A Note from MilSpeak Foundation, Inc. Founder Sally Parmer

Discovering for myself the healing power of writing opened a new world not just for me, but also for the many participants of MilSpeak Creative Writing Seminars (MCWS), for MilSpeak Memo contributors, and for MilSpeak Books’ authors. Founding MilSpeak Foundation as a nonprofit organization for military people in the arts was my solution to the problem of royalty distribution at the time the MilSpeak anthology, MilSpeak: Warriors, Veterans, Family and Friends, was published by Press53 in 2009. I didn’t want to profit from the work of others, particularly not writers participating in my workshops, which I led as a volunteer. So, the members of the first eight MCWS’s (which met between 2005 and 2008) and I decided to funnel royalties from what the writers and I called the MilSpeak anthology into a nonprofit organization for military people in the arts.  MilSpeak Foundation incorporated in South Carolina in 2009. In June 2010, the IRS awarded the organization tax exempt status. In 2011, California recognized MilSpeak Foundation as a tax exempt corporation. That was only the beginning.

Little did we know how our efforts would change not only us, but also the uncountable readers who have encountered our work through the MilSpeak.Org website.

In my experience, healing is neither predictable nor pretty. In fact, it is oftentimes chaotic and messy - downright painful. This was the case for me during MilSpeak’s formative years, during which I served as MilSpeak Foundation’s President and Publisher.

During MilSpeak’s formative years (2005 - 2017), so much was accomplished! Sixteen MilSpeak Creative Writing Seminars were held at MCAS Beaufort SC, some led by me, others by David Ellard, who supported MilSpeak from the start. Six seminars were held with homeless veterans living at the West LA VA Hospital. Sixteen MilSpeak Books titles were published between 2009 and 2013, all of which I edited, designed and prepared for eBook publication. Seven volumes of MilSpeak Memo, our literary eZine, were published between 2009 and 2013, all of which I edited. MilSpeak sponsored a Goodwill drive to establish a professional veterans library. MilSpeak presented Scars on My Heart at University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Performing Arts Center and at the Association of Writing Professionals 2010 Conference. MilSpeak was selected to present at the US Air Force Academy’s War, Literature and the Arts conference. MilSpeak writers of the short fiction collection War Stories (MilSpeak Books 2013) were represented at a Hollywood event at The Federal Bar as part of Sally Shore’s New Short Fiction Series. But there were problems - help was hard to find, donations were slow to come, and the MilSpeak Anthology never produced more than a couple hundred dollars in royalties, most of that paid in copies of the book, which I gave to veterans wherever and whenever I could. But I believed then as I do now that the healing power of writing transcends gender, race, religion, occupation, and generations - it even transcends the differences between military and civilian cultures - and the power of these voices to heal had to be shared! MilSpeak contributors’ voices save lives through verisimilitude, through relativity, through “You made it through so I can too” - this is a gift given to be shared. And so, I gave away far more books than were ever sold, both through royalty print copies and through eBooks freely given through the Seid Books program (which gave thousands of free downloads of MilSpeak Books titles to deployed military members). I believed then as I do now - military people sharing their stories with other military people can save lives.

My personal life during MilSpeak’s formative years (2005 - 2017) was pure turmoil. I was unable to manifest full time employment and worked as a college adjunct instructor for six years. I worked one full year as a teacher at a private school. I moved from South Carolina to California, from an island to the desert, and was divorced and remarried. Beginning in 2013, after realizing PTSD symptoms were getting the best of me, I underwent three years intensive PTSD therapy with Veterans Administration Hospital practitioners. Four months after my new marriage in February 2015, my husband was paralyzed during a surgical procedure required to treat illnesses that arose from Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. I stopped writing, editing, and publishing Memo and MilSpeak Books titles. But I healed physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And yet, I found myself unable to move MilSpeak Foundation forward. The organization needed new leadership to grow.

During the past two years, I prayed for guidance - What should I do with MilSpeak - continue to hold it in abeyance, close it, pass it on? I reached out to a few people, asking if anyone would be interested in assuming leadership. Would anyone be interested in giving MilSpeak a new life? I had nearly given up when I decided to reach out to Tracy Crow, a Marine like me, a graduate of the same writing program, a writer I admired and a professional with the drive and ambition MilSpeak needed to be reborn. Tracy agreed, and so MilSpeak 2.0 emerged. I have complete confidence in Tracy’s ability to guide MilSpeak Foundation through a growth period unlike any yet experienced. I will always be grateful for her willingness to continue the mission. Thank you, Tracy. 

And so it has come to pass - I am whole, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually and MilSpeak is reborn. I have so loved working with each of you, coming to know you, growing through the healing with you.

Connection will always remain between me, each of you, and the organization created by the Universe through you and me. Time well spent. Love well shared. Life given and received. Infinite creation. Always, all ways, the Work has been a gift - to work with the writers, artists and musicians, the professionals and the amateurs, the unschooled and the intellectual - this is the consolation of angels. This amazing gathering of voices and ideas found at the archived website, MilSpeak.org, will continue to grow in its new home: MilSpeakFoundation.org: A Military Community Arts Foundation. Join us there, at MilSpeakFoundation.org, or revisit the past at MilSpeak.org, but join us. Let the healing begin.






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