Local veteran’s book supports Homes for Heroes

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Winchester resident and veteran John Barnes has a lot to be proud of, and being an author is now the latest feather in his cap. John is now promoting his book, called “White School, Black Memories”, and is donating 100% of profits to veterans’ charity Homes for Heroes. 

John’s military career began in 1981 in St. John’s, Newfoundland where he completed training and remained as part of The First Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment. Over the years, he was stationed in many places throughout Canada and abroad, the last one being the Canadian Army Headquarters before his retirement in 2017. John’s operational tours include Cyprus, the Gulf War, the Croat/Bosniak War, and Afghanistan. His awards include a Sacrifice Medal after being wounded in combat, a Meritorious Service Medal for leadership in battle, and Member of the Military Order of Merit. 

John never had ambitions to be an author. The writing of his book “just happened”, he explained. “I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and after trying many different outlets and medications, it was recommended that I write down how I was feeling and what my thoughts were. There were days I would find myself writing for several hours at work and at home.”

John felt that his writing lacked format and proper grammar, but he was just focused on getting his thoughts and feelings out. He experienced both writer’s block and an inability to stop writing at times, and much of what he wrote was content that he felt unable to talk about out loud – things that made him “angry or extremely sad”. 

John’s writing was supposed to be private, until a friend and colleague saw him writing and asked about it, so John agreed to let him read it. “The next morning, he told me that he could not put it down and read it all night and was so amazed at my stories,” said John. “I continued to write and ended up telling the story of my life with the emphasis remaining on Operation Medusa and Afghanistan.” John was soon persuaded to pursue publishing through Double Dagger Publishing, a veteran-owned company. 

Over a year later, John is now actively promoting the book. He has promoted “White School, Black Memories” both on social media and in person, and has also visited military bases and Legions with the book. “The outpouring of support and love has made this nerve-racking experience all worthwhile,” said John. “The book has been doing amazing on Amazon as well as through local military CANEX outlets and kit shops.” An audio version will be released in January. 

John and his wife Julie have chosen Winchester as their place of retirement. They had no previous ties to the area before moving to Winchester in 2016, but are now proud to call the community home.

The most special part of John’s book writing story is of course the fact that all proceeds go to a good cause. “As soon as I made the decision to publish the book, Julie and I knew that we would not take any money and that it would be donated,” John explained. “We decided on Homes for Heroes in Kingston. We now donate 100% of all royalties. My first cheque was donated in Kingston this summer and was just over $6,000, the second cheque will be donated in the near future. If I can help one of our Canadian heroes regain some dignity and get them off the street, it will all have been worth it.

Besides financial support for veterans, “White School Black Memories” also has value in sharing the experiences of a typical Canadian soldier. “I hope that it helps keep our soldiers’ stories alive for the next generation,” John added. “I hope that it gives some soldiers out there the courage to ask for help if they are suffering alone. My career went from Private to Chief Warrant Officer and that knowledge and experience is normally left out of most books.”

John carries the physical and mental scars of a lifetime of serving Canada. “Losing soldiers in combat, getting wounded and realizing that it could have been me lying dead next to my soldiers changes a person in ways that are difficult to explain to others,” said John. “I dedicated my book to the soldiers of Charles Company, and I now strive to not only keep their stories alive but to honour them, especially all those who didn’t come home. All of those Officers and soldiers who served with Charles Company in 2006-2007 showing such great honour and bravery and sacrificing so much, are true Canadian Heroes and they deserve to be remembered by Canada.

To purchase “White School, Black Memories”, visit https://www.amazon.ca/White-School-Black-Memories-Barnes/dp/1990644279.

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