Voices of the Valorous

Poppies in a field

At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, hostilities for the most horrific war in human history up to that point were scheduled to end.

Then known as The Great War (for who could imagine another conflict that was even more horrific was coming?) it changed the popular image of war as something glorious to something bathed in sweat, mud, and blood.

The poppy became a symbol of those who had sacrificed their all to conflict. It became that symbol from a poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian physician.

Soldiers throughout history have written and continue to write, struggling to show the inexperienced a glimpse into war’s character — and aftermath.

I introduced my readers to the Veteran’s Writing Project and its online journal, O-Dark-Thirty, in May. For a modern take on the war dead, you can read the recently published “Valor” by Cameron Filas there.

Veterans Day  (November 11 in the United States, formerly known as Armistice Day) is on Wednesday. When you buy a poppy from a veteran, remember those who have fallen through the voices of those who have served.


Weekend Wrinkle: Write Lest We Forget

It’s Memorial Day weekend – the unofficial start to the summer. Many Americans will enjoy themselves. They’ll catch rays at the beach, sip iced tea with friends, and send wafts of delicious grill smoke to the heavens. Too many won’t stop to remember what the holiday is actually for.

There will still be those who will march in parades, who will set flags on graves, and who will hear the plaintive notes of Taps in cemeteries. They understand why so many of their fellow citizens are able to relax – and forget.

Sure, movies like American Sniper help to remind us of what those who are called upon to fight for our country’s interests experience. But that is just a drop in the bucket of the stories out there.

Luckily, the Veterans Writing Project has a mission. It helps those who have served and are still serving in our military write about their experiences. It helps family members write the stories of our veterans and military personnel.  Its online journal, O-Dark-Thirty, is one of the outlets to help get the millions of stories out.

The Veterans Writing Project provides writing workshops and seminars to veterans, service members, and adult family members. Conducted by writers with graduate degrees and who are veterans, the project helps participants with the writing process. The result can be fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.

There are three points of focus for the project. The first is to foster a new generation of literature, much of which will come from veterans and their families. Many great writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Ernest Hemingway, have experienced war.

The second is getting the stories told. With a generation of World War II veterans vanishing quickly and Korean War and Vietnam War veterans aging, so many stories are disappearing with them. We have more generations of veterans who have had different experiences that need to be told. Our country needs to read them.

In addition to O-Dark-Thirty, the Project is working to establish an archive of what those who have served (and still serve) write.

The third is the therapeutic nature of writing. The Project is not therapy and encourages anyone who needs help to seek it with professionals. However, writing out experiences can be cathartic for many people. The Project helps provide an environment “of mutual trust and respect” for them.

I urge veterans, military service members, or adult children to check out the Project for themselves. I urge others to visit O-Dark-Thirty to read some of what’s there.

The Veterans Writing Project quietly, vitally works so that we, as a nation, won’t forget.