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Winston Groom, author of 'Forrest Gump,' wows crowd at Veterans Day event

ST. LEO — Like his lovable, dim-witted character, Forrest Gump, Winston Groom Jr. keeps his composure no matter how awkward the circumstances.

Even when he's getting soaked in iced tea.

"It's all right," the famed novelist drawled sweetly to a flustered server who committed the faux pas with the pitcher. He took the napkins offered to him and calmly wiped up the spill, not missing a beat.

He was visiting Saint Leo University for its Veterans Day program Monday. After the luncheon, he chatted with fans and signed copies of his books, which in addition to the bestselling novel-turned-blockbuster-film Forrest Gump, include his latest, The Aviators, a biography of three heroes who returned to aid in World War II even though they were firmly established in middle age.

"These guys could have sat it out on the sidelines," Groom said over chef salad. "But they didn't."

In addition to Groom, 70, the program included remarks from those currently serving in the armed forces, recognition of fallen heroes and patriotic songs from student performers. The school was also commemorating its 40th anniversary of offering educational opportunities to veterans at military bases and online.

Full Story: Winston Groom

Attribution: Lisa Buie, Tampa Bay Times