Sunday, August 16, 2009

Former Columnist for Stars and Stripes in Europe Visits

Freelance journalist Bonnie Bartel Latino is a member of the Military Writers Society of America. She is also a licensed Lay Eucharistic Minister in the Episcopal Church. She and her husband Tom (retired military) live in South Alabama. Contact Bonnie at or follow her at

FYI -- When my husband Mitch and I were stationed in Munich, Germany, we read the Stars and Stripes newspaper daily. I still have articles almost 40 years later that I saved from the paper.


Thanks to Phyllis Zimbler Miller for inviting me to share a bit about my life as an Air Force spouse and how I came to write a column for Stars and Stripes newspaper.

Writing is embedded in my DNA. As a teenager, I was a columnist for my weekly hometown paper. I also hosted a weekly radio program during those four years in Atmore, Alabama. At Mississippi State College for Women (now MUW) in Columbus, I doubled majored in journalism and speech.

During college I met Tommy Latino, a Mississippi State University senior and guitarist in a popular campus rock band, “T. Tommy and the Tyrants,” a name that could only have been born in the 1960s.

Alas, my long-haired, Italian-American musician was simply a poor college student letting his love of music pay his tuition. By the time I realized that ROTC was as close to Tom’s heart as was music, it was too late. I had fallen. Hard. Quicker than I could burn my bra, I found myself married.

The campus rock star morphed into a second lieutenant, and we were off to Lubbock, Texas, for Tom’s Air Force flight training.

Each year brought a new assignment, another home, often a different country. At each new base, I penned our squadron’s column for the spouses’ club magazine. I wrote for base newspapers around the world.

At Andersen Air Force Base Guam, I hit the air waves on Armed Forces Network Radio every week as the base “story lady.” This, despite my southern accent that was as thick as day-old cheese grits. In the 1980s while Tom was assigned to Hellenikon Air Base. Greece, I wrote several travel articles for Military Times newspaper.

By then, I sometimes loved and loathed the military in equal measure. By the time my second lieutenant had matured into a colonel in the mid 1990s, I had a realistic understanding of what it meant to be a military spouse.

When Tom was stationed in Germany, Stars and Stripes (S&S) newspaper hired me to write a freelance opinion-editorial column as accompaniment to their SUNDAY magazine’s lead story. My assigned topics ranged from the exquisitely painful (the ache many childless women experience on Mother’s Day) to the sublimely ridiculous (computer sex in America).

Occasionally, I also wrote travel articles for the paper, plus human interest features that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

S&S is like a hometown newspaper to U.S. military, Department of Defense civilians and contractors and their families serving overseas. The publication is also coveted by other civilian American expatriates who live overseas in a variety of capacities. Above all, it is a First Amendment publication that operates without censorship from military brass.

When I wrote for S&S/Europe during the mid 1990s, the circulation in Europe, Africa, and parts of the Middle East was around 125,000 readers. Today the paper is said to reach around 350,000 world-wide. The paper is published daily in the Middle East, Europe, Japan, Korea, Okinawa, and weekly in the United Kingdom, where Americans have easy access to other English-speaking media.

As a freelance journalist, I am humbled to have been a small part of the history of a uniquely American publication that began in the 1860s as a paper for Union troops during the Civil War.

The military isn’t just a job or even a career; it is a way of life. As a former S &S columnist and an officer’s wife of 30 years, I intimately know the professional and social nuances of that lifestyle. I have incorporated that knowledge into an unpublished novel I co-authored with Bob Vale of Ocean Township, New Jersey.

YOUR GIFT TO ME is a mystical love story about finding love after tragedy. Set against the realm of the contemporary fighter pilot, YOUR GIFT TO ME is best described as Top Gun meets Steel Magnolias. The website created for the manuscript includes a short video book trailer at

I suspect readers who love Phyllis Zimbler Miller’s MRS. LIEUTENANT might also enjoy YOUR GIFT TO ME.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT and the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION. She also writes articles as a National Internet Business Examiner and she is the co-host of the BlogTalkRadio show Your Military Life.

Phyllis' company has launched the monthly program to help people promote their brand, book or business online. Her company also does Twitter tutoring -- see

1 comment:

Bill Coleman said...

T. Tommy and the Tyrants - now that's a cool name for a rock band.

Enjoyed reading you story.