On September 11, 2001, Jill Connett lost a special friend -- someone who was like family.
In the military, people who become an important part of your life often come and go, but Connett hopes that by sharing her story of joy and pain she can inspire others.
"Home is where the army sends us," Connett explained. "Japan, Fort Bragg, NC, Fort Leavenworth, KS, Fort Carson, Colorado, Stuttgart Germany, Fort Benning, Columbus, GA, Patrick Henry Village, Heidelburg, Germany and we're back here to Fort Bragg NC."
Connett and her family have moved eight times in 15 years, but that's not unusual because it's the Army way of life.
Her story is a love story that started when a young lieutenant swept her, a young Alabama teacher, off her feet. He promised her the world, beginning with Okinawa, Japan.
"That was huge," she said. "I have to say I cried for about two months because I thought what am I doing in another country where I can't even speak the language, but at that point I decided I could either learn to love this lifestyle. Or I can be miserable. "
Connett decided to explore her new surroundings, get out and meet people and make the most of every move.
After settling into a new home in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, meeting her new neighbors was at the top of her list of things to do.
"When we moved in, I got out a plastic plate -- it happened to be green -- and I made some cookies and took them over to my neighbor to say hello and meet them," Connett explained. "And when I did, a tall man answered the door. His name was Dwayne Williams and that was the day that our friendship with me and his wife started."
The Connetts and the Williams became fast friends and for 10 months continued to pass the green plate filled with goodies from one home back to the other.
"When we moved, she didn't like to say goodbye, so she decided you know what I'm not going to say goodbye -- but she came over when the moving truck was about to pull out and said this started our relationship and I know it's plastic and I know it's just a plate, but I want you to keep it," Connett recalled. "So I kinda laughed, we cried [and] we said goodbye."
Three months later Dwayne Williams, who was just beginning his new assignment at the Pentagon, was killed on 9/11.
"At that point that plastic plate became like a little monument in my kitchen" she said. "I now put it out in my kitchen to remind me that you know what, you can't waste time. I knew I was only in Fort Leavenworth for 10 months, but I'm so glad I got to know that wonderful family and spend time with them."
Connett writes about the Williams family and military life in The Green Plate -- a book she hopes will inspire others to extend a hand of kindness, cherish those you hold dear and make the most of everyday.
"The green plate reminds me that whenever I have to move and start over again that you know what, I can be the one to get out and meet somebody and start my life over," Connett said.
And if you happen to be on the receiving end of a greeting from new neighbors, Connett says, ""What I like to get out to people who aren't military is you can be a part of making up feel welcome. You can be a part of recognizing a new kid on the block and new kid in the school. Teach your children to welcome those new kids and make them part of your school, your community because that means a lot to us."
There will be a book signing at Borders Books on Walnut Street in Cary Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. Connett will be there signing copies of her book. If you would like to buy a copy for yourself or donate one to a wounded warrior, visit thegreenplate.net.
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