John Mollison is a writer, artist, and filmmaker participating in two local events honoring military veterans and their families over the weekend. WUWF’s Danielle Freeman had the opportunity to talk with him about his body of work and its significance.
Mollison says he became interested in military history at a time when there wasn’t as much support for the nation’s defenders, and over the years he’s learned that it’s really cool to love your country.
“Wait a second, the military’s good," he said. "That’s where I was really able to learn about history and become interested in how culture changes. How views change. And try to see what that meant not only for my generation and my kids. The result is I’ve learned patriotism and I’ve learn pride in our country in a way that I believe is more meaningful. Figuring out ways to share what I’ve learned with the rest of the world.”
Mollison noted he’s been invited to participate in the FWB Chamber of Commerce’s Military, Family and Veteran Appreciation Day activities because it just so happens he knows a few of WWII Veterans in the area, “I’ve interviewed them; I’ve drawn their airplanes, real old guys and their airplanes. What if we get an autograph table, these old guys, and kids can meet them and get autographs. And, people can see the WWII generation, because as trite as you want to hear it, they’re disappearing. It’s a way to look in the eyes and say that guy was there.”
He says he’s passionate about sharing what he’s learned about each of the veterans he meets. With that purpose in mind, Mollison created a web series of short documentaries aptly named “Old Guys and Their Airplanes.”
During his visit to the Gulf Coast, Mollison will present the local premiere of his documentary titled “The Wind Beneath Your Wings.” It’s Episode 8 of his series, and it highlights Bluewater Bay resident and former WWII pilot Chris Morgan. Morgan was held prisoner by the Japanese from October 1943 through June 1945.
“You learn how people’s strengths and weaknesses are different," said Mollison. "Chris’s story is tough because you know the Japanese were brutal and that the Nazi Germans were absolutely horrific. But, an American in a Japanese POW camp had ten to fifteen times the likelihood of dying, because of the culture and because of the treatment and because of the different perspectives on people. Chris was able to survive because he’s an extraordinary strong man.”
Here's what Chris Morgan had to say in a clip from the film.
“We had a meal one day and I was looking across the room at a fellow by the name of King. He was sick and couldn’t eat his rice, couldn’t eat his meal. And then I reflected…Q: to save yourself…”
According to Mollison, Chris had the character to be able to make core level value decisions. "Everybody’s got disease; you can choose to die in those moments. The average American has no concept of what those people went through." They don’t know what it’s like to be riddled with disease. To be eating 300-400 calories a day and being forced to work. And, how do you live? Chris is pretty tough. Yet, he’s also a compassionate and extremely intelligent man. He’s able to see life and difficulty and challenges with a true human spirit that I find really inspiring.”
WWII vet Chris Morgan will be on hand for the screening of the documentary “The Wind Beneath Your
Wings” Friday, April 15th at 5:30 at the Air Armament Museum near Eglin Air Force Base. Afterward, there will be a Q & A and autograph session with Morgan and Mollison.
In addition, Mollison will continue participating in the Military Appreciation Day activities scheduled on Saturday, April 16th from 11am and ending with fireworks at 8pm presented by the FWB Chamber and the Panhandle Warrior Partnership. He says it’s a way to say thank you to those who give a big part of their life for duty, honor, and country, “It’s a pretty big deal. I didn’t know that thousands of people showed up for this thing. It’s huge. Between 11am-1pm, I will be at a table with Chris Morgan, Cass Phillips, and Redd James and we’re going to be handing out some little autograph cards. It’s my artwork and they’ll autograph them and then these little cards also turn into cut out airplanes.
Mollison will also be selling his artwork at the event with proceeds benefiting the Panhandle Warrior Partnership. And, looking ahead, Mollison will explore new ideas for his web series including producing a piece on “The Missileers,”and the Minuteman III missile.