By Courtney Ingle

Protected book jacket

Veterans Day is November 11. American servicemen and servicewomen are honored for their dedication to the country — a dedication that requires sacrifice of their time, safety, and sometimes even their lives. Two Mississippi authors have recently shared their stories of service and what it cost them.

Spiritual lessons of a Secret Service agent

Tim Viertel of Madison was a Secret Service agent tasked with protecting U.S. presidents and their families. Viertel traveled into war-torn countries with President Jimmy Carter, commanded the caravan for First Lady Laura Bush, served as protection for President Bill Clinton and more.

During his time as an agent, Viertel was to remain on high alert, watching for the safest paths and always scanning for threats. In these seasons of being constantly on the lookout, Viertel said he learned some of his most valuable lessons about the character of God.

Those lessons, plus the desire to leave that knowledge to his grandchildren, inspired his book “Protected: Reflections of a Secret Service Agent.”

“I take my real life stories and incorporate them into my biblical teachings,” said Viertel. “So I’ve done that in this book; I tell the story with a biblical application.”

Viertel said the goal was never just to tell stories of his experiences, but to glorify God. “I wanted to let people know that this is for the glory of God, and I am a man of faith,” Viertel added.

“Protected” is a culmination of 50 different stories of Viertel’s time in the Secret Service. Reflecting on those stories has exposed spiritual lessons he learned that he might not have realized in the moment.

“The Lord was showing me things through some of these memories and happenings that I haven’t thought about for years,” said Viertel. “I was learning about patience, about serving others and loving others in moments that, at the time, I didn’t think about, like when I saw Mother Theresa for the first time.”

Viertel said the Holy Spirit was leading him along in the sharing of these stories, which gave an even greater meaning to the years he served as an agent.

A mother shares her story of losing her veteran son to suicide

Susan Cleland

Veterans often commit to a life of service with an overwhelming desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. They know deployment, war, moving, and time away from family are part of the sacrifice, and they do it willingly.

But many of those veterans have witnessed things they can’t speak of; eventually, the burden on their mind and soul can become too much.

Susan Cleland lost her son, Michael Ryan Vinson, to veteran suicide. He was a dedicated serviceman with a heart of gold and a big love for people. His friends called
him Mike.

Cleland is the author of “Mission Vigilant: A Mother’s Crusade to Stem the Tide of Veteran Suicide.” Cleland’s journal-turned-memoir expresses the pain and anger she has felt since losing her son, the community of other mothers in her shoes, and her undying faith
in God.

“I’ve always journaled, and I’ve always thought it was therapeutic,” said Cleland. “So when we lost (Michael), I kept journaling. I had good days and bad days, but I could tell things were happening in me.”

Cleland said she felt led to share her journal, and turned to her friend and local author Sheyre Green for help.

“I knew I had to share this journal,” said Cleland, “for anyone who has lost someone after they had given their life to service.”

Cleland said the stories in her book are not just her own, but testimonies of other mothers who have lost loved ones to suicide.

“So many of us are or were angry with God, but I try to remember and remind them that we were never promised an easy life,” said Cleland. “And I tell them, all of our stories are extremely hard, but we’re sharing to protect other families.”

Cleland added that her faith in God continued to grow as she journaled and attended therapy.

“We can’t do anything without God,” said Cleland. “And grief is a journey, it never ends … but I don’t know where I’d be without my faith in God, and some people don’t have that, and it’s so heartbreaking.”

Tim Viertal’s “Protected: Reflections of a Secret Service Agent” can be purchased online on or, or locally at Brick City Drugs in Madison.

Susan Cleland’s “Mission Vigilant: A Mother’s Crusade to Stem the Tide of Veteran Suicide” can be purchased online on or, or locally at Lemuria Books in Jackson.

Courtney and her husband, Jeremy, live in Brandon and are members at Park Place Baptist Church in Pearl. They have a daughter, Taylor, and a son, Jacob. Courtney is a full-time homemaker and can be reached at

Pro-Life Mississippi