Q&A with a ChicagoNow blogger: Denise Williams of Uncommon Sense

There are hundreds of ChicagoNow bloggers who cover a wide variety of topics, each with his/her own viewpoint. Today, our community manager has paired us up with another blogger and we are each conducting a Q&A session with them and sharing them and their blog.  You can find all of the ChicagoNow blogger interviews here. Take a look and meet some new bloggers.

I'm very pleased to introduce you to Denise Williams, who writes the blog Uncommon Sense. She is a proud Gold Star Mom, whose son, Andrew, served in the Army and was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010.

Q. When did you start writing?

A. Started writing for the Plainfield and Joliet Patch because it was time to start writing. I started writing for them six months after Andrew was killed

What motivated you to start writing?

Primarily it is to continue to write for a civilian audience to make them less civilian. Make them understand the perspective of life of what is important to military and veterans

The military world is a more civilized and urbane society than the general one.

The disconnect and the divide between the civilian and military world is huge. The vast majority of people have no clue. There are 53,000 veterans in Will County, Illinois [where Denise and I both live] alone More than 70% of veterans voted in election, and there is no unified political party. In fact, in the military they cannot express a political opinion.

I share cold truths that people don’t want to hear. I didn’t know how that would go over.

What are your goals for your writing?

Primarily it is to continue to write for a civilian audience to make them less civilian. I want to make them understand the perspective of life of what is important to military and veterans.

I’d like more people to read from the perspective that this is a segment of society that you should know about. Regardless of the politics, there are people willing to die to protect your right to practice and believe and say anything you want. Understand that. Take it out of the politics. I hate the people who comment that they are fighting for the military industrial complex. It’s simply not the truth.

People assume they know why people enlist. There are as many reasons to enlist as there are to go to college. It is a decision of who you want to be.

Someone who enlisted for the right reasons, it changes who they are as a person. I’ve met very few, even those who didn’t have  a good military experience who don’t see themselves as a better person for the experience

What brought you to ChicagoNow?

I was looking for something with a wider voice, a little less local. Once there, I learned about things like Google Analytics, which is not a vanity for a blogger. You learn what you’re doing and where you’re reaching, even if it is parts you don’t want to reach.

What do you enjoy most about ChicagoNow?

I love the city of Chicago, and I love the perspective of the voices of my home.

Doesn’t matter where I live or where I go, I’m a Chicagoan born and bred. My ties here are generations deep, going back to a family member born in Chicago in 1868.

With the wider audience, sometimes that brings rude blog commenters. Were you prepared for that?

I was surprised. I was not prepared for the crazies.

How do you handle the negative comments?

I have two golden rules: 1) never hit the send button after 10 p.m. and 2) never take it personally. Often, if I don't say anything, other readers get in there and tear them apart. Sometimes you just get an oxygen thief and you want to tell them, "Get off the internet, you are sucking bandwidth and oxygen." But I don't, because I'm trying to maintain somewhat of a professional demeanor.

Having lost your son, how do you handle it when people ask how many children do you have?

When I say that my only son was killed in action on November 1, 2010, the other person falls apart.  - adept at avoiding the conversation. I don’t need to be consoling them and part of it is you’re a stranger to me - this is the most important part of me. You earn the knowledge, I don’t just wear it.

You write extensively about supporting our troops. If someone is looking for a way to do that and to take action, what do you recommend?

Every family should be taking their children to a memorial for fallen from the global war on terror.

For people who are local to Chicago, there is a Rockin' for the Troops concert at Cantigny on July 19, 2014, featuring Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band. It benefits Operation Support our Troops, which has sent 1.7 million pounds of care packages, supports traumatic brain injury research, and supports Wounded Warrior programs.

Nationally, the Fisher House is the Ronald McDonald house for the VA hospitals, provide=ing military families housing close to a loved one during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury. Supporting them is a huge deal.

Team Rubicon is also one of my favorites. It’s an NGO disaster relief. They were the first people on the ground in Haiti and it is run by all volunteers, primarily former military members. It is of military, by military, for military, which is a very cool thing.

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