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"As chair of the entertainment committee for the graduation luncheon for the wives of the officers attending [the Armor Officer Basic Course], you will want to present an etiquette lesson or a fashion show," the wife of the commanding officer at Fort Knox, Ky., said to me in the spring of 1970.
Little did I know that this statement would start me down a road that has led to writing a novel about that time as well as to doing online volunteer work today to help support military personnel, their families and veterans.
Of course, I didn't listen to the CO's wife's advice. Instead I wrote a skit taking place in George Washington's army in 1776, a skit that made fun of AOB.
Then a surprising thing happened: The women I chose to be on the entertainment committee with me changed my view of the world. Besides myself (a northern Jew), the committee consisted of a Southern Baptist, an African-American (the proper term was black in those days), and two Puerto Ricans, one of whom did not speak English.
In spite of our religious, racial, geographic and class differences, the situation of all being military spouses during the Vietnam War forged friendships that broke though the barriers of prejudice and taught each of us a great deal.
Forty years later, I self-published the novel "Mrs. Lieutenant" to preserve that slice of women's social history — the binding together of women from so many different walks of life into one support system. At the same time I entered the novel in an Amazon contest, and "Mrs. Lieutenant" was selected a 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semifinalist.
This then started many things: one year as co-host of a BlogTalkRadio show on military issues, blogging about military topics, being asked to join the DoD's Bloggers Roundtable, and starting the website www.insupportofourtroops.com to help get out word about PTSD and the website www.operationsupportjewsinthemilitary.com to encourage the American Jewish community to help Jewish military personnel with their religious needs.
Now I am a member of the Military Writers Society of America and I am engaged in two major military-related projects.
The first is to create interest in a TV show connected to PTSD, such as www.SolomonsJustice.com.
The second is being part of an experience-based military fiction triad, and we will be offering our three Kindle ebooks for free on Veterans Day this year. (More info at http://www.phylliszimblermiller.com/triad-us-military-war-novels/)
When my ROTC husband went on active duty in May 1970, I had no family or friends serving. The world of U.S. military life was quite foreign to me — and I was very unhappy for many reasons that I had to be plunged into this life.
Yet, when I look back at that pivotal time in my life, I realize the two years my husband served had a lasting impact on the rest of my life. And with my experience-based military fiction I hope to share that life with others.