By Robin Van Auken
The Wholehearted Author
Nancy Panko has achieved amazing success with her book, “Guiding Missal,” an unusual story about a prayer book that is carried in the pocket of three generations of men as they navigate war.
As she held the Military Missal in her hands, Nancy thought, “If only this little book could talk.” Her novel gives the prayer book a voice.
Based on actual events, Nancy’s award winning novel is partially narrated by the small Catholic prayer book that George Panko received as he prepared to deploy to the European theater during World War II. A baker turned infantry man/forward scout, Panko left behind his wife, Gladys, and small son, Butch, for several years as he navigated France and Germany, helping the United States and its Allies win significant skirmishes, including the Battle of the Bulge.
Throughout his enlistment, George carried the small book in his pocket and read from it, memorizing passages and whispering prayers. Once safely home, George packed the military missal into a trunk and together he and his wife rear their family.
Fifteen years later, his son Butch is ready to graduate from high school and wants to enter the Air Force. George hands him the military missal with a request that he bring it back home, safe and sound.
Butch’s experiences while stationed in Germany aren’t always as harrowing as George’s, thanks to George’s efforts as a U.S. Soldier. Still, Butch does live through the Cold War and high-alert situations where ballistic missile launches were potentially moments away, from the Berlin Crisis of 1961 to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Along the way, Butch travels to Italy and gains an audience with St John XXIII, who lifts the prayer book out of Butch’s hand and blesses it.
At the end of his enlistment, Butch comes home and returns the missal to George. Back into the trunk the book goes. Butch marries Nancy, the love of his life, and they have two children. The couple move to Clinton County, where George enjoys a long career with Woolrich.
Nancy began taking general education classes at Lock Haven University, transferring to Lycoming College to begin her nursing education at Williamsport Hospital. She graduated and began her career at Jersey Shore Hospital as a pediatric nurse for one year before working for Geisinger Medical Group in Lock Haven also in pediatrics. She was employed at Glennon Health Services of Lock Haven University for thirteen years before her retirement.
Two decades pass and their daughter, Margie, meets and marries T.O., a U.S. Soldier deploying to Africa to combat Al Qaeda in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Once again, the military missal’s amazing powers of protection are required. Butch searches for the missal in his late father’s belongings and loans it to his new son-in-law, T.O., with the same request his own father had: Come home safe and return the book.
T.O. returns the book, convinced of its power after a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter goes down in 1993, and the resultant battle between forces of the United States and Somali militia fighters.
“Guiding Missal” is a heartfelt, homespun tale that has moved people to leave more than two dozen five-star reviews on Amazon. Nancy’s simple, sweet story has touched so many people it’s become a successful book in both print and digital platforms.
Published by Torchflame Books, a hybrid publisher, “Guiding Missal” received the 2017 Silver Award-Medal for Historical Fiction from the Military Writers’ Society of America.
Nancy is a ten-time contributor to “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and “Guideposts” magazines. She is a member of the Cary Senior Writing Circle, The Light of Carolina Christian Writers’ Group, and The Military Writers’ Society of America.
She and her husband moved from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania to North Carolina in 2009. They have two children and four grandchildren. They love being in, on, or near the water with their family.
In 1944, a U.S. Army baker volunteers as a forward observer to carry out covert operations behind German lines in World War II.
In the early 1960s, a focused nineteen-year-old Airman is responsible for decoding critical top secret messages during the height of the Berlin Crisis.
In 1993, an army sniper overcomes a debilitating condition only to fight for survival in the streets of war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia, when a Blackhawk helicopter is shot down.
When each of these men face a crisis, this very special prayer book, My Military Missal, provides the comfort and encouragement of divine power. Based on actual events, Guiding Missal’s timeless journey of faith, patriotism and miracles will touch your heart as the missal and the men call out to God for guidance, protection, and a safe return home.
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