Now my friend CJ has weighed in. Unlike those who are threatening Clayton Murwin and his wife with physical violence; unlike those who are showing how ugly wilful ignorance can be, CJ has done his homework. (*gasp*)
This is probably going to be one of the most difficult posts I've ever had to write. Why? Because, I'm going to be on the opposite side of a good, gold star family. It's not a position I ever want to be in, but in my mind wrong is wrong and right is right.
I can't remember the exact date that I first spoke with Clayton Murwin about his "Untold Stories of Iraq and Afghanistan" project, but it was at least two years ago. I first shared the project here in May of 2009. I had two stories submitted for the project, along with my good friend Troy Steward from Bouhammer.com. The project tells the stories of real life Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their combat experiences in comic book form. It was probably the single greatest tribute idea I'd ever heard to that point. I think it still is.
Around that same time, Clayton started a project called Heroes Fallen where he helped to raise money for military charities. He came up with the idea of creating a non-profit called Heroes Fallen Studios Inc. However, the cost to start a non-profit slowed his progress. He had to raise the money to even apply for non-profit status. His vision is to "provide Comfort,Guidance,Support & Assistance to the Heroes and members of our military and their families,both in time of war and in peace. To always Honor & Respect them for their many sacrifices they have made to protect our country and to the American people." Eventually, he achieved non-profit status, but didn't have the money to obtain the additional tax-deductible status. Heroes Fallen Studios, Inc is an official non-profit with an EIN and everything.
As long as I've known Clayton, I've never sensed or detected anything but absolute respect and honor and a desire to do SOMETHING for our troops and their families. If he has a fault it's that his visions are so involved and dedicated that they are almost impossible. That never stood in his way. Clayton has frequently told me that he does what he can because he could never serve himself. Unfortunately, his zeal and dedication to our troops has become a topic of contention in his communities of Broadway, Timberville, and Harrisonburg.
In June of this year, SPC Bucky Anderson was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. He was a two-time state wrestling champion in Virginia. He loved being a Soldier and made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Clayton honored that sacrifice by presenting the family with a hand-drawn portrait of Bucky not long after his funeral. He also told the Anderson family that he would not let his sacrifice be forgotten in the community. The Andersons were thankful for his charity at the time.
His local TV station, Channel 3 WHSV, interviewed Clayton about the portrait and perhaps began what would become one of the hugest misunderstandings in the history of this small town. It would also be a misunderstanding that would turn a good family against a good family and fracture community unity.
Murwin has done illustrations of fallen soldiers before and immediately began working on one for the Anderson family, but it was Murwin that was touched by the picture.
"I'm sitting there drawing this young man, and I'm looking at his face, and I see the pride he had in wearing that uniform," says Murwin.
That is when Murwin decided a picture wasn't enough.
"I started working on it, and then I'm like, 'We need to do something more as a community, Broadway, Timberville, Harrisonburg. We need to do something more. This young man was from this area,'" says Murwin.
Murwin got together with the VFW and a Florida company that makes memorials for fallen soldiers.
He wants to place a memorial in honor of Anderson at Broadway High School where Anderson attended and was a two-time state champion wrestler.
The problem lies in the way different people have interpreted what "a memorial in honor of Anderson" means. However, Clayton has said in both interviews and in person that this was always a memorial to honor fallen troops. On his Facebook page, his bio even read: "[Heroes Fallen, Inc] is erecting a memorial in honor of our fallen heroes. Dedicated to SPC Brian Bucky Anderson, KIA June 12, 2010."
Again, there is a lot of misunderstanding about what that means, but not to me. So, let me explain.
Have you ever heard of the Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act? Probably not, but if I asked if you've ever heard of "Megan's Law" you'll know what I'm talking about. It's easier to talk about "Megan's Law" than to talk about "Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act" in conversation and in publications. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is known as ObamaCare. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 is known as McCain/Feingold Act. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is the Brady Bill.
Likewise, Clayton's effort to memorialize the fallen Soldiers from Virginia in honor of local hero Bucky Anderson became known publicly as the Bucky Anderson Memorial. Another good analogy here are the lifetime achievement awards given by numerous organizations. This year, the Academy Awards presented its annual lifetime achievement award in honor of Michael Jackson, but it's not the Michael Jackson Lifetime Achievement Award!
The problem here lies with the fact that Clayton didn't clarify his mission to the community perhaps as well as he should have. This caused confusion for people like the Anderson family who either mistakenly believed or were led to believe by others that the memorial was specifically for their son when, in fact, the memorial was always to represent ALL fallen troops in honor of local fallen hero Bucky.
What boggles my mind is why the Anderson's – and certain people within the community – would be so adamantly opposed to something designed to memorialize ALL fallen troops in favor of just one. Clayton can't win because, let's face it, there is a lot of respect and empathy for Gold Star Families – as there should be! They have made the ultimate sacrifice and should be forgiven for their reactions to the most difficult of situations one could possibly have to deal within life – burying one's son or daughter. The community rallies around these grieving Americans. Politicians and local leaders reach out to them. Neighbors and community members reach out to them. Everyone gives a little leeway to these families in dealing with them. Mrs. Anderson has told me directly that Clayton "does not have a chance in the community but we can stop all this nonsense and go on to honor these veterans and please believe me I have a lot of influence in the community." She intends to use every bit of that influence to harass and destroy Clayton's life. On her Facebook page, she even mentions that "we should all take a bus trip on Nov. 20-21 to Va. Comicon" in order to disrupt Clayton's comic book project to honor the "Untold Stories From Iraq and Afghanistan."
This pull is already showing. Yesterday, Clayton's website received the following threats:
We shall bring you down. You are no better than those Westboro Church people. If you needed money for YOUR book, It was many other ways to get it other than praying on a small town with big hearts & dragging a good soilders name throw the mud. Im sure this isnt the 1st time you have done this so just to make this clear I am talking about Spc Anderson. You are not a "Hero Maker" you are a Hero Killer. I would love for you spend 1 year over in the sand, I bet you you would have your blasted off within 2 weeks. YOu just keeping drawing your pictures and stealing money you will be judged sometime or another, your lawer won't save u from the man up stairs. I am talking to a Attorny also to set up a website making sure everyone knows what you are really doing, I just want to do it the LEGAL way. Guess what he has offered his services for FREE, its good people in this world & we shall join together to bring people like you out of bussiness. I also read today about your acter friend that you brought to our town was arrested for bording a plane lol WOW!
All spelling errors belong to the author, not me. The ignorance in Broadway is astounding. Simply astounding (not to mention the grammar and spelling – I hope these people don't vote). ...
CJ has much more. He has facts, because he took the time to research and listen to the players in this sorry mess.
I really have nothing to add to CJ's piece, which you can - and should - read here.
As I have said before: I stand with Clayton and his wife. They ARE honourable people, who are being maliciously maligned (and threatened) with false allegations from folks who should be ashamed of themselves for adding to a Gold Star Family's grief.
I believe the truth WILL out eventually, and those who are running their mouths with vicious threats based on lies, will be forced to eat their own words - and crow.