05 August 2015

Veterans Writing Project Relaunches Mentor Network

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Tyler Smith evaluates the shooting score of a German soldier
at Kunduz province in Afghanistan, July 12, 2013, while 
conducting operations
in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Photo by Army 1st Lt. Charles Morgan
The Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Veterans Writing Project has recently relaunched a mentorship program aimed at helping military service members, veterans, and family members take their larger writing projects to the next level.

Organizers say the program has previously assisted writers of novels, memoirs, plays, and poetry chapbooks—concrete projects with discrete timelines—using an informal network of fellow writers.

According to the VWP mentorship program webpage:
It works like this: Someone who needs help with a project approaches us with a proposal (simply an explanation of the project and the issues the writer wants to work through). We go through our list of volunteer mentors looking for someone with the correct skill and experience set to take the project on. We connect the two people. Between themselves, they create an informal contract (one full set of edits, two back-and-forths of a manuscript, whatever the two agree on). Once this is complete the two can walk away or continue as they wish.
Coordinator for the VWP mentorship program is Peter Molin, a retired Army officer and former instructor of English at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.. He regularly writes about military-themed literature and culture at his blog, Time Now.

In addition to the mentor program, Veterans Writing Project supports military veterans' and family members' creative expressions through writing through writing seminars, curriculum, and the literary journal "O-Dark-Thirty." The organization also actively participates in and advocates for research into writing practice as a therapeutic intervention.

08 July 2015

'Summer Camp' vs. 'Summer Camping,' Revisited

The writer of the Red Bull Rising blog is currently on family vacation maneuvers at an undisclosed training area, somewhere in the Middle West. (Ironically, commo was the first thing that was lost on the trip.) This re-post from June 2012 may or not be applicable:


National Guard soldiers often say "Summer Camp" when they mean "Annual Training."

When I recently posted pictures of my kids' first backyard camping experience, a number of Facebook friends and Red Bull Rising blog-readers compared the new Sherpa-family "King-Dome" to a U.S. Army brigade's Tactical Operations Center ("TOC").

Can't tell the difference between camping for pleasure, and Summer Camp for Uncle Sam? Here are some rules of thumb to help you find your way:
  • If you're carrying a weapon with no bullets, but wearing a bullet-proof vest, you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're locked, loaded, and practically bear-proof, you're camping.
*****
  • If you're wearing a reflective safety belt over camouflage clothing, you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're wearing a mix of bright colors and camouflage clothing, you're hunting.
  • If you're wearing bright colors and mismatched clothing, you're camping.
*****
  • If you're "humping a pack," you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're "backpacking," you're camping.
*****
  • If you're walking with others in a single file, you're camping.
  • If you're walking with others in "Ranger File," you're at Annual Training.
*****
  • If a guy wearing a reflective safety belt is talking to you about safety, you're at Annual Training.
  • If a guy in a Smokey-the-Bear hat is yelling at you and calling you names, you're at Basic Training.
*****
  • If you're sleeping in a building but working in a tent, you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're showering in a building but sleeping in a tent, you're camping.
*****
  • If your tent is air-conditioned but your vehicle is not, you're at Annual Training.
  • If your vehicle is air-conditioned but your tent is not, you're camping.
*****
  • If your camp stove burns "mogas," you're at Annual Training.
  • If your camp stove burns white gas, kerosene, diesel, automotive gas, aviation gas, Stoddard solvent and/or Naphtha, you're camping.
*****
  • If the camp store is "back on cantonment," you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're allowed to purchase beer at the camp store, you're camping.
*****
  • If you're chewing coffee grounds to stay awake, you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're all clustered together around a coffee pot, in an air-conditioned tent, and watching pretty pictures on a big flat-screen, you're at a brigade staff meeting.

01 July 2015

Sherpa's Four (or More) Freedoms

In his famous "Four Freedoms" speech, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt described in January 1941 the four principles at stake in World War II. The freedoms he described, later visualized in a series of popular paintings by Norman Rockwell, were these:
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom from want
  • Freedom from fear
In accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, Duke Ellington noted that his artistic collaborator Billy Strayhorn lived by four freedoms:
  • Freedom from hate
  • Freedom from self pity
  • Freedom from fear of doing something that would benefit someone else more than it would himself
  • Freedom from the pride that could make him feel that he was better than others
I've always loved Rockwell's "Freedom of Speech" painting. Back in my small town newspaper days, the ideals it depicted kept me going through many tedious public input, school board, and city council meetings: Everybody gets a voice, everybody gets a vote.

I love Strayhorn's ideals even more: Cool and warm, all at the same time.

This U.S. Independence Day, I invite you to consider for a moment the four freedoms you most enjoy. Maybe write them down. Maybe share them with others. I'll post mine below.

In the meantime, have a great weekend!

Be safe! Be responsible! And be excellent to each other!

Sherpa's Four Freedoms
  • Freedom from chemical latrines
  • Freedom from humorlessness
  • Freedom from presidential "contenders"
  • Freedom from the tyranny of too much social media