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Ellwood City, Pennsylvania
Eric Poole is a reporter and columnist for the Ellwood City (Pa.) Ledger, a small newspaper nestled near the Ohio state line in the heart of Steelers Country. He has a wife, a son and a daughter (so there will be some daddy stuff on this blog). A former steelworker and retired rugby player, Poole has a wide range of interests, which was reflected in the 2008 Pennsylvania Newspaper Association awards, when Poole won first-prize honors for best columns and best special project. His upcoming book, "Company of Heroes," due out March 17, 2015, from Osprey Publishing, tells the story of Vietnam War hero Leslie Sabo and his comrades. Sabo was awarded the Medal of Honor May 16, 2012, in a White House ceremony.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Of autographs and authors

The first time I was asked for an autograph, I was on rugby tour in a suburb of Dublin. A little Irish girl - she must have been 7 or 8 then, and nearly 30 now - approached me at the post-match reception for my signature on our tour program.

Now it wasn't like I was a great rugby player - more like a second-rate player on a pretty good team in a third-rate rugby nation - but the girl didn't want my name on a piece of paper because of my athletic prowess, which was limited to having a high pain tolerance at any rate. She wanted our autographs because we were Americans far from the tourist track, which was something far more exotic.

So autographs of those in our team's touring party were in great demand that day among the children on hand. And we had to call them children, not kids. I made that mistake, and got an indignant response from from the little girl.

"I am NOT a goat!!!" Thanks to the Irish lilt in her voice, though, she managed to be angry and adorable at the same time.

Back then, I was mystified that anyone would want my autograph. That's one of the few things that hasn't changed in the last 20-plus years.

With my second book - and first mainstream-published work - due for release in less than eight weeks, I've been getting messages on the "Company of Heroes" Facebook page requesting autographed copies of a book I wrote, but am not selling (that task falls to Osprey Publishing and Random House, the U.S. distributor).

I know me well enough to realize that I'm not all that special. I'm the author of what might be the two most valuable copies of a self-published book, and the worth of those two books stems entirely from the autographs on its title page, none of which are mine. A photo of the title page, signed by President Barack Obama, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Army Secretary John McHugh is shown above.

In fact, these two books would be worth less if the author had signed them.

However, I'll do my best to make sure that everyone who wants my autograph in my book gets one, although I'm not quite certain how I'll do that just yet.

But really, readers of "Company of Heroes" should pursue autographs of those in the book instead of the guy who wrote it.

The veterans of Bravo Company are the real men of distinction. All I did was tell their stories.

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