Book about area veterans a moving experience at paper

June 18, 2006|by JOHN LEAGUE

When I first started at The Herald-Mail as a reporter in 1979, we printed two daily newspapers six days a week. We did not publish a newspaper on a half-dozen holidays. We would, over the course of a year, print some special sections, such as a football tab or a special publication commemorating a holiday or anniversary.

And that was essentially it.

How times have changed.

We now publish a newspaper every day of the year except Christmas. We now have a Web site that averages more than 19,000 visitors a day, and more than 3 million page views a month. (In 1979, a Web site was something I'd have associated with a spider.)

We publish a number of "niche" publications, with more on the way. These are magazines and publications distributed separately from The Herald-Mail newspapers. This includes our new magazine, Elegant Living, which is mailed free to thousands of households in Washington County.


And we're about to publish our fourth book titled "Our Country Called."

Of all these projects, The Herald-Mail's foray into the book publishing business has been perhaps the most fascinating thing we've done because it's involved such a high level of face-to-face interaction with the community.

Volumes I and II of "Our Past, Our People" brought us into contact with hundreds of our readers who provided photos and stories about Washington County's history and the people who shaped it. Volume III is due out in late summer or early fall.

As rewarding as that process has been, it pales in comparison to the outpouring we've seen for "Our Country Called," a tribute to Washington County's servicemen and servicewomen. It will be published during the next few months.

Project coordinator Michele Wills, book editor Marie Lanser Beck, editorial assistant Dennis Shaw, graphic editor and layout guru Deb Lanzendorfer and master-organizer Susan Snyder have worked for months on this project. More than 350 people have contributed. It's been a labor of love for these folks, and an emotional roller coaster.

Our book team talked to many of you. Often, those conversations turned emotional. Stories of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, family and friends who served in the military have resulted in a lot of tears being shed at the newspaper, and some poignant stories of patriotism, heroism, service, heartache and heartbreak.

It was Michele's idea to pursue a book about Washington County's service veterans.

"Quite a few of the veterans shed tears during our interviews, and so did we," Michele said. "Many shared their heart and soul experiences, in some cases for the first time in their lives."

Marie, who's done most of the interviews and much of the writing, has been touched deeply by the experience.

"We have been struck by the humility of the veterans - young and old - by the commonality of their experiences, no matter which generation, and their willingness, at sometimes great risk and hardship to themselves and their families, to answer their country's call."

I have read some of the early proofs from the book. Calling the stories moving is a gross understatement.

My hat's off to our book team for taking the many stories and photos and making them come alive.

And my thanks to the hundreds of contributors who have allowed us to chronicle our county's proud and impressive history of service and sacrifice.

We will keep you posted as our books move closer to publication.

John League is editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7073, or by e-mail at

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