Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fort Hood writing workshop

It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon as we gathered ourselves, some hesitantly, some eagerly, around a couple tables in the falling leaves of Killeen, TX in the parking lot of Under the Hood CafĂ©. Fort Hood soldiers, Iraq veterans, a “military brat,” a Vietnam vet, a military wife, and hope gathered on Veterans Day to write. We introduced ourselves as writers, some hiding novels in their drawers, some only writing for school, some trying to avoid the pen like the plague, yet here we were. We shared, we listened, we created. We asked ourselves what Veterans Day has meant to us in the past and what it means now. We engaged in honest reflection about Veterans Day, how we saw it as children, how society celebrates it, how we often mourn and detest it. We gave ourselves time and space to begin learning how to express and articulate experiences, emotions and hopes. One veteran came bursting with a story of how his heart, his emotions, his breath suddenly shook him in the middle of class, forcing him to flee the room in search of water and relaxation. He jumped in his car, sped over to us and lay down his heart. We welcomed him with genuine ears and understanding eyes. We know these stories well, we shared similar memories. We encouraged each other to speak, we waited patiently to listen, we embraced with accepting arms. We are building a community of articulation and expression based on trust and truth.

two writing workshop excerpts by Mike Kern, Iraq Veteran

Not knowing what war is and what the real purpose we are over there for has a lot of psychological effects on people returning from their “jobs” overseas. Imagine fighting a non-uniformed combatant civilian some of the time with no military training whatsoever, in their own country, a country that you were not invited to, a place where you are not visiting on your own accord. I see it the same as genocide, the same thing that the United States was fighting against in WWII. But now the nation that was trying to fight this act is committing it in other countries where the local population obviously doesn’t want us there. We’re destroying people’s lives, and in a lot of cases ending their lives. The United States is moving into a foreign country, occupying their surroundings and enforcing “rule” on these people that have little to no interactions with the way the Unites States does things. Coming back from actions like this and trying to get on with your life is pretty much impossible for veterans.

I don’t want to be a veteran
Friday evening formation - the formation where the chain of command tells you about the upcoming events of the week. First off the normal, “don’t drink and drive, don’t beat your wife and room inspections will be happening first thing Monday morning after mandatory urinalyses.” Also, they mention Veterans Day is coming up. I feel like I die a little bit inside. As the commander is talking, I think back to when I was younger and what Veterans Day meant to me. I wanted to be a veteran, I wanted to be thanked and have a whole day to myself for the sacrifices I have given this country. Back to formation - I wish I didn’t have to see anyone on Veterans Day. I wish it didn’t exist. I don’t want to be thanked for what the United States thinks I did over there. I don’t want a day like this to happen. In anything besides a war setting I would be in jail for what I did over there, probably awaiting the death sentence. So why should you thank me for the lives I took, for the things I stole, for the families I have destroyed. Last thing, make sure you thank a veteran for the joy he took in all of these actions when over there.

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