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March 12, 2012

Author to recount hearing 'The Call'

DUNCAN — Retired Col. James Wilhite will be speaking at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the back building of the Duncan Public Library, where he will be discussing his book, “We Answered the Call.”

Wilhite will arriving at close to 5 p.m., in order to have things set up and time for a meet and greet those attending. Wilhite will be bringing several artifacts from his tenure in the military and many copies of his books to be autographed and sold.

“I’m bringing examples of men’s and women’s clothing from Afghanistan, as well as a woman’s ceremonial dress and a leadership robe,” he said.

“Anyone is welcome to take photos and they can even try them on.”

Now residing in Edmond, this will not the former Air Force colonel’s first trip to Duncan. He was here 2011 to participate in a book festival, where he struck up a conversation with the Duncan librarian Jan Cole.

Cole was intrigued by Wilhite’s story and asked him to come speak at the library.

“She said, ‘I’ve got to have you talk to the Friends of the Library,’” said Wilhite. “I’ve talked to those groups before and they’re always good, because they love books. So, I agreed.”

Wilhite’s presentation will be informal and laid back, as he enjoys sharing stories and hanging out with audience members.

“I’m very excited (about coming back to Duncan). I had a great time last time,” Wilhite said. “I appreciate Duncan letting me come and share.”

After teaching at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Wilhite was called back to active duty in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Although there was no job for him upon arrival, he was eventually given the task establishing a four-year university for Afghan students.

In 2004, with little to no money and no full-time staff, Wilhite used the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as a model to finish the project in only 10 months. Much like students who attend West Point are required to serve five years in the American military, students at the Afghanistan university are required to serve 10 years with the Afghan army.

In the first class, there were 115 students and the class this year has 2,500 students, which exemplifies the tremendous success of the university. Building of the university was part of the BONN agreement with Afghanistan. They wanted the U.S. to help reestablish their infrastructure by helping with their education system.

Wilhite’s book has been adapted into a screenplay and is being considered for a movie. He hopes to have the film ready to distribute at the GI Film Festival in May, in Washington, D.C.

“Of course (I’m excited about the film), it’s a good news story and it is just one example of the good things that are going on over there,” said Wilhite. “With the movie, more people will hear about all the good.”

After the presentation, Wilhite will be available to discuss his book and experiences during a book signing. The event is free.

Wilhite also speaks to church groups, organizational groups such as Lions and Kiwanis clubs, and in homes. Anyone interested in having him speak at an event should discuss it with Wilhite during Tuesday’s visit.

For more information on Wilhite and his book, visit weansweredthecall.tateauthor.com.

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