IMG_1297.jpg

Published Stories

 

After Effects: An Anthology
Zimbell House Publishing - Print

Collateral (2016)
Online Journal

Ink Sweat & Tears (2016)
online

Octavius Magazine (2015)
online

Explorations (2013)
pg. 14 


The Eckleburg Project (2013)
pg. 10

 

 

From the Land of Genesis

Introduction

I began fictionalizing the narratives of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans over three years ago, and every day since I have struggled with the material I was reinventing. It didn’t seem ethical for me to take real-life stories of war, sacred to the men who were sharing them with me, and to make them my own. It wasn’t so much the concept of fictionalizing a true; it was the subject itself, the particular nature of what I was covering. The nature of War.

         War is a sacred thing. It is pervasive and ubiquitous. It has existed since the beginning of man, and it will endure to the end because, in the words of William Boryles Jr., “ war is the enduring condition of man, period.” And yet, the subject itself, the experience of war, is esoteric. In the eyes of soldiers, war is for the privileged; the select; the ones who paid to experience it. But on the flip side, from the civilian perspective, war is for the downcast; the vagrants and disillusioned; the lost children.

          It doesn’t help that once you’ve experienced war, you are no longer a civilian. You become separate, and that separateness stays with you. Once a marine, always a marine. Once a warrior, never again a civilian. Soldiers are respected and appreciated for their service, but that is all. Civilians go on living their lives, and soldiers go on fighting for theirs.

          The result, of course, is a dissonance, a segregation that divides our nation from its military, our friends from their families, our brothers from their wives. Warriors struggle to share their experiences, and civilians neglect their responsibility to listen. That, I suppose, is where the writing of war comes in. I provide an eager ear to the men and women warriors returning home. Then I recreate their experiences for a civilian audience.

          Generally, this role is left to the warriors—most often civilians turned warrior—as was the case in Vietnam with authors like Tim O’Brien, Phillip Caputo, and Karl Marlantes. Then there was Anthony Swafford in the Gulf War, and Norman Mailer in the Second World War, along with countless others. But there have been civilians. Pat Barker wrote her award-winning Regeneration series based upon the experiences of WWI soldiers in the UK. There’s also Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a more contemporary research-based novel, written by a civilian author from the perspective of Iraq combat veterans. Then there is Homer, whose content and descriptions in The Iliad suggests that he (assuming Homer was the sole, original author) had little to no combat experience. This, the first account of war writing—the foundation of all literature as we know it—was written by a civilian author. What does that tell us about the writing of war? There are endless explanations to this, but one remains clear—having exposed itself as a trend throughout ancient history—as catharsis; to bridge the gap.

          This project, my From the Land of Genesis collection, details a broad range of soldiers reassimilating into civilian life. It presents the narratives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from the perspective of the average infantrymen, the ground-floor soldier, the quotidian grunt. And since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan differed greatly by location and timing, most of my stories combine the themes and experiences of different sources/interviewees to give the reader an encompassing, though still particular, impression of the effects of war. Every story can still be taken and appreciated alone, but a complete understanding of the war—an intimate familiarity with our involvement and activity in the Middle East—requires entire whole.

          I still struggle to justify the material of my writing. Often, I find myself obsessing over details, over the conveyance of verisimilitude for the sake of credibility, to the point that I lose track of my mission altogether. But when I remember this, when I remember why I am writing about war and why you are reading about it, I am reposed. Because it doesn’t take a warrior to know a warrior’s pain. It doesn’t take a warrior to understand a warrior’s excitement, a warrior’s loneliness. All it takes, really, is a willingness to listen—a dose of empathy—so that, when it comes to a point, all that you really need is to be human.