Sam Mauldin and the Soldiers Project

object>Bill Mauldin’s youngest son, Sam Mauldin, age 23, has launched a powerful project to connect his father’s legacy to the latest generation of “Willies, Joes, and Janes,” as Sam puts it, coming home from war. 

He’s selling exclusively-licensed t-shirts with Willie & Joe on them to raise money for The Soldiers Project, an non-profit run by licensed mental health professionals that provides free confidential counseling and services to military service members who have served or expect to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They also offer services for military families dealing with issues of pre-deployment, service abroad, and readjustment back home.

Sam hit upon the idea after reading a New York Times article in August about Jason Baylock, an Iraq War veteran who committed suicide after returning home.  Suicide has become a major problem in the Army (less so in other branches), and the VA doesn’t seem to have the resources to handle it.  That’s where The Soldiers Project can help.   Some veterans and their families are too young to understand their options and too inexperienced with mental health to grasp the impact that overseas deployments in combat zones can have on soldiers and their families.

Sam understands the powerful absolutes of war.  His father’s war ended 65 years ago, but in some ways the things Bill saw and experienced are no different than what today’s Willies, Joes, and Janes see and experience. 

But there is one difference: today we know and talk openly about the trauma of war and the efficacy of counseling helping patients cope with what we now term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Sixty-five years ago, Bill Mauldin’s friend, the great filmmaker John Huston, made an elegant documentary about the harm war inflicts on the mind and soul and the healing that is possible.  He called that film “Let There Be Light.”  The Army banned it, scared that it would harm morale and discourage recruits.  It was screened for the first time in 1981 and is now a classic.

Sam’s t-shirts cost $10 plus shipping and meet military regulations for apparel.  That is, soldiers can wear them underneath their uniforms.  “That would be something that would bring a big smile to my dad’s face, that people on active duty can wear Willie and Joe,” says Sam.

Listen to an interview with Sam on NPR with Scott Simon.

Buy Sam’s t-shirts here.