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After the Flag Has Been Folded [Kindle Edition]

Karen Spears Zacharias
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

Karen Spears was nine years old, living with her family in a trailer in rural Tennessee, when her father, David Spears, was killed in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. It was 1966 -- in a nation being torn apart by a war nobody wanted, in an emotionally charged Southern landscape stained with racism and bigotry -- and suddenly the care and well-being of three small children were solely in the hands of a frightened young widow with no skills and a ninth-grade education. But thanks to a mother's remarkable courage, strength, and stubborn tenacity, a family in the midst of chaos and in severe crisis miraculously pulled together to achieve its own version of the American Dream.

Beginning on the day Karen learns of her father's death and ending thirty years later with her pilgrimage to the battlefield where he died, half a world away from the family's hometown, After the Flag Has Been Folded is a triumphant tale of reconciliation between a daughter and her father, a daughter and her nation -- and a poignant remembrance of a mother's love and heroism.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In December 1965, David Spears said good-bye to his wife and three children and went to fight in Vietnam; he returned "in a cargo plane full of caskets" in July 1966. His family has never been the same. "He was the center of what made me feel safe," Zacharias, then in third grade, explains. Her mother cried nonstop and never spoke of her beloved again. There wasn't much time for grief, anyway. Spears's paltry life insurance money was soon gone, and Zacharias's mother was a high school dropout living in a cramped trailer home in Tennessee with three kids. She put herself through nursing school while working and raising those youngsters. Although Zacharias's brother struggled with drugs and the teenage Zacharias had to have an abortion before realizing getting pregnant wasn't the best way to find reliable love, they all turned out fine eventually. Readers may enjoy Zacharias's mom's trailer park smarts (a woman's best protection is "a good padded bra") and her colorful Southern-isms (her hungover brother was "sicker than a yard dog with scours"). But while Zacharias entertains, her main point—that a soldier's death brings pain and sorrow to many generations of his family—is a sad truth that Americans are beginning to relearn. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Zacharias' moving memoir opens in July 1966 with the arrival of a jeep bearing news of her father's death in Vietnam, a loss that affected Karen and her siblings all the way into adulthood. Karen was especially in need of nurturing following her father's death; unfortunately her mother reacted by withdrawing from her children, throwing herself into her work, and acquiring numerous boyfriends. So Karen looked to others for support: a grandfather who soon suffers a stroke; youth leaders at church, who later move away; and a boyfriend who abandons her when she becomes pregnant. After college Karen and her mother resolve their contentious relationship, and soon after, Karen begins to seek out the details of her father's death--details her mother could never face. Zacharias' research leads her to an organization called Sons and Daughters in Touch, which brings together adult children of those killed in Vietnam. Her subsequent 2003 journey with members of the group to the very spot where her father died finally concludes her long and emotional quest. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 741 KB
  • Print Length: 386 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0060721499
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books (August 4, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002IPZDS4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,876 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hero Mama...Seeing our life in a book February 13, 2005
Having picked up a copy of Hero Mama in the Borders' Store at Dulles Airport in DC,the cashier asked me why would I want to read something about an unpopular event such as Vietnam. I shared with her my story having just been to the "Wall" to see my Dad's name "James C. Mitchell Jr. KIA 01/08/1970" and the significance of "Our Story". The story of sons and daughters who lost their Dad's in Vietnam. As I began to read on the plane-I laughed, cried, and said several "OH MY GOD!!'s" This is my life, or at least a greater part of it in print. Several people on the plane notice how intense my facial expressions were while reading the book. I literally could not put the book down. The author captures many of the raw and truthful emotions that children of the Vietnam War have felt and currently feel. These are the emotions of joy, sadness, fear, lonliness, and pride as we have learned to face our lives with the scars of a Nation that did not welcome our fathers home, a Nation that did not understand how to deals with War Orphans and a generation of grieving wives and children, and a Nation that is just now acknowledging the sacrifices of that generation as we begin to heal. It is just now that we see the needs of the next generation of Hero Mamas. Thank you Karen for sharing your story with all of us Sons and Daughters of the Vietnam War. You make us and our Dads very proud. This review is writen by Susan Mitchell Mattera, the proud daughter of James C. Mitchell Jr US Navy who served in Vietnam and was killed in action 01/08/1970.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw-edged and rewarding January 21, 2005
"Hero Mama" is a raw-edged look at the other victims of war: families.

It is a bluntly honest book. It is an unmistakably "southern" book. Above all, it is a thought-provoking book that will help those of us on the outside understand what happens once the flag has been folded and handed to the widow.

Zacharias is that rare writer who is immensely gifted, and yet doesn't let herself get in the way of the story.

"Hero Mama" is a superb book about reconciliation, resiliency and, ultimately, triumph. It is sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always compelling.

As the author of a book about another hero involving war ("American Nightingale," about the first nurse to die after the landings at Normandy), I've read hundreds of books about war. This is among the two or three best.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Daughter's Shared Healing January 19, 2005
Karen Spears Zacharias has honored both her killed-in-action Vietnam Veteran father and her war-widow mother immensely by telling their story, a rare ability these days. This is not a syrupy, sugar-coated account. Rather, it is almost a tell-all. But by sharing her raw, emotion-filled story, she has enabled us to peak into the process of grief itself. We are allowed to look inside the casket at the body with her. We are allowed to feel her shock, dismay, and loneliness. We are allowed into her family circle. And we are taught to care. We are all benefited by her candor and would be wise to observe what happens in families who lose a loved one suddenly, especially in the line of duty. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has loved and lost; for those still reeling from the Vietnam War; for those afraid of losing now; and for healers of various disciplines who might need to know more about how grief is manifested and how support can be given. The Vietnam War is a difficult and often avoided subject. We owe it to Vietnam Veterans and surviving families to listen to their stories and hear what they have learned. We also owe it to those who have just experienced the loss of a loved one in combat more recently to attempt to apply the lessons learned post-Vietnam War to here and now. Karen gives us the prescription to do just that.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book April 1, 2005
After hearing the author on NPR, a friend suggested I read this book. I doubt I would have ever picked it up on my own- I felt like I'd seen all the Vietnam movies and I was not affected by the war. However,I can honestly say this is one of the best books I have ever read. I have a new perspective on not only Vietnam but how I feel for the soldiers in Iraq now. It's not only about the consequences of war- it's about family, grief, perserverence and forgiveness. It's one of those books you think about for days and wish you had more of it to read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lest We Forget January 30, 2006
I am huge fan of Southern Fiction Writers (P.Conroy,A.R.Siddons,R.Wells.

I am also the only daughter of

S/Sgt Lewis Walton (SF:Army:MIA-1971). With my baby brother serving in Iraq, I was both hesitant and curious about this book.In my estimation, Karen's account was personal and inspirational.More importantly it sheds light on what life was like for "us kids". Her story should be shared with many and be required reading for ALL high school AND College Classes which focus on Vietnam. Vietnam affected more than just the brave soldiers serving- their parents, children and grandchildren. Kind of makes you think about Aft. and Iraq. A definite must read!

Jacke Walton
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turner---relevant August 25, 2006
By Rachael
Very informative book. Not only does it help to understand the perspective of being a child of a KIA (Gold Star), but also, other Gold Star family members, since it focuses on all their lives. Furthermore, it is telling a life story, with plot, so it's not just "this is how a person would feel" from a clinical perspective, but rather, how it really is.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Growing up in the South during the 60's
I grew up around the same time as Karen, so could relate so much to what was going on in the country.. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Lezlie
5.0 out of 5 stars fabulous book
I just ordered this book on my kindle, this is the second time I am reading this story. I remember the first time, I cried, it is such an excellent book, what the author went... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Pat
5.0 out of 5 stars Shattered Dreams
This is one of the top 2 or 3 best books I have ever read. It really deserves more than 5 stars. As a Vietnam Veteran, I have always wondered how lives change with the lost of a... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jim
2.0 out of 5 stars Okay
the book came in excellent condition on ime so i have no problem at all with the sellers .The book itself was poorly written and overly dramatic and not as good as i had hoped... Read more
Published 17 months ago by pat
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I live in a town with a military post nearby. We also have many military families living in the community.I found the book enlightening and enjoyable.
Published 22 months ago by JWH Teach23
3.0 out of 5 stars The Forgotten Survivors of Viet Nam - the "secret" casualties
Today organizations like the American Widow Project do amazing things to support the nation's current "war widows", women who are themselves often not much older than Hero Mama was... Read more
Published on January 7, 2013 by Bradley O'brien
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read!
We don't always think of the families left behind when a soldier dies, Spears-Zacharias story explains why those stories should be told.
Published on January 5, 2013 by Patricia Hazell
5.0 out of 5 stars After the flag has been folded
I am a big fan of this book. It takes a lot of courage to tell a story like this. Read it.
Published on October 1, 2012 by John Cole
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book and Service from Bookseller
This book was mentioned in a Sunday School class by our minister. The quote was good and intrigued me so I ordered the book. Read more
Published on April 3, 2011 by omie
4.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down
Very moving memoir--I couldn't put it down. I got very interested in the Vietnam War when I read this memoir. Since then I have read several other memoirs about the Vietnam War. Read more
Published on February 28, 2008 by Barb F.
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More About the Author

Karen Spears Zacharias is an award-winning author, a former crime-beat reporter, and a provocative storyteller. This Gold-Star daughter grew up besotted by the wildly disarming stories of her Appalachian kinfolk.

Karen began her first journalism job on her 40th birthday, proving once more that while it's never too late to get started, older people have to work harder and drink less. Her commentary has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, USA Today, and on Good Morning America and National Public Radio.

She has authored six books, including Karly Sheehan, the true crime story behind Karly's Law, the military memoir, After the Flag has been Folded (William Morrow), and her latest, a work of fiction, Mother of Rain (Mercer University Press), recipient of Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association 2013 Weatherford Award for Best in Appalachian Fiction.

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