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Serendipity—An Afternoon with Lee and Bud Willis and Friends

 

Bud and Lee Willis

Bud and Lee Willis

When I wrote a review of Marble Mountain: A Vietnam Memoir, I had never met Lee and Bud Willis. I had no idea how delightful these two people are. Meeting them at Bud’s book signing at F&M Bank on Friday afternoon was like running into two friends you had known all your life. Personable, down-to-earth, and genuinely nice are just a few of the accurate adjectives that describe this couple who also spend their time contributing to Wounded Warriors, taking their dog, Boo, to his volunteer duties (and adventures in hotels!), and attending Bud’s book signings all over the South.

Joe Pitts, second-term Representative for Legislative District 67 of the State of Tennessee, introduced Bud about 5:00 p.m. to a full room of admirers. Joe’s remarks about Bud’s career in the Marines included mention of his more than 600 missions to save the lives of others who had been wounded by enemy fire.

Bud Willis on Marble Mountain

Bud then prefaced his remarks by stating that his beautiful wife Lee no longer allows him to make extemporaneous remarks after a joke he told to a group in Kentucky. (He then told that joke followed by several others you would have had to have been in attendance to have heard! All were hilarious but not necessarily ones I can pass along.)

He advised everyone to write for their own good whether or not they mean to publish.

Bud talked a bit about writing Bluestocking, his first book, and about being surprised at the number of people who bought the book and allowed the Wounded Warriors project to benefit from their interest.

Former Huey helicopter pilot Willis had three areas of focus for writing Marble Mountain: (1) for those who were there; (2) for those who weren’t there but wanted to know more about it; (3) for those who were not yet born but need to know what the Vietnam War was truly all about. He insisted however that Marble Mountain is a book about coming of age for millions of young men who found themselves in a war that people are still trying to fathom.

Jimmy Dunn

Jimmy Dunn

Jimmy Dunn, president of Dunn Insurance Company on Madison Street, was host for the book-signing party for Bud Willis. The beautiful penthouse at F & M Bank was a perfect setting with an exquisite array of food and beverages. In Jimmy’s honor, Lee and Bud presented Ward Five City Councilor Candy Jones (also ex-officio Executive Director for the Foundation) a donation to the Education Foundation of Clarksville-Montgomery County in honor of Jimmy Dunn who serves as its Vice President.

Bud was presented a plaque in appreciation from the U. S. Marine Corps League, Detachment James McCutcheon 603, presented by Sgt. Gary L. Weatherford, Commandant. Sgt. Weatherford is also quoted in Marble Mountain as saying, “There is nothing more gratifying to a Marine on the ground than the sound of an inbound Huey.”

When Sgt. Weatherford first acquired his copy of Marble Mountain, he literally stood in the same place for two hours reading it; he had to be asked to move along. That’s more of a testament to Marble Mountain than any writer could ever express in words.

Sgt Weatherford with Bud Willis

Sgt Weatherford with Bud Willis

To see one hero present a plaque of appreciation to another was a moment forever impressed on the minds of all those who witnessed it.

The definition of serendipity is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way” and that was the result of attending the book signing of Marble Mountain.

Bud reminded everyone during his speech that buying a book is a great way to give someone a present. “It’s a lot better than that cheap wine you’ve been giving your friends,” he said.

Buying Marble Mountain: A Vietnam Memoir was an activity that about 100 people were doing on Friday afternoon in Clarksville. They went away not only with a remarkable book they will never forget but with the opportunity to be in the presence of some unforgettable human beings who made it possible for all of us to carry out our lives in peace and security.

Serendipity is the only way to describe a congenial gathering of people from all walks of life—politicians, a judge, members and former members of the military, bankers, business people, writers, members of the press, retired seniors, and sojourners in life.

If you weren’t there, you should have been.

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