31 August 2012

The Pentagon Wants You, Artists!

The Veteran Artist Program ("VAP"), a national non-profit organization based in Baltimore, Md., is facilitating a juried exhibit of artworks by military veterans and service members.

The work will be presented in a gallery setting located in the Pentagon throughout 2013. Partners for the project include the Pentagon Art Curator and the Pentagon Patriotic Art Series.

This will be the first-ever veteran-specific art exhibit presented in the massive Department of Defense headquarters building, which is located in Arlington, Va. Approximately 30,000 military and civilian personnel work in the building.

“The concept of an all-veteran art exhibit is important and timely given the vast amount of inspiring pieces we’re seeing from across the generations, including the post 9/11 generation of veterans,” says VAP founder and Army veteran B.R. McDonald.

Artworks need not be on a military theme, but artists are advised to avoid blatant adult themes given the exhibition's public setting. Only two-dimensional work is eligible; all mediums are encouraged. Applicants may submit up to two works.

Proof of military or veteran status is required. Photocopies/scans of military ID cards and/or forms DD214 are acceptable.

Deadline for submissions is Oct. 30, 2012. For an online submission form, click here.

Artists will be notified of their acceptance on or before Nov. 20, 2012. If accepted, a curator will follow up regarding shipping arrangements, framing, and other details.

VAP is a multidisclipinary arts organization that seeks to propel veterans into the mainstream creative-arts community, through projects such as movie and theatrical productions, curation of gallery events, and more.

Visit the organization's Facebook page here.

29 August 2012

Poker Run Remembers Donny Nichols, KIA

A "poker run," silent auction, and other fund-raising events will be held in Eastern Iowa this Sat., Sept. 1, 2012.

The events will celebrate the memory of the Iowa Army National Guard's Spec. Donald L. Nichols, 21, killed April 13, 2011 while deployed with 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT) in Eastern Afghanistan. Nichols was a member of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (1-133rd Inf.), which is based in Waterloo, Iowa.

In a poker run, registered participants are dealt random cards at each of five stops on a designated route. At the final stop of the day, the participant with the highest poker hand wins a pot of cash.

Proceeds will go to The Shell Rock (Iowa) Soldier Memorial, a project to honor past and present area soldiers.

Registration is Sat., Sept. 1, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at The Cooler, 201 South Cherry St., Shell Rock, Iowa. The ride will begin at 11 a.m. Each poker "hand" is $15; 50-50 raffle at each stop; silent auction is scheduled for 4 p.m. Organizers say that "all types of wheels" are welcome, and that they hope to make the event an annual effort.
  • Start: Shell Rock, Iowa at The Cooler
  • 1st Stop: Waverly at Blake's Bar
  • 2nd Stop: Fairbank at Boyd’s
  • 3rd Stop: Oelwein at Von Tuck's / Dave's Place
  • 4th Stop: Denver at Bart's End Zone
  • Final Stop: Shell Rock at The Cooler & Klinc's
T-shirts and sweatshirts are also available for purchase.

For a Facebook page for the event, click here.

A website memorializing Nichols includes prize and route information for the event. (Warning: some pages auto-play music, so turn down your computer's volume.) The site also includes a video of tattoo and motorcycle art commemorating Nichols.

27 August 2012

Top Secret Bumper Stickers, Ad Campaigns

A couple of sharp-eyed travelers recently encountered this less-than-clandestine advertisement for ClearenceJobs.com, a job-search site for holders of U.S. security clearances: "Real Analysts do it in a SCIF." The slogan refers to a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility ("SCIF"), a facility in which classified materials may be handled securely.

Inspired by the placard, here's a list of more SCIFfy slogans, inspired by classic bumper stickers, movie and music quotes, and advertising campaigns:
  • "What goes on in the SCIF, stays in the SCIF."
  • "If this SCIF is a rockin', don't come a-knockin'"?
  • "Keep on SCIFfin'!"
  • "My other tent is a SCIF."
  • "Got SCIF?"
  • "Keep SCIF and carry on."
  • "We do more in the SCIF before 9 a.m. than most people do all day."
  • "The SCIF: We could tell you about it, but then we'd have to kill you."
  • "Party rock! (Everyday I'm SCIFfulin')"
  • "The SCIF? You can't handle the SCIF!"
  • "First rule of SCIF: Don't talk about SCIF. Second rule of SCIF: Don't talk about SCIF!"
  • "Charlie don't SCIF!"
  • "SCIF you!"
And, of course, our current favorite:
  • "SCIF happens."

25 August 2012

Happy Birthday, U.S. 34th Infantry Division!

On Aug. 25, 1917, the 34th Infantry "Sandstorm" Division was organized at Camp Cody, New Mexico. While the distinctive unit patch was also created by Iowa National Guard soldier and regionalist artist Marvin Cone in that same year, the division did not take on the nickname "Red Bull" until World War II.

The division's birthday is specified as the official "unit day" of the 34th Infantry Division by the U.S. Army's Center of Military History. As such, this day is to be commemorated with stories, displays, and ceremonies of the unit's past accomplishments.

According to Army Regulation 870-5 (Chapter 6, Section 2, Paragraph C): "Each organization should observe its Unit Day as a training holiday and commemorate its history in ceremonies that stress unit lineage, honors, heritage, and traditions, as well as personal accomplishments of former and current unit members. The Unit Day program may also feature such activities as parades, concerts, sports, and other competitive events."

"Attack! Attack! Attack!" Please celebrate responsibly.

22 August 2012

On Writing and On Publishing

As promised in earlier posts this summer—and noted by Milblogging.com—there are two new static pages on the Red Bull Rising blog, each of which focuses on writing about military experiences:
  • "On Writing" expands on an Aug. 1, 2012 blog-post that discussed how writing about writing fits into the blog's mission of "illuminating ways in which citizen-soldiers past and present—as well as their families—can be remembered, supported, and celebrated." It now includes a "first assignment" to prompt others toward recording their own military stories. It also lists five useful books on writing military-themed poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.
  • "On Publishing" presents an evolving list of journals, contests, and anthologies to which creators of art, photography, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction (including blogs and memoirs) may submit their work for potential publication. Keep in mind, the editors of some these 2012 markets and venues have not yet announced whether their efforts will be reprised in the future. Also, if you know of other opportunities through which to share or publish one's works, please send information to: sherpa AT redbullrising.com.


Here are a few more writing-news nuggets:


St. Louis-area writing workshop on the campus of Washington University focuses on "people who serve"—veterans, volunteers, first-responders. Six-week modules give participants a concrete timeline and objective. For more information, click here.



Memoir-writing coach and author Jerry Waxler has recently written a number of posts relevant to writing and publishing military memoir. In a review of a short memoir about George Orwell's reaction to genocide in the Ukraine during Stalinist rule, he notes the utility and power of publishing such hard-to-categorize works in electronic format:
If "Orwell and the Refugees: The Untold Story of Animal Farm" was published traditionally, a bookseller or librarian would not know where to shelve it. Does it belong with books about the history of Eastern Europe, or the history of English literature, or is about the investigative journalism of a woman whose grandfather wrote a memoir? Because [Tanya] Chalupa published her story as an eBook, she didn’t have to worry about these distinctions. By cutting across categories, she is free to express herself in a variegated style and high-energy content that suits the broad interests of a hungry mind.
While visiting Waxler's site, be sure to check out his "Ten Things to Learn from Combat Memoir," which is presented in two parts here and here.



The inaugural "Sangria Summit: A Military Writers' Conference" is Sept. 12-14, 2012 in Denver, Colo. For earlier Red Bull Rising coverage, including news on how Sherpa will be facilitating conversations there, click here.

Topics will include Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures on writing, editing, publishing, marketing, and selling!

See you at the Summit!

16 August 2012

'Yee-haw, Jester's NOT Dead!'

In an Aug. 14, 2012 Military Times article, reporter Gina Hawkins wrote that the military-humor website called The Duffel Blog "is doing such a good job of lampooning the service, it’s already duped some officials into thinking their breaking news is real."

Apparently, things are so slow in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the rest of the world that the media can spend time and newsprint on covering all the news that isn't.

Launched earlier this year, The Duffel Blog isn't everyone's bag of tea, including mine. Some of the fake news site gets a little rough, both in execution and allegedly humorous delivery. (Remember Sherpatude No. 26? "Humor is a combat multiplier. Except when it isn't.")

Sometimes, it seems as if the website's editors are more interested in being mistaken for delivering real news than recognized for delivering effective satire. (Imagine someone copying and reprinting spoofy headlines from The Onion or The Daily Show as truth? Oh, the hilarity!) But there is humor there, and there is always truth in humor. After all, you can't make omelettes without breaking a few hand grenades.

When The Duffel Bloggers are on target, however, it's either time to laugh, follow, or get out of the way. For example, the comments from irate mil-spouses regarding a modest proposal to issue them rank were often as as telling as the satire itself. (In a particularly nice touch, the website followed up with an infographic depicting what the spousal rank insignia would look like.)

There are no sacred cows, nor should there be. Once, The Duffel Blog even reported that the Minnesota National Guard's beloved 1st Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division had mistakenly re-invaded Iraq. (In our defense, the division motto is: "Attack! Attack! Attack!")

That just goes to show, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet.

Speaking of which, here are few random quotes in support of The Duffel Blog and its take-no-prisoners approach to provoking outrage, thought, and (hopefully) change:
  • Evelyn Beatrice Hall: "I may disapprove of your punchline, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
  • Former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz. once said: "I would remind you that extremism in the pursuit of humor is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of humor is no virtue!"
  • Also, Thomas Jefferson: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of tyrants. And maybe a little fake vomit. It is its natural manure."
Stick with me. I'm going somewhere will all this.

Alongside his reporting on July 2012's all-time monthly peak in U.S. military suicides, Time magazine defense reporter Mark Thompson posted a judgmental nugget titled "This Isn't Funny," in which he pointed to a scathing satire on Army suicides published by The Onion, titled "It Would Be An Honor To Serve My Country, Return With PTSD, Sit On A Mental Health Care Waitlist, Then Kill Myself".

In the two-paragraph post, he first clucks that "[t]he Army’s failure to cut down on its suicide rate makes it a target for people without taste." [Emphasis added.]

Then, he offers this bromide to anti-suicide campaigners:
As someone who has covered military suicides, and the folks waging the battle against it, for years, it hurts when your best efforts aren’t turning the tide. But they will, eventually. That should be enough to keep the Army’s suicide-fighters fighting the good fight. [Emphasis added.]
Either Thompson can't understand satire and gallows humor—hard to believe, given his familiarity with military culture—or sopping the feelings of the Army's anti-suicide squad was somehow more important than expressing a little righteous heat toward the suicide problem itself. Is The Onion's take on Army suicide funny? Not in a canned laugh-track or prime-time vanilla sort of way. But it is funny. Morbidly funny. And outrageous.

We could use a little more constructive outrage around here, rather than telling ourselves that our best efforts will eventually turn the tide. We should be doubling down on seeking solutions, rather than wringing our hands over hurt feelings of a few policy-wonks.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Whatever we're doing? It ain't working. The court jesters say we're not wearing clothes, regardless of the uniforms we wear.

How's that for a punchline?

14 August 2012

See You at the Summit!

Readers of the Red Bull Rising blog and Facebook pages know that I occasionally prod people to consider mil-blogging as a craft. I also seek to prompt soldiers, veterans, and family members to record their military memories and thoughts. Each is motivated by a similar impulse: to remember and celebrate our citizen-soliders.

After all, to re-apply the words of Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.: "If we don't tell our stories, someone else will."

As previously mentioned on the Red Bull Rising blog, writers with interests toward publishing military-themed works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry are invited to the inaugural "Sangria Summit: A Military Writers' Conference" Sept. 12-14, 2012, at the Marriott City Center, Denver, Colo.

But, wait, there's more!

Sherpa's going to be there! Sherpa thinks you should be there, too!

Sherpa is so excited, he's even talking about himself in third-person again! And put his exclamation-point selector switch on "burst"!!!

The event's slate of topics looks both chewy and challenging, as well as a lot of fun. I'm pleased to announce that I'll be taking an active part in some of those discussions, not as a presenter, but as a facilitator. Check out these panel topics:
  • "The Battle to Get in Print"
  • "Asymmetrical War: The World of E-Publishing"
  • "Agents of Change"
My participation is being underwritten by Victor Ian LLC, a military media and gaming business. The business publishes Lanterloon, an eclectic lifestyle, technology, and military blog; and has a physical storefront called "Dragons and Dragoons" located in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Even in the age of the Interweb, nothing beats meeting up smiley face to smiley face. At lunches and dinners and times in-between, there will be plenty of time for networking and brainstorming. There are any number of old friends whom I've never met before, including PowerPoint Ranger creator and online iconoclast John Holmes. From our past online conversations, I get the feeling the ideas are going to fly like frag grenades. Send lawyers, guns, and money!

If only Doctrine Man!! weren't currently deployed downrange. We'd get him there, and his poker chips, too. Oh, the trouble we'd see!

If my luck holds out, I'll see more than a few mil-bloggers there. Mil-blogging isn't as sexy or prevalent as it once was, but there are plenty of successful authors out there who have proven the validity of turning blogs and wartime essays into books. Maybe the author of the next "Kaboom," "Greetings From Afghanistan," or "Afghan Journal" is in them thar hills?

Still not convinced? Here's a list of other reasons to attend the Sangria Summit.

Cost for the 2-day conference is $225. An early bird rate of $195 is available until Sept. 9. Registration includes all agenda material, special handouts, books, and lunches on Thurs., Sept. 13 and Fri., Sept. 14.

The Marriott City Center offers a group rate of $179 per night. According to event organizers, group-rate rooms are still available as of this week, but are going fast. Call the hotel toll-free at: 1-866-706-7707.

A Facebook page for the event can be found here.

See you at the Summit!

06 August 2012

DMACC to Sponsor 'Telling: Des Moines'

Through a national theatrical effort called “The Telling Project,” Central Iowa veterans of all ages, eras, and branches of the U.S. armed forces will tell their own stories on stage. Performances of “Telling: Des Moines” are planned for November 2012 on the Ankeny, Iowa campus of the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC).

“More than 650 DMACC students are student-veterans and beneficiaries using G.I. Bill benefits,” says Laurie Wolf, DMACC executive dean of student services. “As a community of learning, ‘Telling: Des Moines’ is a way for us to creatively and constructively engage each other in conversations about military service and sacrifice.”

The “Telling: Des Moines” project builds on the success of an Iowa City-based performance in November 2011. Since 2008, Telling Project performances have been conducted in more than 30 cities and eight states nationwide. For more information on the national organization, visit: thetellingproject.org. For more information on “Telling: Des Moines,” visit: www.tellingdesmoines.org.

The Des Moines project is soliciting veterans to participate in interviews with the show’s scriptwriters in August. Veterans will later have the option to tell their stories on stage, after working with the show’s producers on basic performance techniques.

“The goal of the production is to create conversations,” says director Jennifer Fawcett, co-founder of Working Group Theatre, Iowa City. “I hope that audiences arrive at a greater understanding of what veterans and military families have gone through—and what veterans of all ages have faced upon returning to civilian life, work and school.”

Central Iowa veterans and military family members who are interested in participating in “Telling: Des Moines” should contact Randy "Sherpa" Brown at: sherpa@redbullrising.com

Tax-deductible donations to “Telling: Des Moines” may be directed to:
Des Moines Area Community College Foundation
2006 S. Ankeny Blvd., Bldg. 22
Ankeny, Iowa 50023
Phone: (515) 964-6229
Des Moines Area Community College, a public institution serving the educational and career training needs of Iowans, is committed to the lifelong success of its students. As Iowa’s largest two-year college, DMACC offers 150 programs, certificates and transfer degrees, annually serving more than 75,000 credit and noncredit students on six campuses and in five learning centers. Thanks to college-wide innovation, new programs and affordable tuition, DMACC has experienced record growth and today is the 15th fastest growing two-year college in America. For more information, please visit: www.dmacc.edu.

02 August 2012

Vonnegut Library Launches Literary Journal

The board of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Indianapolis, Ind., has announced a new literary journal that will be published on Nov. 11, 2012. The date coincides with U.S. Veterans Day—sometimes still called "Armistice Day"—as well as the birthdate of the late Kurt Vonnegut. The journal will be titled "So It Goes," and the theme of the first issue will be "War and Peace."

Born Nov. 11, 1922 in Indianapolis, Kurt Vonnegut was a World War II veteran of the U.S. Army, a writer of cuttingly satirical fiction and other works, and an artist of whimsical and cartoonish graphics. Captured during the Battle of the Bulge, he used his experiences as a prisoner of war during the firebombing of Dresden, Germany as inspiration for "Slaughterhouse Five." The book is often categorized as science-fiction, and one of his most popular works.

Authors and artists are invited to submit poetry, creative nonfiction, short fiction, original artwork, and/or photography in keeping with the issue's theme. Deadline for either electronic or paper submissions is Aug. 15. According to the journal's Facebook page:
We will accept new and previously published work (simultaneous submissions are allowed with notification) and will credit the original publisher for previously published works. Submissions are limited to one work of prose (maximum 1,500 words) or up to five poems, photographs, and/or works of art. 
Please format with double space, use 12 point Times New Roman font, and include a cover letter with a brief biography. Questions may be directed to: SoItGoes@vonnegutlibrary.org.

We will accept both electronic and paper submissions. Upload your electronic submissions through http://kvml.submittable.com/submit. Send paper submissions to: 
The Vonnegut Library
So It Goes Submissions
340 N. Senate Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46234

Include a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient postage for response. Submitted materials will not be returned.
Release of the first issue of "So It Goes" will coincide with a free and public event also sponsored by the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library: “Veterans Reclaim Armistice Day: Healing through the Humanities" will take place Nov. 11, 2012 at the Indiana War Memorial Auditorium. The event is part of the 17th Annual Spirit and Place Festival.

According to the Vonnegut library event's website, the event is "to spotlight the importance of the arts and humanities to help veterans both heal from and understand better their experience of war [...]"

It continues: "The program will explore how the arts and humanities can help veterans cope with the trauma of war [...] Veterans, notable writers, performers, philanthropists, family members, and those who are simply grateful to take part in a day of artistic expression will gather for one day of healing for hundreds of veterans and their families [...]"

Donations of $7 in support of the Vonnegut library event are welcomed here. (In the “comments” section of the online donation form, specify the amount should go toward the Armistice Day event.)

01 August 2012

Why We Write about Writing

In the past few weeks, the Red Bull Rising blog has been focused on resources for writers of all interests and abilities, encouraging them to explore their military experiences: Writing contests. Anthologies. Websites. Some readers have expressed great delight. Others have expressed a little confusion. Is the purpose of the blog changed?

Where's the snark and remark about developments in the U.S. National Guard or Afghanistan? Where's the surprisingly heartfelt war-stories from the front lines of parenting during the Global War on Terror? Where are the book and film reviews? Most importantly, where's the funny?

Not to worry, dear reader, they're still being written. Behind the blog-scenes, I'm currently packing and repacking words into longer forms. Because some editors won't consider previously published works, however, I've had to hold back some copy from the Internet. Just as I appreciate your continued readership, I also appreciate your patience.

The long-standing missions of the Red Bull Rising blog are:
  • To illuminate ways in which citizen-soldiers past and present—as well as their families—can be remembered, supported, and celebrated.
One of the ways people can "remember, support, and celebrate" is to record and share their experiences with the military through the written or spoken word. You don't need to be an seasoned writer or story-teller. You don't need to have done heroic things, or to have witnessed the horrors of war.

You don't even need to be a soldier or a veteran. That's why I prefer to ask people about their "connections with the military." It seems to open up the door to more people, memories, family ties and histories. We all have stories about the military. Some, we gather first-hand. Some, we have passed to us, generation to generation. A few, we piece together from observing ripples and shadows, and finding fragments and artifacts that others have left behind.

All you need to do is to take the time to put your thoughts together. Take as long as you like—minutes, months, or years. But be prepared to surprise yourself along the way.


Here are a few coming attractions to the Red Bull Rising blog. In the meantime, don't forget to monitor the net by "liking" the Red Bull Rising page on Facebook:
  • A static web page devoted to resources for aspiring and perspiring citizen-soldier-writer-veterans, and those who love them!
  • A list of recommended up-and-coming blogs from those with eyes and boots still in Afghanistan!
  • Book reviews! Lots of book reviews!
  • Continued coverage leading up to the inaugural Sangria Summit in Denver, Colo., a Sept. 12-14 conference for writers of military-themed fiction and non-fiction!