Veteran chose San Antonio as retirement city for its military medical facility and free flights for military personnel.
By Richard Montemayor
Liberal arts freshman Mark Wise, 61, who retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel a decade ago, wrote his first book last year to honor his late mother.
Wise said “Conversations with Blanchie” took a year and a half to write.
The book addresses issues many people have about God, the afterlife and religion, Wise said.
“The purpose of the book is to make people think about these issues and not to answer questions,” he said.
Wise said he’s not critical of religion in general or any specific religion.
“I’m just discussing and throwing these topics out there so people can think about it, like who is God, is there more than one God, creation versus evolution and do we see our family, friends and pets,” he said.
The subject of the afterlife has become a big issue right now with documentaries and movies dedicated to the topic, he said.
“Even the Pope just recently talked about seeing your pets in heaven, and with (older) movies like ‘Heaven Can Wait’ … and with a documentary like ‘Finding Jesus’ that CNN produced, it has made aspects of religion popular right now,” Wise said.
Published in July 2014 by Create Space, a publishing company for Amazon.com, the book is nonfiction under the subgenre of religion and spirituality.
“It focuses around a couple that has been married for 71 years,” Wise said. “They have a daily routine every morning before they go to work of sitting in their park while drinking a cup of coffee and discussing all of these issues.”
Halfway through the couple’s journey in the book, Blanchie dies but finds out she can still communicate with Bob while in heaven, so naturally their conversations gravitate toward finding the answers, Wise said.
Wise said he based the character of Blanchie on his mother, while the setting of the story takes place in Wise’s hometown of San Luis Obispo, Calif., and is 90 percent autobiographical.
Wise wrote the book because he wanted to put into words the 50 core religious questions that everyone has had — “regardless of their religion (or) the lack thereof,” he said.
“And it coincided with my mother’s passing in 2011,” Wise said. “That forced me to write a book that honored her while in the same time bringing out all of these issues.”
Three years after his mom died, he published the book.
Wise served in the U.S. Army for 22 years, with 19 years in military intelligence stationed in Panama and three years as a social work officer at the military prison in Leavenworth, Kan. He retired in October 2005.
Wise said he picked San Antonio for retirement because of “the excellent medical care at Joint Base San Antonio and also to be near the Space-A flights that are operated out of Lackland Air Force Base. I am eligible to fly on those for free.”
Space-A flights are for any active or retired military personnel.
If there is room available on the cargo plane, they can fly for free by hopping from military base to military base.
Wise doesn’t know if he’s going to write another book; he has to come up with a topic first, he said. For his next project he is planning on doing an audiobook.
“You can tell from the title, ‘Conversations with Blanchie,’ it really lends itself to creating an audiobook,” he said. “Right now, it’s no easy chore. I’m just trying to find somebody who can assist me in pointing me in the right direction.”
The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays his college tuition.
“The VA pays for your tuition, books and gives you a monthly stipend, so it was a matter of getting a little extra income and taking some classes that I wanted to take,” Wise said.
Wise is currently taking music theory, introduction to computers, digital photography and Spanish 1.
“My goal at this college is to get an associate in liberal arts,” Wise said. He already has one associate degree, two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree in social work from Our Lady of the Lake University.
Wise has a daughter, 34, who lives in New Jersey and a son, 27, who lives in New York City.
Before coming to this college, Wise attended Cochise College in Sierra Vista, Ariz.
Wise’s military training has helped him out with getting an education and writing his book.
“There is a lot of discipline involved in the military,” he said. “I don’t know the word ‘procrastinate’ because you can’t have that word in your vocabulary to be a member in the military.”