges in life,” she said.

Hale has two upcoming lectures, June 14 at 1 p.m. at the Petersham Memorial Library, and on June 23 at the Agawam Public Library during a local author signing from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. A book signing at the New London sub base in Groton, Conn., is also in the planning stages.

“The more I share the message with others the more my goal will become a reality,” she said, adding that she also plans to donate some of the proceeds from her sales to the nonprofit Wounded Warriors.

“I’ve seen so many veterans injured while serving their country,” she said. “The veterans need all the help they can get.”

Hale’s book can be purchased through WestBow Press, www.westbowpress.com. She is also available for lectures by emailing her at nancy47@charter.net.

“I feel that the Holy Spirit is driving this book for me to share hope and courage to others who have had losses,” she said.

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