Words of warmth
A Brandon High School graduate gets a story published in Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul.
By TIFFANI SHERMAN
Published November 4, 2005
Many people swear by chicken soup to make them feel better.
One Brandon High School graduate is hoping to bring that healing to others.
In "My Home," a story in the book Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul, Ben Pigsley writes about the little things that transform a house into a home, even when the actual address changes dozens of times.
"My family is the most important thing in my life, so I think a lot of people can relate to (my story)," said Pigsley, 41. "I always thought deployment was harder on my family than it was for me."
Over the course of his 21-year military career, the recently retired Army master sergeant took his wife, Julie, 17-year-old son, Daniel, and 15-year-old daughter, Samantha, around the world. They lived in Japan, Germany, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida.
He also lived other places without his family and served in both gulf wars.
"I was one of the first people in Baghdad when we went in," Pigsley said.
During his time in the Army, many of his assignments were classified. "I couldn't tell my wife exactly where I was or what I was doing," he said.
That kind of stress can tear apart a military marriage. "A lot of times your family can't relate to what you're going through," he said.
Pigsley wrote "My Home" about a dozen years ago for an English class. Julie, to whom he has been married 18 years, cried when she read it. She saved the story and an original copy is now framed in the family's home.
"When he was in the service, he was pretty hard-core," said Julie Pigsley, 42. "I thought (the story) was a pretty good way to show the other side of the Army man. It showed my Ben."
While Ben was in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Julie received an e-mail from another military wife telling her about the Chicken Soup project. Its authors were soliciting stories for the book, so she submitted "My Home."
"I thought other military wives could relate to it," she said. "I didn't hear anything for quite a while."
The four writers compiling the book received more than 5,000 submissions like Julie Pigsley's, said Charles Preston, a Californian and co-author of the books. "That's a lot of reading," Preston said. The co-authors compile the stories and write the introductions.
Preston and his group sent their favorite submissions to readers, who scored them on a 10-point scale. The stories that scored the highest remained in contention for publication. Once the pile was whittled down to 150 stories, they were sent to 40 more readers who helped narrow them down to the 101 essays in the book.
Each Chicken Soup book has 101 stories. The series started in 1993 and now comprise more than 90 titles covering everything from NASCAR fans to brides.
Miriam Hill of Clearwater has published two stories in the series, including one about planning her daughter's wedding while her house was under construction, and hopes to publish two more.
"I couldn't believe it when I made the cut," she said. "It said, hey, you can really write if you're involved in this."
The military wife edition deals with keeping a family together.
"I wanted a way to recognize military families and show them in a positive light," Preston said. "We wanted to recognize and honor the unsung heroes of the military, the military wives."
Chapter 5, where Pigsley's story is included, is titled, "Honey, We've Got Orders."
"(Pigsley's) story is very appropriate," Preston said.
"The book in general makes you realize there are people going through worse things than you are," Pigsley said. "There are some tear-jerkers in there."
Pigsley said the book helps people realize they aren't alone. "Maybe my story, someone's reading it somewhere and they can relate to it," he said.
The Chicken Soup editors paid Pigsley for his story, but not much. It was just enough for a dinner out at the Salt Rock Grill, he said, adding that he didn't expect to be paid anyway.
But others also will benefit monetarily. A portion of the profits of each book go to Gold Star Wives of America, a nonprofit organization to help people whose spouses died while on active military duty, Preston said.
The book has been out since April and is in most bookstores and online. Julie Pigsley said she's surprised there are still copies available.
"I thought my mom bought them all."
[Last modified November 3, 2005, 08:48:08]
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