There’s something about a man in uniform. Some of the most recognized cultural images are of our
fighting men. Nonfiction books by Navy SEALs such as Lone Survivor, The Red Circle, American Sniper and Powerful Peace have large audiences in nonfiction circles and within romance, heroes like Navy SEALs remain a perennial favorite. Not a week goes by that there isn’t another new military romance touting a hero that wears combat boots and has those iconic dog tags draped around his neck.
But what is it about military men that draw readers to their stories time and time again? And what is it about military men that make them such powerful romance heroes? The uniform, the dog tags and let’s face it, there are some damn fine shoulders running around in these uniforms. These are all compelling reasons to be drawn to a man in uniform but ultimately, I think it’s something deeper, something more fundamental about what it means to be a member of the military beyond the physical characteristics. We don’t see a lot of body lifting heroes so clearly, it’s something that transcends the physical domain.
I think it has to do with belonging. Being part of a something bigger than yourself is arguably the most basic human need. We are born needing to connect with someone else. And what is romance if it’s not about connecting at a fundamental level with another human being? Being a member of the military means these heroes belong--they know the strength that comes from being a member of a group. The heroes tend to have a powerful sense of belonging to their group and when they finally fall for the heroine, they bring her into the center of their world. There aren’t many words out there with more power than “you belong to me.” That feeling that there is someone out there that’s waiting for you at the end of the day, who will be there when things are great and when things are not so great. These are ideas at the heart of romance. The other half that makes you whole.
It’s not just belonging, though, that makes military heroes so compelling. It’s also about their willingness to sacrifice everything, even their lives, for those they love. The idea that the romance hero would do anything to protect those they love – that protectiveness ties back to the sense of belonging and creates a powerful bond that transcends all others. And you know that when the military hero says “I love you,” he’s speaking from a place that truly knows the meaning of the word love. A love that is overwhelming in its strength.
Of course, the military hero automatically assumes a physically fit man in his prime and let’s be honest, if you’ve ever done physical training at Fort Benning, the home of the Ranger panty, you’ve seen some very nice future romance cover models running by. But the physical aspects are just one facet of the complex military hero. I think it’s the deeper notes, the subtle underlying tension between his desire for the men he serves with and his desire for the heroine that ultimately completes the military hero. And when he finds that true love, it’s truly the love of a lifetime, something that fills in the piece of his heart he didn’t know was missing.