Writing for Facebook

This headline is somewhat misleading. If I were REALLY going to show an example of writing for Facebook (or any social media), I’d post something that would contain links and keywords and other little tidbits that are especially applicable to social media. But I posted this story and picture about my father on a recent Veteran’s Day (November 11, 2016) for a couple of reasons — it told a little about me and my family, and I knew that anything that relates to a holiday or other special day usually gets a good amount of attention. This story got around 75 “likes” and around 25 comments, so it was pretty well received.  This is typical of what I’m writing currently; I’m working on my second novel, writing some PR-related magazine articles and press releases for a Tampa-based agency, and posting a fair amount of social media words and pictures.


This is a picture of my father with just one leg under him, an observation that has more truth to it than you know. I’ve always been reluctant to share this picture, especially on a day like today. I didn’t want anyone to feel that I was being disrespectful by posting a picture of him in such a comic pose.

But I decided to go ahead and share it. It’s a story that is worth telling.

muleshit-pictureArthur (that was his name, the same as mine) quit high school in his junior year, and then bummed around for a number of years. He worked as a painter and paperhanger in Boston, then moved to Cleveland in pursuit of a woman. He worked there in a hotel kitchen, as assistant to the ice cream chef.

Nothing much happened in his life until he got his draft notice in 1942. He was 25.

He was inducted into the army, and was assigned to an artillery unit. U.S. Army artillery pieces were still being dragged around by mules at that time, and Arthur spent a number of months as a buck private, shoveling mule shit. This was duty that he did not like.

Paper hanger, then assistant ice cream maker, then shoveler of mule shit. He was in his mid-20s, not all that young. I think around this time he finally got the message that some changes had to be made; he applied for Officer Candidate School.

His Army aptitude tests showed he had an IQ of 135, and that’s what got him accepted. He spent the next 90 nights in the latrine, the only place he could study. With only a 10th grade education, he mastered trigonometry while sitting on a toilet.

Now he was a Second Lieutenant, an artillery officer. A year or so later, he landed on Utah Beach, marched across Europe as part of Patton’s Army, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He earned the Bronze Star and the Silver Star. The Boston Globe, his hometown newspaper, wrote a story about him.

He came home and got a good job with Standard Oil on the basis of his military rank and record. He believed that World War II was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

This story does not have a good ending. Arthur’s lifelong addiction to alcohol killed him at 54. He died pretty much alone, having lost his job, his family and friends many years earlier. He was a high school dropout at the beginning of his adult life, and an alcoholic at the end of it.

But in the middle of his life, between those two dark bookends, there was a shining moment. He did the right thing, he contributed something good to others, and he earned some respect. I bet it made him feel good. I believe the picture is of him during his Army training, sometime during his transition from muleshit-shoveler to leader of men.

It’s not easy for me to say anything good about Arthur; my memories of him are not good ones. But today I’m going to try to give him his due.

I guess this Veteran’s Day belongs to him as much as anyone.


Newspaper writing: People stories

One of the first things you learn at any newspaper is that stories need to be about people. You can write about places and things all day long, but the best stories describe how places and things affect people. Or a person. One thing I like about living in Florida is that it is filled with old people. And old people have lifetimes of experiences that make for good stories.



CLEARWATER, Fla. — Bill Wynne finally got his medals Thursday, 48 years after a Japanese rifleman shot him in the knee during a battle in the Philippines.

If Wynne hadn’t been so determined to get a special Florida license plate for wounded vets, he might never have gotten his decorations at all.

Wynne, 70, who lives at the On Top of the World development in Clearwater, spent part of Veterans Day at a ceremony at American Legion Post 7, collecting the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, two of the awards and decorations he should have received after World War II, but never did.

To hear him tell it, the bullet wound to the knee was no big deal.

“I always felt I was lucky he hit me in the knee instead of the head,” Wynne said.

The Army’s failure to deliver his medals was no big deal, either, he said. He spent some time in the hospital, finished the war as a truck driver instead of a machine gunner, then got on with his life in Pennsylvania after the war was over.

When Wynne asked about his medals after the war, he was told there was no record of his being wounded or decorated. That seemed a little strange, he said, because the government kept sending him monthly disability checks. But after a while he stopped trying to get his medals.

“I just gave up on it,” Wynne said.

And that’s the way things would have remained, except for the special “combat wounded veteran” license plate that Wynne wanted so badly for his Mercury Sable.

When Pennsylvania came out with a special commemorative license plate for wounded veterans, Wynne, who was then a Pennsylvania resident, applied. Pennsylvania officials were happy to issue him the special plate, he said, and they accepted his VA disability papers as proof of his combat wound.

But things were different when Wynne moved to Florida three years ago. Florida refused to issue him the special plate unless he could produce his Purple Heart or some other evidence of having been wounded in combat.

Wynne decided to go after his medals again, but he got nowhere until he contacted the office of U.S. Sen. Bob Graham.

“They got a reply within 48 hours that my records had been located,” Wynne said.

The official presentation was held at the American Legion post, but the decorations actually came to Wynne’s home a week ago, packed in a big box.

“My wife got excited about them,” he said. “When I got home that night I was just glad to see the Purple Heart was in there.”

Besides the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, the box contained a Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with star, Philippine Liberation Ribbon and a number of other awards.

It was easy to see there was more involved than a license plate.

“I opened the box, and then I opened all the little boxes inside, and I read all the authorizations that were with the medals, and it took me back all those years,” Wynne said. “I felt very emotional about it. It brought home to me that they were really mine.”