When I initially joined the MWSA I was thrilled with the support I received as well as all the well-wishes from established members/writers. I had given birth to a small book and it was well received. The encouragement enabled me to push the boundaries of my dream. Writing was not new to me; sharing was. A life filled with a variety of experiences provided fertile soil for the furrows I have plowed since. I never judged personal successes in my various endeavors, just the failures. I told those closest to me that I am not a writer until I have written two books.
Now the crop of books is three, although the second book is a team effort. I like teams, even when they have some strife. One's reach is expotentially expanded when there is someone else planting the female rows in a field of seed corn as I focus on the male rows. My harvest has been improved knowledge, improved skill, courage, and a support group unrivaled by all that I have known before away from the rice paddies of Nam. Last year forced me to declare, "I am a writer," although there are still those who would challenge that declaration. The irony of that strikes me daily, if not more often. With the declaration, and my participation in this group, I have come to love, is the added responsibilty of being a writer, not to mention a part of another team with a purpose.
I am a poor marketer. My horn is muted and when I blow it only those very close to me hear it, or recognize it as me. But I can write and I love that part of the deal. Some of the folks closest to me as I wrote my book, Out of the Mist, Memories of War, informed me that I am now an official historian. I am not, compared to the real hard-working, talented historians in our group. I am a storyteller, nothing more. In the process I preserve some personal history for those who served this nation with courage and distinction. I don't use the word "heroes" loosely. Most of the people I have encountered say they were doing their jobs...the heroes are dead.
A couple of months ago I met yet another man who flew in WWII. I am learning from him and it is a privilege. It is also an unexpected responsibility. Along with the smattering of notoriety from having sold a few books came a reevaluation of the image I maintain of Mike Mullins, erstwhile author and storyteller/historian. People come to me now. They want me to tell the story of someone they consider special and/or overlooked and soon to be forgotten. There is an implied credibility in that which is a bit intimidating. I have to consider the names given me and the practicality of pursuing the story. And I have to do it well after having earned some awards, an unexpected event in my life as well.
This man I met has expectations for what he has at last given me permission to do. I was pointed his direction by one of my friends and story subjects. This man has expectations of me too. My 94-year-old warrior and I have visited and spoken on the phone several times now. He has given me a task apart from all of this which I did not anticipate. My incredibly sharp new friend is more concerned about today's military members than he is about making his story available to the world. Mr. T. (I have to give him an identity, even though it is not time to reveal his name) worries every day about those in harm's way much more than he cares about telling his story. He says he has a responsibity to do something to help them and that I do too, in my role as a writer and veteran.
Mr. T's wife wants an entire book about him and he deserves it, however he will not yield to that pressure yet. He gave me a list of questions he wants answered about his role in WWII -- some very unsettling memories he sleeps with every night -- and a writing task in support of what he is doing as well. I have begun a letter campaign to various elected officials at his request. Additionally, I am expected to push that agenda to our various veterans organizations which all pull separately when, if of one accord nationally, would be more effective. I will do it to the best of my ability, although I know leadership egos are want to share any sense of accomplishment in favor of success for the greater good.
It seems that my purpose, our purpose, is greater than I had imagined. In my heart is the love of writing. Now one of my shoulders is bearing a burden Mr. T handed to me. The other is that of being a good member in MWSA. Many of us in this group do what is asked in different ways, but we have a responsibility to each other as well.
MWSA members' posts are displayed on my Facebook wall. They come to me in my email. Most make me swell with pride. I share them, comment on many, and endorse the work of those who belong to this "extended family." Like all families we have an occasional squabble. It happens. We have a responsiblity to our viewer world to take the disputes to another forum. Some are perpetrated by MWSA Facebook non-members who "like" our page and join in our discussions. We are historians, storytellers, creators, people whose words circle the country and even the world. Each of us has an opinion about the world around us. Many of us have fought for the right to have one and express it.
For non-members, Facebook is a public forum where our members come to learn, get reinvigorated when needed, share ideas, promote one another. It is a place where humor appears, a place where some tears are shed. We do not endorse political views here. I have strong ones, but I realize that those debates are inappropriate here. Occasionally some posts deserve to be chastised, even deleted. There are other forums for those disputes. We have a responsibility here to support one another, to expand worlds and reach, and to treat one another with dignity.
I am a little fish. There are some very large fish in this pond. Regardless, we owe each other the things for which this organization was founded. Bill McDonald had a dream and this is part of it. For my part I hope everyone sells a million books, grows as much as they want to grow when they are using the right fertilizer...a combination of respect, courtesy, compassion and understanding. We are all equal in that regard here. I hope each of our members writes a Best Seller. When you do, I hope you will keep me on your "Friends List."