An inner writer has always rustled within Bob Roger's soul.
Just listen to him describe his earliest memory, as a tot on his father's cotton fields in 1945.
The words gather around to form a clear image, much like colors of paint rally on a canvas to create a picture.
"I'm running barefoot wearing a print flour sack dress across the furrows he had just plowed," says Rogers, who lives in University Heights. "I remember the damp earth from where he had turned the land felt cool to my bare feet. Cool. Smooth. Pleasant."
Rogers, 68, never thought of himself as a writer until a few years back, when a painting he saw became his unexpected muse, and led him to pen "Will & Dena: Love and Life in World War II."
The artwork, titled "Proud to Serve," by the late military artist Don Stivers, depicted an African American soldier leading a horse. It stirred that inner writer.
"As I held it," recalled Rogers, "I said aloud, this story needs to be told."
In the coming months, a stack of pages about an African American protagonist facing conflict both at home and at war began to thicken on his desk.
The novel, published in 2009 by Booklocker.com Inc, a print-on-demand publisher, set off a media tour for Rogers, leading him up the East Coast, where he was invited to sit at authors' tables in nearly a dozen Borders bookstores. He signed copies of Will & Dena in Washington D.C., Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro and Charlotte. One of those stops was at Borders in Northlake Mall.
Nothing in Rogers' resume would point to fiction writing. Majoring in chemistry at S.C. State University with plans to make the Army his profession, he enlisted upon graduation in 1966 and soon after packed his duffel for Vietnam.
After the war, an opportunity to work for IBM convinced him to leave military life, and he set up house in Charlotte , where he happily stayed, raising a family and retiring after 33 years with the company.
But the history of war never really left his mind, particularly the plight of African Americans in battle. Rogers grew up in Spartanburg, and he never heard anything in school about the all-African-American troops that fought in the battles of the United States.
"The history books I learned from both in secondary school and at South Carolina State University had absolutely not one sentence about anything to do with black troops. Period," said Rogers.
Not until his tour in Vietnam did he learn about influential units like the Buffalo Soldiers, the Tuskegee Airmen, or the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, an all-African-American paratrooper unit known as the triple nickels.
Rogers has made it his duty to preserve these often-forgotten pieces of history.
His next novel, "First Dark: A Buffalo Soldier's Story," set during the civil war, will publish this September.
This summer, he'll continue to pour through the mounds of research he gathers to make sure each of his stories represents accurate depictions of the period.
"It's my duty to get it right so they hear it, see it, smell it, even hear the music."