Veterans writing group puts out fourth book, awards scholarships

Members of the Veterans' Writing Group of San Diego
Members of the Veterans’ Writing Group of San Diego gather at the Veterans Association of North County Resource Center in Oceanside.
(Courtesy of the Veterans’ Writing Group of San Diego)

The Veterans’ Writing Group of San Diego County published its fourth book of poems and stories, titled “At Ease!” and is presenting scholarships at its book launch


The Veterans’ Writing Group of San Diego County published its fourth book of poems and stories, titled “At Ease! Now That I Have Time to Think About It.

The book includes 47 works by area military veterans and their families. The authors range from age 20 to 91.

“The writings cover wartime and peacetime. Some are true and others are imagined. They range from tragic to humorous,” said Joe Ashby, a member of the writing group .

Ashby’s short story, “Sangley Point Detachment,” hearkens back to his service as a Navy aircrewman on a patrol bomber headed from Japan to the Philippines during the Korean War.

Garry Garretson, a long-time member of the writing group, who now leads it, contributed two stories.

One, titled, “Ah! Corpsmen” is about his good friend John Mullen, who was a Navy Corpsman in Vietnam, and was wounded, only to return to serve his Marine unit after recovering in Japan.

The other, “My Mother’s Six Years of Combat” tells of his mother’s marrying an Army Medic in 1942, having a baby just before Garretson’s father deployed for three years in North Africa and Italy during intense combat. The story continues to tell about the military service of Garretson and his brother during the Vietnam War.

Garretson served in the Navy from 1965-1969, flying over 3,000 hours as an aircrew member providing early warning in Vietnam and Typhoon Tracking throughout the Pacific Ocean. He later served in a transport squadron supplying a wide range of people and products into and out of Vietnam receiving three Air-medals. Garretson was named 2020 Vista Veteran of the year for the annual Heroes of Vista program.

The nonprofit group’s first three books are titled “Away for the Holidays,” “Listen Up! Things I Learned from the Military” and “Stories That Must Be Told.”

Garry Garretson, who leads the Veterans' Writing Group of San Diego, at Author Night in Oceanside.
Garry Garretson, who leads the Veterans’ Writing Group of San Diego, at Author Night in Oceanside.
(Joe Ashby)

The group was formed about 12 years ago by John Maki, a retired Marine, and Gail Chatfield, the daughter of a World War II Marine veteran who fought in Iwo Jima.

“The stories reveal the everyday sacrifices, camaraderie and pride of our military … they are often heartbreaking, but always inspiring,” said Chatfield in an interview with the Union-Tribune in 2016 when the first book, “Away for the Holidays,” came out.

“While we are not a therapy group, writing is therapeutic to many,” she said.

Proceeds from the sales of the books allow the group to donate copies to veterans in nursing homes, military hospitals and clinics along with other veteran centers.

Local area fiction writer Delores Wardell arranged for the sectioning of “At Ease,” and the group had help from several other local authors and book editors who did writer critiques along with editing.

A book launch for “At Ease” is slated for 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Veterans Association of North County Resource Center in Oceanside.

At the event, the writing group will recognize three MiraCosta College students as its first Ernie Pyle Scholarship recipients. The scholarship is named in honor of Ernie Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent in World War II who wrote about ordinary American soldiers and kept the folks on the homefront aware of troops overseas. He was killed by enemy fire during the Battle of Okinawa at the age of 44.

The recipients of the scholarship awards are MiraCosta students Tyler Adams, Trisha Colin and Telly Solomon, who submitted short stories in the Veterans’ Writing Group’s scholarship contest. The three students were selected to each receive cash grants of $500, which will be awarded at the book launch. The 2022 Ernie Pyle scholarship program is slated to be announced to area colleges this month.

The Veterans’ Writing Group is open to area veterans and their spouses who are interested in learning from each other and from published authors, book editors and publishers. No writing experience is required.
The group helps participants craft stories and critiques works in progress. All forms of writing — short stories, novels, poetry, memoirs — are covered.

The group markets its compilation of works by members through Amazon, Kindle and bookstores. Members can participate in story reading at local libraries and community events.

It awards scholarships to veterans enrolled in area colleges.

The group typically meets from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the third Saturday of each month at the Veterans Association of North County Resource Center, 1617 Mission Ave., Oceanside.