23 December 2013

Have Yourself a Sherpa Family Christmas!


OPORD 12-2013: "OPERATION REINDEER GAMES" ... ALL TIMES SIERRA

I. SITUATION: TASK FORCE SHERPA continues holiday sustainment operations vicinity FOB LIVINGROOM.
1. Enemy Forces: 
Refer to Appendix X, "Naughty List." 
2. Friendly Forces / Attachments: 
a. One (1) soldier, callsign "SCOOP," from TF GI-JOE Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, location OP ELFONSHELF.  
b. One (1) Pathfinder-qualified soldier from 1225th Special Operations Aviation Regiment ("The Night-stockers"), callsign "RUDOLPH," location AO ROOFTOP.
c. Five (1) soldiers from 334th Brigade Support Battalion, 2-34th BCT attached as Forward Logistics Elf Element (FLEE), callsign "WORKSHOP," location AO UNDERTREE.
d. Ten (10) 03s-a-leaping from HHC, 2-34th BCT attached as command-and-control cell.
PHOTO: 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, Minn. Army National Guard
3. Weather and Terrain: 
High of 29 degrees Fahrenheit; low of 18 degrees. No effects on current snow cover. Condition WHITE for sleigh-borne operations.
4. Illumination:
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow will give the lustre of mid-day to objects below. Moonrise is 250005DEC13; peak illumination is 53 percent. Civil twilight is 250710DEC13. Sunrise is 250742DEC13. 
As noted in After Action Reviews of past holiday ops, however, SUGARPLUM elements have been known to stir well before light conditions warrant, or even Christmas Reveille.
II. MISSION
"TF SHERPA secures LANDING ZONE CHIMNEY NLT 242330DEC13 and conducts resupply via reindeer-drawn miniature sleigh during hours of darkness prior to 250710DEC13. On order, commences opening of presents and distribution of holiday themes and messages."
III. EXECUTION
1. Commander's Intent:
TF SHERPA will conduct safe and secure receipt of Christmas gifts, minimizing boots-on-ground time and distractions for RED-RYDER-6. Endstate is a Happy Christmas to all personnel, and to all a good night.
2. Concept of Operation:
We will start by ceasing all garrison activities, troop movements, and roving patrols beginning 242100DEC13. No personnel should be stirring. Not even a mouse. Stockings will be hung by the objective with care. All SUGARPLUM elements will be nestled all snug in their bunks. 
RED-RYDER-6 will arrive LZ CHIMNEY during hours of darkness, and will successfully evade detection by SUGARPLUM elements and local civilian air-traffic control. 
Following the operation, TF SHERPA personnel will prepare to conduct Key Leader Engagements with both sides of the family. 
Throughout this operation, TF SHERPA personnel will also reinforce themes and messages of "Peace on Earth, goodwill to all" via appropriate official STRATCOM channels, including social media and telephone.
3. Maneuver:
Under no circumstances should unauthorized personnel stir to investigate clatter from exterior areas, including rooftops.
4. Fires:
On order, 1-194th Field Artillery will provide 1.55 cm artillery-delivered tinsel as chaff to defeat detection of TF RED-RYDER by regional air-traffic control radar.
5. Coordinating instructions:
Authorized sleeping uniform is kerchief, cap, or green fleecy hat; MultiCam pajamas; and red-and-white "candy stripe" reflective safety belt. Noise and light discipline will be maintained per SOP. Senior personnel are encouraged to employ red-light headlamps or night-vision devices.
6. Specific instructions:
Headquarters will redeploy public affairs team member SCOOP from OP ELFONSHELF to vicinity LZ CHIMNEY for documentation of gift-giving operations NLT 250700DEC13. Mission focus will be on "telling the Christmas story by telling our Army story."
IV. SERVICE & SUPPORT
1. 334th BSB will provide (1) Meal, Ready-to-Eat to RED-RYDER-6. Ranger cookies and shelf-stable milk are appropriate. On order, also provide one (1) 64 lb. bag of Reindeer Chow.
2. Religious services are 241900DEC13, and 251000DEC13.
V. COMMAND & SIGNAL
1. Location of Key Leaders: 
HOUSEHOLD-6 and HOUSEHOLD-7 will be in the command bunker after 242100DEC13. 
2. Succession of command: 
HOUSEHOLD-6, HOUSEHOLD-7, SUGARPLUM-1, SUGARPLUM-2, and the dog INDIANA
3. Callsigns: 
Holiday callsigns are NOT authorized. Under no circumstances should SUGARPLUM elements refer to HOUSEHOLD-6 as "NUTCRACKER-6." The previously published SOI was in error. HOUSEHOLD-7 is very, very sorry. 
4. Challenge / Password for 24DEC13 is: "SMOKE" / "WREATH." 
5. Challenge / Password for 25DEC13 is: "BOWLFUL" / "JELLY." 
6. Running password is "FIGGY PUDDING."
VI. SAFETY
1. Use ground guides when backing reindeer. 
2. Use drip pans and chocks when parking sleighs. 
3. Don't drink nog and drive. 
4. "Safety first, Christmas always."

19 December 2013

Here's a Holiday Sampler of Military-Writing News

Prizes and grants, events and humorous book trailers. Here's a round-up of recent military-writing news ...

JOURNALIST BRIAN MOCKENHAUPT WINS $25,000 MICHAEL KELLY AWARD

Freelance journalist Brian Mockenhaupt was recently awarded the 2013 Michael Kelly Award for his independent reporting on U.S. Marines serving in Afghanistan. The award carries a $25,000 prize. Mockenhaupt's award-winning work, "The Living and the Dead," was published online via the Byliner non-fiction writing site.

The award is sponsored by the Atlantic Media Co., in memory of journalist and editor Michael Kelly, who worked there from 1997 until his 2003 death in Iraq.

A former U.S. Army infantry soldier who served two tours in Iraq, Mockenhaupt is a contributor to Outside, Reader's Digest, and Esquire magazines. He was the writer of the 2012 feature-length documentary "High Ground," which tells the story of veterans who overcome physical and mental injuries to attempt climbing a mountain in Nepal. He serves as non-fiction editor for the Journal of Military Experience.

*****

IOWA REVIEW AWARDED GRANT TO INCREASE OUTREACH TO VETERANS


The Iowa Review, a University of Iowa-based literary magazine, has been awarded a $15,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant to support the publication of writing by U.S. military veterans, editors announced recently.

The Iowa Review is published in print three times annually. In 2012, the publication introduced the Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans. Award-winning and notable poetry, prose, and artwork by military veterans was featured in the Spring 2013 issue.

According to press materials regarding the grant announcement, the NEA funding will be used to publicize the Jeff Sharlet contest and to expand the number of prizes to be awarded. A website gallery is also planned.

The next contest deadline is May 15, 2014. Details are still pending.

*****

EARLY REGISTRATION TO SAN DIEGO MIL-WRITING EVENT ENDS DEC. 31

The 3-day "Pen and Sword" military writers' conference will take place Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, 2014 at the Town and Country Resort, San Diego, Calif. For earlier Red Bull Rising coverage of the event, click here. Until Dec. 31, early bird registration is $399. Regular conference fee is $499. One-day registrations are $350 each. A conference registration page is here. Attendance is limited to 200 participants.

The conference fee includes lunches and cocktail events, but does not include lodging at the Town and Country Resort, San Diego. Hotel conference rates are available at $129 nightly for single- or double-occupancy.

*****

'FOBBIT' AUTHOR DAVID ABRAMS PRESENTS 'NOT A CHRISTMAS' STORY


David Abrams, author of the 2012 Iraq War novel "Fobbit," recently reposted "This is Not a Christmas Story," a 6,000-word short story published in 2009-2010 by Narrative magazine. (For a Red Bull Rising review of Abrams' "Fobbit," click here.) The "Not-Christmas" story is accessible after registering for a free log-in. Abrams' short fiction also appears in the 2013's "Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War."

The author also recently posted a humorous promotional book trailer that can be viewed via YouTube and below.



17 December 2013

'Doctrine Man!!' Kills More Trees, Deflates More Dogma

The creator of the Facebook-based Doctrine Man!! comic has released a second softcover collection of military-themed cartoons, just in time for holiday gift-giving!

Weighing in at 150 pages, Volume 2 of "The Further Adventures of Doctrine Man!!" features nearly 300 full-color comic strips, "Top Ten" lists, and other military madness. The 8.5 x 11-inch format allows the tome to stealthily co-exist with more officious and official doctrinal library materials.

The first "Further Adventures" volume was reviewed on the Red Bull Rising blog last September. The comic was also recognized as part of our 2013 Military Humor Awards.

To help celebrate the second volume, the Red Bull Rising blog released a photo album of "Doctrine Memes!!" that can be shared with friends, enemies, and local centers of influence. Available themes and messages include:
There's even a "This Space Intentionally Left Blank" version, so that readers can create their own messages! "Collect them all! Trade with your friends!"

For other Doctrine Swag!!, including coffee mugs and calendars, check out the Doctrine Man!! Lair of Mystery store at Zazzle.

12 December 2013

TV Sitcom About British EOD Team is the Bomb-diggity

Producers of "Bluestone 42," a 30-minute sitcom about a British Explosive Ordnance Disposal (E.O.D.) team operating in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, have announced a Christmas-themed special will air on December 23.

The 8-episode series debuted in March 2013 on BBC Three. A second season is reportedly also in production for 2014.

Click here for a short teaser video on YouTube. (Note: NOT suitable for work, due to profanity)

The series takes its name from the team's callsign, "Bluestone-Four-Two." The radio-correct pronunciation of "42" is the first of many military details the writers get right. You might even say that "Bluestone-42" has achieved the Holy Grail of military comedy: It's smart, snarky, and smacks of the real deal downrange.

The cast of characters, for example, will be funny and familiar to military veterans: Cpl. Lynda Bird is a hard-charging one-of-the-boys, who takes her job as the squad's electronic countermeasures (E.C.M.) expert—the "bleep"—very seriously. She also has a softer side, however, and develops an emotional attachment to "Arthur" the robot.

Female chaplain Maj. Mary Greenstock fights off the romantic advances of Ammunition Technical Officer Capt. Nick Medhurst, as well as an unhealthy love of gambling, while handing out sweets and spirituality. She also organizes morale-building events.

Cpl. Christian "Millsy" Mills loves to create graphs, After-Action Reports, and paperwork that is both necessary and unnecessary.

Privates "Mac" and "Rocket" pass the downtime by inventing extreme sports such as "Total Fencing Deluxe", or by arguing about topics such as the true purpose of a rifles' bipod grip while on guard duty.

There are more characters, but you get the idea ...

Some of the accents and allied-army jargon are occasionally a bit hard to parse, but the language used in the series has neither been dumbed-down or cleaned-up. It is, in fact, refreshingly realistic. The troops joke openly about bodily functions and self-gratification. They engage in all sorts of ribbing and ribaldry, and often push the joke beyond the tasteful or appropriate. For all the childish behavior, however, the characters also act like soldiers, apologize as necessary, and drive on with the mission.

The vibe, in short, is equal parts "Generation Kill" (2008), "M*A*S*H" (1972), and "Bomb Patrol Afghanistan" (2011).

The show even gets the atmospherics correct: The doors are plywood. The furniture is rubbish. The heat is unbearable. The missions and menus are repetitive. Only your teammates can help you get through the days downrange, and they're being insufferable, too.

Oh, and there's profanity. Lots of profanity. Definitely not suitable for (civilian) work. Some of it is even understandable through all the brogue. And all of it is appropriate.

The BBC Three website offers plenty "Bluetooth 42" promo clips on its website, as well as wonderfully detailed supporting materials. Consider, for example, this gallery of letters from home, or candid shots of the characters.

For fans in the United States, the series is available only as an imported Region 2 DVD. Full episodes might be available, however, through a search of YouTube or other video sites.

10 December 2013

January 2014: San Diego Event to Welcome Mil-Writers

Organizers have announced a 3-day military writers' conference that will take place Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, 2014 at the Town and Country Resort, San Diego, Calif. The "Pen and Sword" event involves at least one of the organizers of last year's successful "Sangria Summit" military-writing event in Denver, Colo.

According to on-line promotional materials, the San Diego event is targeted toward "military personnel, veterans, military spouses, and other serious writers interested in finding inspiration and completing their techno-thriller, period piece, biography, fiction, and nonfiction. [...] The weekend will be packed with informative break-out sessions, motivational speakers, and networking opportunities. This conference will focus on one thing–completing the mission of becoming a professional writer."

Speakers currently scheduled include:
Instructors currently scheduled include Ron Capps, Jerri Bell, and Dario DiBattista of the Veterans Writing Project, Washington, D.C.

Until Dec. 31, early bird registration is $399. Regular conference fee is $499. One-day registrations are $350 each. A conference registration page is here. Attendance is limited to 200 participants.

The conference fee includes lunches and cocktail events, but does not include lodging at the Town and Country Resort, San Diego. Hotel conference rates are available at $129 nightly for single- or double-occupancy.

Editor's note: While the 2012 Sangria Summit organizers at one time sponsored the Red Bull Rising blog's coverage of military-writing topics, there is no current business relationship between the 2014 Pen and Sword event and this blog.

06 December 2013

Milblogging.com Index Adds 'Military History' Category

Milblogging.com, the index of military-themed online journals, has recently added a "Military History" category. The update recognizes that many military writers, family members, and even museums are using online and social media to present diaries, photos, and other materials.

"There’s been a trend over the last few years that’s starting to pick up more now with the popularity of Twitter. However, blogs are also experiencing an uptick," writes Milblogging.com founder and editor Jean-Paul Borda.

"The trend has to do with blogging (or in the case of Twitter, tweeting) about historical events as they happened from the perspective of people who lived them."

Borda notes there have been several online diaries from conflicts dating as far back as the American Civil War. He encourages writers and editors submit links to military-history blogs for inclusion on the Milblogging.com index.

Writer Kurt Greenbaum is using a blog to post the letters of his late uncle Frank D. "Babe" Mauro, who fought in World War II Italy as part of the U.S. 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division. Mauro, who died a few days before the end of the war, always began his letters with "I am well, happy, and safe." Greenbaum's blog takes its name from the salutation.

For a previous Red Bull Rising mention of the "Well, Happy, and Safe" blog, click here.

04 December 2013

2nd 'Proud to Be' Delivers New Military Voices, Insights

Review: "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Vol. 2"

Released in early November 2013, "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Vol. 2" is a must-read manual on taking down barriers that exist not only among civilians and veterans, but among generations of veterans themselves.

One objective of creative expression—whether poetry, fiction, essay, journalism, photography, or art—is to allow a viewer to encounter new ideas and experiences. Literature and art can make the foreign familiar, or, conversely, re-cast the familiar in fresh ways. As both a contributor and a reader, I'm pleased to report that "Proud to Be, Vol. 2" is full of those surprises and encounters.

The 320-page trade paperback is part of an anthology series published by the Southeast Missouri State University Press, with assistance from the Missouri Humanities Council and the non-profit Warriors Arts Alliance.

This is essential reading for those of us who seek to breach obstacles not only among civilians and veterans, but among generations of veterans themselves. By way of example, here are some insights gained through reading random selections from Volume 2:

Insight No. 1: "Veteran" is not one tribe, but many.

Consider the variety of winning writing (there is a companion contest to the annual anthology) to be found in its pages:
That's a lot of time and terrain covered, and an all-eras and -branches choir of veterans' voices.

Additionally, each piece of writing and art is accompanied by a short biography of the author or artist. I enjoyed reading these almost as much as I enjoyed the articles and stories. Learning a little about each creator is itself an opportunity for revelation and reflection; this practice should be copied by the editors of other publications.

That said, future issues of the "Proud to Be" series would be further improved were all of the prose to be explicitly labelled as fiction or non-fiction. Beyond the winners and honorable mentions, readers of this volume are left to categorize each piece on their own, based on clues contained in the biographies.

Of course, borrowing slightly from Tim O'Brien"All war stories are true."

*****

Insight No. 2: Haircuts are moments of surprising intimacy.

At Fort Knox, Ky., during my basic military training in the late 1980s, one of the guys in my platoon had brought a barber kit from home. On some nights, he'd have a line of us formed up on the barracks stoop, waiting to get our high-and-tights cleaned up enough for the next day's inspection. He didn't take money, but got a great peer-rating out of the deal.

It was a memorable lesson in buddies taking care of buddies.

When deployed to Egypt, I'd make sure to visit the on-post barber shop on specific days of the week. It's a personal thing to ask someone to run their fingers through your hair, after all, and I went only on days when my favorite cutters would be present. Sometimes, a guy was my favorite because he cut well and spoke a little English. Sometimes, it was just because he washed his hands.

On some bases in Afghanistan, reportedly exotic Eastern European women worked in the barber shops and salons. Soldiers would tell punny stories about getting some ... action. Like O'Brien's war stories, all of these stories were true, too.

All of this came to mind while reading a prose-poem by Minneapolis-based writer Charity Tahmaseb. In her work, titled "Land of the Free (Haircuts)," Tahmaseb tells a story of a private moment conducted in public, a haircut between a deployed wife and her equally deployed husband. Despite the close quarters, the sense of separation is almost painful.
[...] Paul sees me and the scissors snap shut.
He holds himself to impossible standards
while in uniform.
No PDA goes without saying,
but if he can run his hands over every single
scalp in Echo Company, there's no reason
he can't touch mine. [...] [p. 200]
Despite (or maybe because of?) my earlier experiences with haircuts in the military, Tahmaseb's words took me to a different place and fresh perspective. I will never again think about haircuts and loneliness in quite the same ways.

That's good writing.

*****

Insight No. 3: The voice at the other end of the conversation hurts, too.

As an Army radio guy working in a Tactical Operations Center ("TOC"), one of my worst fears was the absence of a voice at the distant end. Until the final rush of static, it's all about your connections with the soldiers at the other, more dangerous end of the conversation.

I found echoes of those sentiments in the words of retired Minnesota Air National Guard pilot Eric Chandler, callsign "Shmo." While downrange, a buddy working in an Army TOC once e-mailed Chandler some battle-damage photos from an enemy I.E.D. "As we are often 5 miles away from the excitement in an air-conditioned cockpit, I was curious to see what the guys on the ground see," writes Chandler. "I got an eyeful." [p. 205]

Later, back home in Minnesota, Chandler recounts a sudden emotional reaction to his son's request for a military-theme birthday party:
[...] Shelley said that our son Sam wanted an Army theme for his party. I asked her to explain. She said that there'd be little Army Humvees on the napkins and the cake and that there'd be a piƱata in the shape of a Humvee. 
Something about the idea of my son taking a bat to a Humvee, destroying it and having candy fall out of it, made me feel physically ill. I still don't know why it would effect me. I'm the fighter-jock glory hound who's never been near any actual blood. I had no reason to get upset, but tears filled my eyes. 
I told Shelly there was no way in hell our son was having a party where he attacked a Humvee with a bat. She was surprised at my reaction. Not nearly as surprised as I was. [...] [p. 206]
"Everyone has their own war," I like to say. In other words, everyone has their own experience of it. Collectively, this book helps tell that story, while also illuminating how individually varied those experiences can be.

Read it. You'll be surprised.

02 December 2013

Sherpa's Ever-Lovin' List of 2013 Holiday Gift Ideas

Just in time for the annual economic warfare of Cyber Monday, here's a list of Sherpa's favorite gift recommendations for the 2013 holiday shopping season:

FOR THE YOUNGEST RECRUITS:
*****

FOR TOMORROW'S DRONE AND MRAP DRIVERS ...

  • Young-adult books written by a former "Red Bull." Author Trent Reedy's young-adult novel "Words in the Dust" is recently available in paperback. Inspired by Reedy's 2005 deployment to Afghanistan as an Iowa National Guard citizen-soldier, the book tells the story of a 13-year-old Afghan girl's struggles with injury and hardship. For ages 10 to 14. Also, although not available until late January 2014, book No. 1 of Reedy's "Divided We Fall" trilogy of thrillers contains citizen-soldier themes, and is certain to appeal to a wide range of young-adult readers.
*****

FOR 'RED BULL' HISTORY BUFFS ...

  • A "Red Bull" movie about war and memory. "Memorial Day" (2012) feature film on DVD and Blu-ray. The 2012 film tells a story of service that bridges generations, between World War II Europe and the Red Bull in Iraq. Rated R for some war violence. Read a Red Bull Rising review here.
  • A true story of "Red Bull" resilience. Written by Jim Kosmo and John Kresel, "Still Standing: The Story of SSG John Kriesel" is an inspirational non-fiction story of an Iraq War veteran as he recovers from from his injuries. Read the Red Bull Rising review here.
*****

FOR READERS OF MILITARY FICTION, NON-FICTION, AND/OR POETRY ...

  • A subscription to a quarterly sampler of new military writing. Published by the Veterans Writing Project, "O-Dark-Thirty" provides insights and inspirations for both readers and writers of military fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Single issues are available for $10; a 4-issue subscriptions are $30; click here for details. For a Red Bull Rising review of previous issues, click here and here.
*****

FOR GROWN-UP MILITARY ENTHUSIASTS WHO STILL READ COMIC BOOKS ...

  • A realistic covert-ops title. Published by Image Comics, "The Activity" is a realistic covert-ops team thriller in trade paperback. Available in trade paperback (Volume 1 and Volume 2) or digital on Comixology. Notably, Volume 2 contains a story regarding a terrorist attack on Minneapolis—that's "Red Bull" Division territory!
*****

FOR SUBSCRIBERS TO 'BETTER HOOTCHES AND GARDENS' ...

  • A wall calendar ... or two! An official 2014 "Doctrine Man!!" or "Schlock Mercenary" cartoon calendar will demonstrate your sense of humor, if not your combat proficiency or good taste. Each artist specializes in pithy observations and military-themed maxims. Get a calendar from each: One for home and one for work!
*****

FOR STRATEGIC PLANNERS AND NEVER-SAY-DIE WAR-GAMERS ...

  • A counterinsurgency-themed game. At $78, the Afghanistan-focused "A Distant Plain" from GMT Games is probably a little expensive for casual would-be nation-builders, but that itself might be an appropriate lesson-learned, too. For 1 to 4 players. For reviews of the game, click here and here.

28 November 2013

A 'Red Bull' Thanksgiving in World War II Italy

Sgt. Schlitz, a sharp-eyed friend of the Red Bull Rising blog, pointed out yesterday that the National World War II Museum in New Orleans had recently posted various pictures of American troops at Thanksgiving—including one depicting six soldiers of the 135th Inf. Reg. sitting down to a rustic table in World War II Italy.

The 135th Inf. Reg. was part of the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division. The regimental lineage is maintained by the Minnesota National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 135th Inf. Reg., headquartered in Mankato, Minn. The battalion is part of the modern-day 1st Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Inf. Div. (1-34th BCT).

The images were taken by U.S. Army Signal Corps photographer William Caldwell in Nov. 1944. According to the museum, Caldwell was assigned to the Fifth Army Headquarters in North Africa and Italy, and later served as the motorcycle driver to Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark.

27 November 2013

Hail and Farewell, and a Prayer of Thanksgiving

Members of the Iowa National Guard's 833rd Engineer Company (833rd Eng. Co.) this week returned from clearing mines in Afghanistan, while 40 members of Bravo Company, 248th Aviation Support Battalion (248th A.S.B.) are heading out to Kosovo.

It is a time of thanksgiving and prayer. In his annual Thanksgiving letter, Army Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr, the adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, put it this way:
In the first time in 12 years, the Iowa National Guard does not have units currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, but we do have individual deployers in the Central Command theater and one unit preparing at their mobilization station for deployment to Kosovo. It is a time to pause, to reflect, and to remember those who have sacrificed so much to insure liberty for all of us.
I've always held "Iowa's Engineers" in high regard. Back in the day, I was a member of the 833rd Eng. Co.'s higher headquarters. The Hawkeye patch they wear echoes the Mexican-water-jug shape of the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division patch.

During one field exercise with the Engineers, I found myself selected to fill-in for the chaplain for the evening prayer. I always like to say that I can be spontaneous, but I usually need to plan ahead. While the commander was speaking in front of the formation, I jotted down a few words.

In the years that have followed, I've thought about those words often. I wish I could find that notecard now, but have tried to re-create the sentiment and spirt of the thing here. I think it still works as an all-purpose prayer of thanksgiving, and offer it here:
Dear Lord,

Help us clear the obstacles we create for ourselves, and protect us from our enemies' actions. Provide us strength, wisdom, forgiveness, and humor.

In your name and example, let us try to be better leaders, and followers, and friends to each other.

Keep our buddies close, our spirits up, and our rucksacks full. Most of all, keep our homes and families safe.

Thank you for our many blessings, and the opportunity to serve.

Essayons ... and amen.
*****

Photos by Army Staff Sgt. Chad Nelson. For more pictures of the recent send-off ceremony for Bravo Company, 248th ASB, click here. For more pictures of the 833rd Eng. Co. homecoming, click here.

25 November 2013

Comic Book Tells of Nisei Soldiers' Service, Humility

Oahu-based writer and entrepreneur Stacey Hayashi didn't start out to write a comic book about World War II—particularly one filled with disarmingly cute characters drawn in a style called "chibi." Inspired first by family and friends' war service, she wanted to tell an unflinching story about the Nisei soldiers—Japanese-American soldiers who fought in Italy, France, and elsewhere—as a feature-length film.

If the world is lucky, it might still be a Hollywood movie someday. This is, after all, a story that should be told again and again.

When Hawaii's film economy turned cloudy in the late 2000s, however, Hayashi was worried that years of research into a screenplay would go to waste. "It's not like you can bind a script and have people read it," she says. "And then it hit me ... a comic book! It would be like storyboards, sort of."

The 30-something Hawaii native teamed up with artist and Rhode Islander Damon Wong, to create and publish "A Journey of Heroes"—an educationally accessible and emotionally powerful graphic novel about second-generation immigrants who put their country first, no matter the cost. In the wake of Japan's Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-American citizens struggled for opportunities to serve their country. Too often, their efforts were met with distrust and racial discrimination.

The Nisei soldiers—the word connotes "second generation"—include the 100th Infantry Battalion (100th Inf. Bn.), and the 442nd Infantry Regiment (442nd Inf. Reg.). In World War II Italy, the 100th Inf. was, for a time, attached to the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (34th Inf. Div.). In addition to wearing the patch, the soldiers even painted the Red Bull symbol on their helmets. The unit was celebrated as the "Purple Heart Battalion," due to the number of its members who had been killed or wounded while fighting the enemy.

The 100th Inf. Bn. trained at Camp McCoy, Wis., and Camp Shelby, Miss, and fought as part of the 34th Inf. Div.'s 133rd Regiment in North Africa and Italy, including battles at Mount Cassino, Anzio, and Rome. After Rome, it became part of the larger 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team (100th/442nd R.C.T.). The unique, combined numerical designation was a special recognition of the 100th Inf. Bn's previous military accomplishments.

Later, at great cost in lives and casualties, the 100th/442nd Inf. RCT would famously rescue a "lost battalion" of Texas's 36th Inf. "Arrowhead" Div.

Nisei soldiers also include those who served with Military Intelligence Service (M.I.S.). These Japanese-American soldiers served as translators, and trained at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling, Minn.

In addition to battlefield heroics and tragedies, "Journey of Heroes" also offers moments of humor and light-heartedness. Initially, for example, there are language- and culture-barriers between the "Buddhaheads" from Hawaii and the "Kotonks" from mainland states:
"Jus cuz you soun' like one haole no mean you mo bettah dan me!" 
"How am I supposed to know what you're talking about, you crazy Hawaiian?"
Later, those differences are erased when the troops are taken on a field-trip to visit an internment camp. During World War II, the American government detained Japanese-American citizens in camps, and deprived them of their freedoms and properties. With dinners and dances, the internees hosted the troops. From those experiences, the soldiers took lessons of patriotism, thanksgiving, and humility.

"Some were very angry at being put in these camps, and rightfully so," says the narrator, "but I noticed the Japanese philosophy of 'shikata ga na'—it can't be helped—at work. They also reminded me of my parents at home, who said "Gaman"—to endure hardships with grace. [...] We based a real unit after that. From then on, we were all in this together."

The "Journey of Heroes" comic is drawn as a manga, similar to black-and-white comics originating in Japan. Rather than a gritty or realistic style, Hayashi and Wong opted for cute characterizations, called "chibi."

Using the friendly-looking cartoon characters meant they could soften the story without dumbing down the facts. That was important, because Hayashi's objective was always that "Journey to Heroes" could be used in libraries and classrooms. "Yes, it's a book that's going to have war and violence in it, but I didn't feel that that was the lesson," Hayashi says. "To me, the true story is the story of [the veterans'] character, and what they did in the face of racism and adversity ..."

"Also, because they're so cute—like the vets themselves—as the reader, I think maybe people are sometimes sadder ... like, how can something so awful happen to this guy who is so cute?" she says. "Even when you meet the vets themselves [in person]. Sure, some of them are tough, gruff old men you don't want to mess with, but they are also so friendly, so cheerful, so generous and gracious and playful, it's hard to believe that these guys were also tough soldiers."

When "Journey of Heroes" was first published as a 30-page comic in 2012, some 5,000 copies were donated to Hawaiian schools and libraries. The content is suitable for ages 10 and up. A second run of the comic is anticipated in late 2013, with additional new pages. One notable innovation: As individuals and organizations, World War II veterans and their supporters often sponsor distribution of the comics into classrooms—putting history in the hands of today's young people, in a fresh, tangible, and unforgettable way.

An introduction to the book by the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, himself a 442nd RCT veteran, reads in part:
We were unlike most other soldiers because we bore the responsibility of bringing honor to our families' names, and proving that Americanism was not a matter of skin color, but a matter of heart and mind.
To purchase a copy of "Journey of Heroes," visit the website here. Cost is $10 each, plus shipping and handling. There is also a 5-mintute movie-style trailer for the comic book posted on YouTube here, and embedded below in this blog-post.

There is also a Facebook page for the comic book here.

To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, visit the website here, or view a 5-minute YouTube video here.

22 November 2013

New 'Pass In Review' e-Journal Seeks Military Writers

The "Pass In Review," a new quarterly online journal based in Chicago, seeks previously unpublished artistic works created by military veterans. Categories include: short fiction, poetry, visual art, and music. Submissions for the inaugural issue opened Nov. 1, and will close Jan. 1, 2014. Multiple and simultaneous submissions are allowed.

Editors plan to publish the journal as a free e-book on the organization's website, as well as via the Amazon Kindle Store.

The journal takes its name from a ceremonial practice of marching soldiers past a high-ranking official or dignitary. Despite the spit-and-polished name, however, profiles of the editorial staff read one part punchy, one part salty, and all parts been-there-and-done-that.

The editorial mission statement of the Pass In Review reads:
We believe that veterans from all conflicts, past and present, are misrepresented and are underrepresented in the artistic community. Our goal is to cast veterans in a new light by allowing the public to see their work and gain an understanding of the veteran's perspective.
The Pass In Review website is here. A Facebook page is here.

The publication "retains exclusive publishing rights for six months after the first publication. After six months has elapsed, the artist resumes full ownership of his/her work."

Submissions may be made via an online portal, which can be found here, along with general submissions guidelines. General guidance includes:
All types of artistic works are accepted and we encourage exciting and engaging works from artists of all ethnicities, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations and religious affiliations.

In our view, every topic is fair game, so we wholeheartedly encourage submitters to push the limits of their artistic abilities. Oftentimes, this might include very adult or dark topics. That being said, we will not accept works that fall into or contain the following categories: fan-fiction, erotica, racism/bigotry, personal rants or manifestos and any other extreme topic that does not fit within the context of the art.

20 November 2013

New 'O-Dark Thirty' Issue is an All-Fiction Special

The Veterans Writing Project's quarterly literary journal "O-Dark-Thirty" celebrated its second year with the recent Veterans Day publication of an all-fiction issue. The issue has been posted free on-line as a PDF file, along with the organization's previous four issues.

A print edition of the all-fiction issue is still pending, according to editors. Meanwhile, poetry, non-fiction, and other military writing continue to be regularly featured on the project's website, under the section labelled "The Report."

The works of six military writers are included in the 80-page all-fiction issue of "O-Dark-Thirty," which is available free here. Story themes include hard looks at race, sex, and injury.

“We are made to persist. That's how we find out who we are.”
—Tobias Wolff, "In Pharaoh's Army"

After quoting the 1994 memoir of Vietnam War veteran Tobias Wolff in the issue's introduction, fiction editor James Mathews argues that
[...] constant persistence in the pursuit of conflict [is] the surest method to revealing the truth behind character, story and ultimately, the human condition. [T]he men and women veterans who have shared their fiction with us understand this pursuit. Their persistence reveals poignant and often harsh realities for their characters, but also truth about who we are.
The issue's cover design, by Iraq and Afghan War veteran Janis Albuquerque, features a detail of the Korean War Veterans Memorial. This year marks the 60th anniversary of that conflict.

The "O-Dark Thirty" publications continue to accept submissions year-round. Click here for guidelines.

Single-issues and four-issue subscriptions are available for on-line purchase here.