‘With Hearts of Honor’

Book reflects Grant County families facing World War II


Kathy Howell embarked on a journey because of a photo. At the edge of her consciousness, at the home of her husband, Jack, she absorbed the image of a photo that she passed numerous times until, one day she asked about it.

Two young men stand with huge grins, ready to face the world, ready to take on a journey of their own. One of them, it turned out, was her husband’s uncle, Jack Daniel Sprunk. This boy had signed up for the National Guard, talked his parents into signing off for him even though he was just 16. He had dreams of working with horses and, although they had stopped using horses to get around in wars, they promised him Las Vegas and the rodeo. It was 1941.

There was a war happening and President Roosevelt promptly put the National Guard on active duty. Jack ended up in the Philippines, Pearl Harbor was bombed, and the boy found himself and his companions fleeing the Japanese on the Bataan Peninsula, eating lizards and red rice and living in fear.

The American boys were ordered to surrender and were marched back along the length of Bataan. Jack survived that infamous “death march.” After 2 ½ years in captivity, he was put on a “Hellship” and died, before he was ever 21, when a torpedo hit the ship and 1,800 men drowned in that melee.

It was a story that gripped Kathy, mesmerized her and fascinated her. She started asking questions, looking at the war, the people, the families affected.

I just started studying World War II and I thought ‘wow we’ve got quite a jewel of a story in our family,” Kathy said. “It made me realize the resilience families have when their loved ones are overseas,

how those people had to just give up their kids. It just must have been so hard for them.”

The seed began in her mind for a book. Now, after years of rumination and study “With Hearts of Honor: A Family’s Story of WWII” is out and on the shelves. It is a work of “reimagined history,” a novel. Kathy took all she learned and created a story about families of the Grant County mining district facing war and loss, loosely based on Jack’s story.

Framed through the eyes of young Gwen MacKenzie who becomes a reporter sent across the world for stories, the book explores aspects of World War II, how it happened and many of the issues families faced at the time.

“Hearts of Honor is a love letter to all the heroes and heroines of World War II,” Kathy said. “Especially the brave folk of Grant County. Included are their courageous families who waited behind patiently, suffered silently, and made innumerable sacrifices.”

This is the story of children who grew up too fast and takes the reader from the Philippines to London, North Africa, Paris and beyond. The reader is transported back to the 1940's through adventure, romance and tragedy thorough the hearts and minds of the time.

“With Hearts of Honor: A Family’s Story of WWII” can be ordered at – click “all books;” click “filter by” and scroll down to Bataan or visit and search by title.