VA’s Center for Women Veterans profiles a different woman Veteran author as part of their Women Veteran Authors Book Corner.
This month’s author is Navy and Air Force Veteran Julia Maki Pyrah. She served in the Navy as a combat aircrewman aboard P-3C Orions as an aviation systems warfare operator from 1997-2002. After her tour, she left the service to work as a civilian contractor for the Department of the Navy while she and her husband raised their three children. During that period, she wrote four children’s books for military children. Four years ago, she completed her memoir of her time in the Navy called, “What They Don’t Teach You in Deer River.” Feeling like her service was not yet done, she joined the Air National Guard after a 15-year break in service. This past November her second non-fiction story, “Guardians,” was released.
What are you doing now?
When I’m not working in the Guard, my current ‘day job’ is engineering support for Foreign Military Sales of the P-8A Poseidon, the successor to the P-3 Orion aircraft I used to fly in the Navy.
What was your military branch, career field, and years of service?
Navy for five years as an aviation warfare systems operator and currently in the Air National Guard for airfield management.
What were your tours, deployments, and campaigns (OIF, OEF, Vietnam, Gulf War, etc.)?
Bosnia/Kosovo Campaign, Operation Enduring Freedom
What notable commendations did you receive (Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Achieve Medal, Combat Action Achievement, etc.)?
Air Medal, Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal
What was your fondest or proudest memory during your military service?
The day my dad pinned my aircrew wings on me.
What was your inspiration for becoming an author, or writing this book (for instance, a childhood dream, a significant life experience, a person)?
I’ve always loved to write stories, since I was a child. When I had my own children, I began telling them stories and finally just put the words to paper. With the book “My Mom Hunts Submarines”, the message that I wanted to convey is there isn’t anything you cannot do. I think it is such an important message that often many children do not hear or believe.
How has your military experience shaped your creativity or how you express yourself?
The military has been the inspiration for my books, as it is such an exceptional lifestyle and career. The things we do and see in the military are things most people would never understand- often this is because of the uniqueness or the even absurdity of the situations we are placed in. I enjoy bringing that perspective to the rest of the world, and of course adding my touch of awkwardness and humor to these bizarre situations.
What advice would you give other women Veterans who may be considering becoming an author?
The sky is the limit and becoming an author is very achievable. The most important thing is to be true to yourself when writing. Find your own writing style and write what you enjoy writing about, otherwise it will not be authentic, and it will not work.
How do you believe that women Veteran authors can be instrumental in shaping society’s understanding of women Veterans’ military experience and their contributions?
I believe women Veteran authors can bring an entirely different perspective to the public audience. Women who have served in the military know how to face challenges and overcome adversity. They are forced to grow up very quickly in the military and often put in situations that intentionally push them to their limits. Many women veterans have also traveled to different parts of the world and can offer an extraordinary insight from an entirely new viewpoint.
What were some of your obstacles and challenges in writing this book?
Finding the time to write is often a challenge with a full-time job, kids, husband, and house to take care of. It was necessary to dedicate specific time each day (even if it was just an hour) to write. By doing this, it becomes habit and part of a routine.
What are your recommendations for illustrating, book cover selection, and the publishing process?
It is essential to find the proper publisher and process for your book. We are fortunate to live in a time where there are so many options out there right now from traditional, self-publishing, and hybrid versions. All have different pros and cons, so it really comes down to what works best for you and your book.
What is one significant thing we should know about you?
I will never say no to an adventure.
How has writing this book helped you?
My books have opened many doors and connections with other Veterans that have led to some amazing opportunities such as fundraisers for Veteran supporting organizations.
What is your favorite quote?
“What would you do if you knew you would fail? Why aren’t you doing it?” ~unknown
If you could choose one woman from any point in time to share a meal, who would she be?
Marina Raskova, the Russian female pilot who formed the 588th Night Bomber Regiment known as the Night Witches. She was fearless leader that was so ahead of her time. I have to imagine she would have the most amazing stories and inspiring advice.
Interview conducted by Center for Women Veterans. Learn more at https://www.va.gov/womenvet/.