Bonnie Amos is interviewed Sept. 11 in Washington. She is rolling out a new reading list for spouses and talking about her initiative to help spouses get their stories published. (Thomas Brown / Staff)
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MARINE BARRACKS WASHINGTON, D.C. — The former Bonnie Covan was working in a small Florida bank when she first met the Marine officer who, four decades later, would become the service's top general.
Gen. Jim Amos and his wife began their journey together then, when the future four-star was attending flight school in Pensacola and needed a car loan, she said. The years since have included many deployments, challenges and adventures, the commandant's wife told Marine Corps Times during a Sept. 11 interview in their historic home here at Marine Corps' oldest active post. They have two children and four grandchildren and have moved at least 28 times as he progressed from flying F-4 Phantom II fighters to becoming one of the most influential officers in the U.S. military.
With that in mind, Mrs. Amos has launched new initiatives to reach out to Marine families, including a weekly blog on eMarine, a website for that audience. Next up: A recommended reading list that will make about 20 books targeted to military families available in exchange stores. Most are written by Marine wives, with a handful more by spouses whose husbands are in other branches of service, Mrs. Amos said.
"We don't have many war books on there," she said. "It's how do we maintain, how do we sustain, and I'd like to think that there are plenty of books on that list that are encouraging. We live a very exciting lifestyle. We don't need anyone to pity us because we have many opportunities."
The list will be released in October and includes many self-published works that are unavailable in mainstream bookstores and hard to find online. They range from a children's book written to explain what a combat deployment is like to works offering tips on handling permanent change-of-station moves and understanding military etiquette, Mrs. Amos said.
Each book was reviewed by a committee that includes the commandant's wife, other military spouses and representatives from the Marine Corps Exchange and the Marine Corps Association, which reviews books that could end up on the commandant's required reading list.
Getting it together
Mrs. Amos said the idea for a reading list first came to her in the spring, when she was traveling with the commandant to a cabin they have in North Carolina. The couple often uses those trips to brainstorm ideas for addressing challenges the Corps faces, she said.
"I think we were discussing a book that he was adding onto the commandant's reading list," she said. "I'm always looking for ways to reach out to family members. Ways that we can impart goodness to them, to let them know they're cared for, and they matter, and that they have opportunities and resources, if you will, within the Marine Corps to help them live this lifestyle that we are all a part of."
Mrs. Amos suggested to her husband that they do a new reading list together, she said. The general said that since he already had a reading list, developing a new "First Lady of the Marine Corps" reading list would be a good alternative, his wife recalled.
A couple weeks later, Mrs. Amos received an email from Phyllis Stewart, the wife of Brig. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the Corps' director of intelligence. Mrs. Stewart asked if there was a way to make it easier for military spouses to get their works published, which led back to the conversation Mrs. Amos had with the commandant about developing a new reading list.
Mrs. Amos said she asked Mrs. Stewart if she and another military spouse, Holly Scherer, would be willing to organize a committee to review books that could be recommended to families. They jumped at the suggestion.
Scherer — whose husband, Jack Scherer, is a retired Army colonel — has run workshops offering tips to military spouses for years. It always has been difficult to find copies of good books offering specifics, she said, especially because many of them are self-published in small quantities. Mrs. Amos getting involved jump-started a way to fix that, Scherer said.
"There's no reason to try and approach this lifestyle on your own. There are wonderful resources," Scherer said of the books. "There is support. This is one of the avenues that military spouses can go to get it."
Mrs. Stewart said the committee will periodically review other titles that should be added to Mrs. Amos' list in the future.
"We'll see how much interest these books are generating, and hopefully this is something that is ongoing," Stewart said. "Hopefully it's not just a trial run, and we keep updating."