Praise for the book
I just finished reading Heaven's Pavement and it just blew me away. I don't read too many war story books, but it was exceptional. I literally could not put it down. Being a former paratrooper myself, I could relate to a lot of the parachute references. I was fortunate not to have been in combat, but when you read "stand up, hook up, check equipment, stand in the door, and go" it brings a lot of flashbacks and is something you never ever forget.
Paratroopers are a motley crew, big practical jokers, and intensely loyal to each other and their unit. The first week at Ft. Benning, two 17 year old kids (I was an old man of 24 at the time), went into town and got large parachutes tattooed on their forearms. The airborne mystique we were told, was if you overcame the fear of heights, then you would not be afraid of the enemy. I have to honestly say I was terrified every single time and was afraid of heights before and after, but I still made 9 jumps. There is no such thing as a routine jump. Something unexpected always happens, and it's usually not good. Every jump has injuries of some kind and broken equipment.
I could really relate to (the character of) Shortreed how he was always in survival mode and could adapt on the fly to any situation and take the necessary steps to insure his survival both physically and psychologically.
J.J. Walker, Houston Texas
Juarez Roberts was the "real deal" as the saying goes. I knew him and his wife Sonya since they lived in the Mendocino area years ago. I am also a combat veteran (though my war was a later one, and different in some ways from his), and the realism of the combat sequences (and for that matter, the life of the enlisted man in almost any time or place) rings very true to me.
Despite his hard upbringing and the bloody combat he experienced first-hand (or maybe because of it) Juarez was one of the gentlest souls I have ever met or known. He was universally respected and loved by all who knew him - friends, family, and those who encountered him in the course of his long life. Despite the "generation gap" even the local kids loved and looked up to him and his memorial service was a medley of all ages and backgrounds. He touched everyone he met in some fashion.
I remember him saying to me once about war that "It's like the most God-awful auto accident you ever saw - and there it is again, every 100 feet or so...." Very true. Sadly, however, most people never seem to learn.
This book is well worth reading if you want to know the realities of war. For those of us who already know, it is an interesting account of the war these men experienced it in 1944, and allows one to reflect on and compare their experience with ours. I hope they soon bring this out in e-book format as well, as I am digitizing my library, but in any format, it is well worth the investment.
F. J. Taylor USMC (Ret.) USMC CAP Oscar
With his eloquent and gripping writing, Juarez Roberts hooked me from page one of Heaven's Pavement ! His richly historical narrative transports the reader back to an era almost lost, where love and goodness prevailed amidst the terror and destruction of World War II. Heaven's Pavement stands up to any modern day, suspense novel, and is even more compelling when one realizes that author, Juarez Roberts, speaks of true events that should never be forgotten.
Sherri Thal, Pahoa Hawaii
Although I never served in the military Iíve always had a keen interest in history. A few years back, my dad told me that one of the guys that taught me how to fly model RC planes was a paratrooper in WWII. Well, that started a friendship that led to a personal interview about his time in the 194th GIR and 507th PIR and the jump into Germany (Operation Varsity). After writing up his story and presenting it to him, I posted a note out on Military.com and the 507th site. During that time I began collecting more and more information on the 507th PIR; Their battles, their rosters, awards, casualty lists and most importantly, their history. I came in contact with a wonderful woman named Sandra Smith, the daughter of Captain Paul F. Smith 507th PIR in WWII. We became fast friends and she helped me with contacting other 507th veterans to capture their stories. In the process, I received an email from a gentleman, wondering if I knew the whereabouts of two of his buddies. That gentleman was Juarez Roberts. The subsequent emails led to a friendship that, however short, will be cherished forever.
Juarez shared with me the makings of Heavenís Pavement and I was honored to be able to assist him in some of the timelines, locations and information regarding actions and enemy units that he and his fellow troopers faced in Operation Varsity through the end of the war. As I was reading parts of the manuscript that he and his wife Sonie were working on, I began to understand more and more of the character of the men I had interviewed and the feelings and memories that still haunt some of them to this day. Having had the opportunity to interview Juarez over the phone prior to this, I was also beginning to see more and more of the man that Juarez called Shortreed.
Heavenís Pavement, this novel of WWII and the man called Shortreed is a parallel to the wartime experiences of Juarez. In the beginnings of the novel, after the jump, two troopers are killed. This was not fiction, this was just one small piece of Juarezís real life experience that he wanted to make sure was in Heavenís Pavement. A tribute to good friends that he had seen die that very day, and he, but for the grace of God, had survived. In the supporting characters of Sellers, Sanford and others troopers, I saw the experiences and stories of other men I had the pleasure to speak with and get to know from the 507th. Any combat veteran will be able to relate to the characters in this novel.
Heavenís Pavement starts with a combat jump into Germany itself. Operation Varsity has not had near the publicity and notoriety of D-day or Operation Market Garden, but it was the first and only combat jump into occupied Germany. The intensity with which the Germans fought on that March 23rd 1945 and the subsequent withdrawal and holding actions that took place, put a strain on all of the men of the 507th. One veteran shared with me that the flak coming up at the planes was so thick he ďdidnít need a parachute, I could just walk down to the ground. Ē The ferocity of battle, the violence of death and the respite where the combat hardened veteran wonders, ďWhy me? Why did I survive?Ē is all packed into this wonderful novel. The sweet release of tensions and emotions as one liberates a town and finds women and wine to toast the fallen comrades. That moment where a brief ray of sun shine pierces the clouds of war and the trooper knows he is alive and has made it through another day, another combat jump. All of those raw emotions are exposed to the reader so they can hear the guns roar and feel their own heart pound in the excitement love and war.
Those of us that know veterans or those that are veterans themselves understand that there is a gentle side that is hidden and protected during those moments of battle. Shortreed experiences this as well and his tendered side comes out as the war winds down and he has the opportunity to have a little R and R. But even then, his combat senses are constantly near the surface, keeping him sharp and alert as the novel plays out and his buddy Sellers finds himself in a tight spot.
Heavenís Pavement brings the experiences of one paratrooper to life and allows you, the reader, to walk in his shoes. To fight his battles, share in his loss and his love and to understand that everything is not always so black and white, that war is not fair but that love and gentleness can somehow find a way to heal the wounds of war and give a person a new start on life.
Juarez was a wonderful man and Heavenís Pavement is a fitting honor for a man that gave so much for his country and gave so much to those around him. He was loved and he will be missed, but his memory and his story lives on in this book and in my heart!
Andrew Peitsch Ė Royal Oak, MI
I finished Heaven's Pavement and thoroughly enjoyed it. Exciting from start to finish. I really found the inside information on the troopers actions fascinating. I also really like the character Shortreed(of course) and loved the end. 5 stars from me.
Paul Fagan - Long Island, NY
I usually don't waste my time reading novels, because as the author of 8 published history books (with more in the oven), I don't have time for them. This book came to my attention because of an article about it on Facebook and when I saw that it was a fictionalized account from a paratrooper of the 507th PIR, I suspected that the book was truth masquerading as fiction, simply because it related some stories which the author preferred not to use real names in the telling. Such books often present more truth than standard non-fiction books, because the author is free to use dialogue and events as they really happened and not censored to protect identities.
As soon as I started to read this book, I discovered that I was most likely correct. It is actually an account of the author's experiences, with the names changed to allow the unadulterated truth to be presented. There are accounts of killing in battle and romantic encounters with European women-nothing that shocking, by 21st century standards, but the author just didn't want to name the participants, including himself. The 507th jumped in Normandy attached to the 82nd Airborne Division, then went into the Bulge as part of the 17th ABD. They later jumped the Rhine again wearing the golden claw patch of the 17th. This jump, code named Varsity resulted in a lot of casualties amongst the US Airborne troops and it is a vastly under-reported and under appreciated combat jump. The author's first hand recollections allowed him to put authentic dialogue in the mouths of the paratroopers, as well as describing some of their combat tactics, in a detailed way that I have not seen in other books. None of the combat scenarios are too far-out to be true. Also, the black market activities in France as the war ended were very real and quite pervasive, and few other books have delved into that world, as this one does.
I found the book to read well, both due to skilled writing and an interesting bunch of facts and stories to tell, and I finished it quickly. I thought it was an enjoyable read and I kept picking the book up until I had it read, from cover to cover. This book informs and entertains and it did not disappoint me, personally. I endorse it, whole-heartedly. It's one of the better books I read in 2014.
Mark Bando - Michigan