28 February 2014

Podcaster Seeks Funding for Veteran-Suicide Series

Marine veteran, cancer survivor, and podcaster Timothy Lawson is seeking to crowd-fund a 12-episode series focusing on veteran suicide. "Many of my guests would not feel comfortable in front of a camera, nor do I think their stories would be best presented through print," he says in a Kickstarter video. "Podcasting is a great medium for this."

According to the project's Kickstarter page:
The title of this project is "1, 2, Many" because we have lost one too many service members this way without changing course in how we deal with the issues at hand. But it is also called "1, 2, Many" because the veterans battling depression and suicidal thoughts often hide their struggles; yet once we discover there is one person in our life who has been affected by this, we find that we know a second person, and a third, and many, many more.
Lawson, who is studying broadcast journalism at American University, Washington, D.C., calls the project a mix of journalism and story-telling. He also currently hosts three on-going podcasts, including one for Veteran Empire. "This isn't about the awareness, this isn't about the cause," he says on the Kickstarter video. "This is about giving the listener an audible experience, that will give them a better understanding ... that will make them feel more connected to the stories, the experiences, and the insights on veteran suicides."

Lawson is seeking $6,000 to complete his project, and would release the podcasts starting in June. As of this writing, he is nearly halfway to his crowd-funding objective. The Kickstarter window closes Wed., Mar. 19.

A Facebook page for the project is here.

26 February 2014

Writing Event for Veterans, Eastern Iowa, March 28-30

PHOTO: Erik Ostrom via Flickr
If you're not already scheduled to run the 4-mile "Warrior Challenge" urban obstacle course that weekend, a fifth "Writing My Way Back Home" weekend writing workshop for military service members, veterans, and families will be conducted in Eastern Iowa, March 28-30. This year, the venue is the recently renovated Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The free 3-day workshop offers an opportunity for writer-veterans at all levels of experience to exchange ideas and information. The focus is on exploring military themes and topics through fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and more.

Attendees may choose to attend all sessions, or opt to use some of the available time to work with others on writing projects. The atmosphere is usually relaxed and low-key. Total attendance fluctuates between 30 and 50 people. Attendees may have opportunities to share some meals prepared at the venue. Also, there is usually a scheduled reading event open to the public.

For more insights into the potential "Writing My Way Back Home" workshop experience, see these Red Bull Rising blog posts regarding the 2011 and 2013 events.

While the event is free, on-line registration is required here. A Facebook page for the event is here.

A organizational Facebook page for the "Writing My Way Back Home" non-profit is here.

In the past, the group's weekend workshops have been conducted on or near the University of Iowa campus, Iowa City. This year marks the first time the workshop will be conducted in Cedar Rapids.

Originally constructed in 1920, the Veterans Memorial Building also served as the Cedar Rapids center of government until floods damaged the structure in 2008. The building is located on May's Island, in the middle of the Cedar River. After a $20 million renovation, the recently reopened facility is now home to the Iowa Veterans' Welcome Center, Midwest Military Outreach, and other veterans-service organizations, and contains office, exhibit, meeting, and performance spaces.

The address of the building is: Veterans Memorial Building, 50 2nd Avenue Bridge, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401.

The building's exterior features a sculpture of an eternal flame atop the structure. Inside, there is a stained glass window designed by American regionalist painter Grant Wood, a Cedar Rapids native.

Recently, a traveling art exhibit regarding Military Sexual Trauma (M.S.T.) was installed in the building. In "Project Retrospoect: Flipping the Script on Rape," a Wisconsin-based organization called Survivors Empowered Through Art (SETA) presents a collection of artwork related to sexual assault in the military.

24 February 2014

'Warrior Challenge' is 4-mile Urban Obstacle Course

Featuring a 4-mile urban obstacle course and raising funds for the Fisher House and other veteran causes, the University of Iowa Veterans Association (U.I.V.A.) will conduct its Third Annual Warrior Challenge in Iowa City, Iowa, Sun., March 30, 2014. Beginning at 10 a.m., waves of competitors will start every 10 minutes.

In addition to other programs, the Fisher House Foundation funds a network of comfort homes, located near medical facilities, where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment.

Obstacles at the 2014 Warrior Challenge will include:
  • Cat's Cradle
  • Tunnel Dash
  • "Warrior Haul" (400-meter sandbag carry)
Individuals or teams of four may compete. Team categories include: men's, women's, co-ed, Reserve Officers' Training Corps (R.O.T.C.), and Student Veterans Association (S.V.A.) teams.

There will be an awards ceremony for top overall finishers in all divisions, and the top 3 individual finishers in each age group. First-place finishers in each division will be awarded a unique golden helmet trophy.

Until March 17, registration is $40 for non-military, $30 for present and former military. Fees increase $10 each for same-day registration.

Race expo, packet pick-up, and same-day registration will be before the race from 7 to 9:30 a.m., at the university's recreation building, 930 Stadium Dr., Iowa City.

A post-race party will be held approximately 2 p.m. at the Vine Tavern and Eatery, 39th 2nd St., Coralville.

A website for the event can be found here.

A Facebook event page can be round here.

21 February 2014

Did File Photo Reinforce the 'Unstable Vet' Meme?

Blog-editor's update: We just spoke via e-mail to Des Moines Register reporter Clark Kauffman, who is mentioned below. It turns out that, while not attributed to Robert McKevitt in the story as printed, the mention of his past (?) military service was apparently at McKevitt's own insistence. Given that information, the inclusion of the file photo makes sense. In other words—our words—the subject "played the veteran card" himself.

The potential lesson-learned for journalists (and mil-bloggers)? "Not all veterans are broken, but not all veterans are necessarily heroes, either."

That said, writers of all kinds should remain vigilant against both the positive and negative stereotypes of veterans returned from war.


When the Des Moines (Iowa) Register ran a "man bites dog" weird-news story on the front page of its Thurs., Feb. 20 print edition, it also managed to reinforce the negative "hot-tempered, hair-triggered" stereotype of military veterans returned from war.

The story involved Robert McKevitt, 27, of Spirit Lake, who recently lost his unemployment benefits in a December 2013 administrative hearing. (Note: Not exactly breaking news.) In an incident that occurred on an unspecified date at his former employer's Milford, Iowa warehouse, McKevitt reportedly used an 8,000-pound forklift to shake loose a stuck vending-machine candy bar for which he had paid.

The news article, written by investigative reporter Clark Kauffman, is 9 column inches of empty journalistic calories: "It's a familiar tableau: an overpriced vending-machine candy bar dangles on a spiral hook [...]" the article starts. "For most of us, that mini-drama usually ends in defeat. But not for Robert McKevitt of Spirit Lake, whose victory over an uncooperative vending machine ultimately cost him his job."

The print edition went with the straight-laced headline: "Iowan loses cool, job over vending machine."

The on-line edition played it with more snark: "The Twix bar, the forklift, and the fired Iowan." (See also partial screen capture, above.)

The story goes on, but the details are unimportant for the purposes of this discussion. The employer says McKevitt shook the machine and then dropped it with the fork lift. McKevitt says he carefully put the vending machine back against the wall. Either way, he was fired. Fork lifts are dangerous, and vending machines are dangerous, and employers can't afford employees who willfully create dangerous situations. The Red Bull Rising blog does not endorse the misuse of large power equipment. Even if it sounds funny in the papers.

The trouble is, the Des Moines Register also went out of its way to point out that McKevitt is a military veteran.

It did so because editors had a file photo of McKevitt, taken during his 2010-2011 deployment to Afghanistan along with 3,000 other citizen-soldiers of the Iowa Army National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division. So they ran the photo of him, in patrol cap and combat uniform, talking with an civilian at an unspecified Forward Operating Base ("FOB").

The grip of McKevitt's pistol is cropped out in the print edition, but remains in the on-line version. The photo is two-thirds the size of the article's total text.

Kauffman's article also mentions McKevitt's service, probably to make the connection to the adjacent file photo. The article does not confirm whether McKevitt is still a member of the Iowa National Guard, however. It also does not seek to investigate or explain his unusual behavior in any way.

Instead, in words and pictures, the reader is left with the impression that McKevitt's past military service is somehow relevant to the behavior that resulted in his termination. Negative stereotype of veterans as "ticking time bombs"Confirmed.

Because words matter. And pictures matter even more.

Don't think that veterans are negatively stereotyped? More on that in a minute.

Here's the dilemma presented by this article:
  • If McKevitt's status as a veteran is relevant to the story, why make no attempt to constructively address the potential mental-health or cultural implications of veterans returned from deployment?
  • If McKevitt's status as a veteran is NOT relevant to the story, then why was the misleading and provocative photo even included? Remember that at least one editor must have waved a yellow flag of caution prior to publication—the weapon in the photo, after all, was cropped out. The photo could have been cropped to just his face. Or, better yet—not used at all.
Kauffman, by the way, is a 2005 Pulitzer finalist, and a past health care reporter for the newspaper. His health-care expertise no doubt got over-ridden at the editorial level. Certainly, his copy in this instance—even given its light-hearted, light-on-news flaws—deserved better treatment than the way it was presented on page.

So did the past work of his Register colleagues, Tony Leys and Rodney White, who embedded with Iowa's 2-34th BCT multiple times during more than a year of coverage, including a few weeks in Afghanistan.

And so, ultimately, did the Register's readers. And the readers of its sister publications. Notably, the latter includes those that specifically serve military audiences.

It turns out that, because of the photograph, another Gannett-owned newspaper picked up the story. The Army Times ran it with the headline, "Guard member fired after using forklift to retrieve Twix from vending machine." (See partial screen capture, left.)

Still think the choice of photo was irrelevant, and not a slur against citizen-soldiers? The Army Times wouldn't have run the article without a military "connection." Its readers, however, were smarter than that. Here's what a couple of Army Times readers wrote in comments:
"This story has nothing to do with the National Guard. Attaching this story to the fact that he is in the National Guard is pointless." 
"The fact that this employee happened to be in the Guard has no relevance to his civilian employment and thus this story. Stop the Guard bashing."
Back at the Register's on-line story, an Iowa reader wrote: "If a story involves a U.S. veteran, his/her status as a U.S. veteran is relevant in any story regarding employment; in this 'improving' economy, veterans are having an extremely difficult time finding jobs."

Yep. And depicting them as potentially crazy, aggressive, or dangerous doesn't exactly help in the hiring progress, does it?

Of course, some editors might argue that, in the present age of "Support Your Troops" and "Thank You for Your Service," a negative stereotype of veterans can't possibly exist. A file photo of a soldier can't be any different than that of a coach or a teacher, right? This veteran disagrees. So do a couple of Army Times readers.

Others might argue that it was obviously a slow news day, and that the candy-bar article was meant to be read with a snicker, and that veterans should lighten up. After all, didn't readers also see that story Altoona reporter Timothy Meinch, the one that ran on page 4A of the same issue yesterday? "Veterans center celebrates move with ribbon-cutting." See? The Register loves and understands veterans!

Except that the "veteran loses cool, uses forklift to get candy bar" story was front-page news, not page 4A. Editors made that decision, too. Important stuff goes to the front.

Still, the candy bar story reached No. 2 "most popular" on the newspaper's website Thursday. Editors must have known what they were doing.

Final questions:

Would the Register's editors have so blithely mentioned out-of-context an unusually behaving individual's past military service, if the 8,000-pound forklift been a weapon of some sort?

Suppose there's a hypothetical incident of domestic or workplace violence sometime in the future, and someone involved just happens to be a veteran. Are the Register's editors canny enough to use that as teachable moment? To educate readers on issues like mental health, workplace violence, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.)? Or are they just going to jump to conclusions—or worse, cheap laughs?

Here's the short answer: Wait and see. Just don't be the veteran who loses his cool.

19 February 2014

Japan-based WWII Reenactors Conduct Winter Event

Historical reenactors seek to re-create the look and feel of a particular period by conducting equipment demonstrations, living history encampments, and even mock battles. Recently, a Japan-based unit of World War II reenactors conducted field exercises in the cold and snow of their own country, while depicting conditions American "Red Bull" soldiers encountered 70 years ago on the mountainous battlefields of Italy.

"Heavy snow got down on that day," the group writes in English about their recent event, conducted in Shizuoka, Japan. "This much much snow did not fall in Cassino."

The reenactors of Bravo Company, 100th Inf. Bn, / 442 RCT Reenactment Group commemorate the 100th Infantry Battalion / 442nd Regimental Combat Team (R.C.T.). In brutal combat through Italy and Germany, these second-generation ("Nisei") Japanese-American soldiers repeatedly fought with loyalty and valor. For a time, the 100th Inf. / 442nd RCT was assigned under the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division.

The reenactors recently posted an album of more than 100 photographs of their winter exercises on Facebook, along with a few impressionistic captions. To some, the short account that accompanies the pictures reads like poetry:
The event of Reenact and Airsoft which were set as the Italy battle line. 
However, heavy snow got down on that day. 
This much much snow did not fall in Cassino
We spent many of 1st day on the snow measure. 
In the pyramid tent, the stove was used and it slept night. 
Firewood and coal were burned by the stove. 
Cooking was carried out in field oven and gasoline burned. 
"Chicken Heka" and "Musubi" which are said for the Japanese-American soldier to have eaten were cooked.
Historically, the Nisei soldiers' story has inspired many retellings. Readers of the Red Bull Rising blog may remember that there's even a graphic novel depicting the 100th Inf. Bn. / 442nd RCT story.

By wearing uniforms appropriate to the era they represent, and experiencing in small ways some of the hardships of World War II soldier life, the Japanese reenactors continue to keep the story of the 100th Inf. Bn. / 442nd RCT burning bright.

The Japan-based group is not the only group of reenactors based on Red Bull units, however. There is, for example, also a 442nd RCT group based in California, as well as a 113th Cavalry unit in Oregon.

17 February 2014

Military-Writing Event is March 23-25, Brookings, S.D.

The 38th Annual Great Plains Writers' Conference will be held March 23-25, 2014 at South Dakota State University, Brookings, S.D. This year's theme is "Coming Home: War, Healing, and American Culture."

The free, 3-day event features an impressive list of writers on military themes and topics. Speakers include:
Somewhat lower on the playbill, the writer of the Red Bull Rising blog will also conduct a workshop titled, "Finding and Creating Opportunities in Writing about Military Life." Through that presentation, both aspiring and professional writers will learn how to target ideal markets and venues for publishing their works, on-line and in print.

"I'm going to present a list of editorial 'best-practices'—complete with concrete examples—that I hope veterans, service members, and family and friends will use to share their military experiences with others," says Randy "Sherpa" Brown. "At the same time, I want to arm those writers to protect themselves, their stories, and their copyrights."

Brown is a former editor of national trade and consumer magazines, as well as community and metro newspapers. In 2010, he was preparing for deployment to Eastern Afghanistan as a member of the Iowa Army National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division—a division with historical roots in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska.

After he dropped off the deployment list, Brown retired with 20 years of military service and a previous peacekeeping deployment. He then went to Afghanistan anyway, embedding with Iowa's Red Bull units as a civilian journalist in May-June 2011.

Brown's military-themed poetry and non-fiction have been published in Tom Ricks' "The Best Defense" blog; The Journal of Military Experience; Doonesbury's "The Sandbox" blog; The Pass In Review journal; and two volumes of the anthology "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors"(volume 1 and "volume 2"), published by the Southeast Missouri State University Press. He is a past winner of a Military Reporters & Editors blog-writing competition, and a past Milblogging.com "Mil-bloggies" finalist in the veteran and reporting categories.

For the website of the Great Plains Writers' Conference, click here.

For a Facebook page, click here.

For a pre-event publicity PDF poster for the event, click here.

14 February 2014

Art Project Seeks to Re-brand the Word 'Veteran'

Using words and insights from his fellow military veterans, artist Sean Riordan seeks to take back and rebrand the word "veteran" from society's negative stereotypes. He calls his effort The Vet Project.

In the original 2013 iteration of the project, Riordan collected veteran and civilian quotes via re-purposed ammunition boxes he placed a Baltimore-area tavern. The effort resulted in thousands of contributions, which he synthesized into an 18-piece art installation that combined colored textiles and typography.

Now, through his Vet Project website, Riordan asks contributors to anonymously complete the sentence "Being a veteran is ..." He writes:
We're interested in your honest, unfiltered opinion on what it's like being a Veteran, based upon your own personal experiences.

Use one word to describe what being a Vet is to you, or write an essay. No minimum or maximum reply length. There are no wrong answers.
Any materials submitted are to be treated with respect and integrity, Riordan continues, and personal information will never by shared or published.

Visit The Vet Project website here.

For questions regarding The Vet Project, e-mail: VET@TheVETProject.com

12 February 2014

Disaster-Response Veterans to Bridge Literary Gap

Team Rubicon, an El Segundo, Calif.-based non-profit organization that specializes in deploying military-veteran volunteers to assist in civilian disaster-response efforts, recently announced it would begin an on-line literary journal.

The name, logo, and mission of Team Rubicon all speak to a theme of crossing rivers, and of "bridging the gap."

Through its latest project, the group seeks poetry, prose, photographs, fiction, and other material for inclusion in an inaugural issue of the journal, which is to be published in early 2014.

"If you write deep philosophical treatises, whimsical short stories, reflections on TR deployments or military tours of duty we would like to publish what you have and share it with the TR community," the editors write in the call for submissions.

Elsewhere on that webpage, Team Rubicon volunteer, Iraq War veteran, and English teacher Paul Warmbler posts this personal challenge to prospective writers:
I want you to share your fears, laughs, and tears. Educate and enlighten, provoke thought and meaningful discussion, or whatever motivates you to write.

Use it as an outlet for personal growth and therapy when you are upset, afraid, depressed or thrilled. Write it, put it into word and give it meaning.

We are given the opportunity to become the new bards and story tellers of the world. In my own writing I have tried to capture ghosts from my own memory.

These memories are what binds us, and strangely enough, have the power to release us from our own mental bondage.

Use them.
Submissions do not have to be related to veteran themes. Editors may edit lightly for grammar and clarity, but will not make changes without the writer's consent. Regarding language and content, writers are reminded that non-veterans and the pubic will have access to the final on-line publication.

Writers may ask to have content appear anonymously, or under a pseudonym.

For full guidelines, click here.

Send submissions via e-mail to: litjournal@teamrubiconusa.org

Direct editorial questions via e-mail to: litjournaladmin@teamrubiconusa.org

The Team Rubicon Facebook page can be found here.

10 February 2014

Book Review: 'Afghan Post'

Review: 'Afghan Post' by Adrian Bonenberger

Distilling e-mails, journal entries, and letters he wrote home into new content, former U.S. Army Infantry officer Adrian Bonenberger has crafted a memoir of his journey from unfocused East Coast adolescent, to American warrior in the Middle East, to veteran returning home. The 414-page book is presented as a series of letters—the technical term is an "epistolary"—through which Bonenberger addresses with family and friends his evolving experiences and opinions about military service.

The result should be required reading for any future U.S. Army leader—junior officers and senior enlisted soldiers—as well as Army family members. In addition to illuminating the challenges of maintaining long-distance relationships, Bonenberger's meandering map of Army life illustrates the vagaries of military training, careers, and missions.

As such, it deserves a place alongside other titles often recommended to junior leaders, such as James R. McDonough's Vietnam-era combat memoir, "Platoon Leader." (Coincidentally, McDonough and Bonenberger each served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade. This is also the unit whose Afghan experiences were partially documented in 2010's "Restrepo.")

After graduating prep school in 1996, Bonenberger attended Yale University as an English major. He graduated college in 2002, then spent a short stint as an instructor of conversational English in Japan. He joined the U.S. Army in late 2004, and gained his commission through Officer Candidate School (O.C.S.). After branching Infantry, he graduated in succession the Army's Basic Airborne Course, the grueling 61-day Ranger school, and the 5-week Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leaders Course (R.S.L.C.).

In 2007 and 2008, Bonenberger deployed to Eastern Afghanistan's Paktika Province with 1st Battalion, 503rd Inf. Reg., 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He was a platoon leader and a company executive officer. In 2010 and 2011, he deployed to Northern Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. There, he was a company executive officer and later, a company commander. (Readers of the Red Bull Rising blog may remember that 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division deployed to Eastern Afghanistan in 2010-2011—the times in-country overlap slightly.)

The letter-writing leitmotif is useful to non-military readers, in that the form requires Bonenberger to tailor both his language and his logic to specific audiences, one at a time. In a letter to a girlfriend or Army buddy, for example, he opens up emotionally. With his grandfather, he begins to compare military experiences. To his parents, he presents an indefatigable optimism.

Helpfully, throughout his prose, Bonenberger also air-drops thoughtful moments of plainspoken paragraphs. He consistently avoids sounding preachy or one-sided. Consider, for example, his clear-eyed take on how Army leaders have to toe the line in expressing their personal opinions:
You can't talk about how nobody knows why we're still in Afghanistan or if things continue on the way they are now well will certainly lose and the Taliban will win or Pakistan is Afghanistan's enemy. This is all heresy. So instead, now that we lack an official department of the censor, I consign it to personal correspondence. It's what everyone's going to be asking me when I get home for leave, right? [...] And I'll have to trot out the same tired smile, talk about the rights of women, educating little girls, blue jeans, bubble gun, and how most Muslims are just good ordinary everyday people, just like you and me. [p. 234; italics in original.]
Or, regarding service in an all-volunteer military:
In Vietnam you tried to avoid volunteering for anything; it was probably going to get you killed. We've kept the Vietnam idea—I suppose our fathers handed it down to us—so that volunteering for a task is a bad thing, even within the military, common sense says don't volunteer—but there's the fact that volunteering is what got you here, and is wrapped up in our idea of what it means to be a motivated or good soldier. [p. 140]
The letter-form and plain-prose aside, however, one other writing tactic proves less than successful for Bonenberger. Before each of the "Afghan Post's" four major narrative sections—those covering the author's civilian experiences in Japan, joining the Army, and his first and second deployments—Bonenberger presents a non-alphabetized "glossary" of acronyms, concepts, and jargon. The tone is conversational and informal. ("I don't know the difference between MEDEVAC and CASEVAC, but ..." is how one entry starts.) Many entries seem extraneous to their corresponding sections. Worse still, the information provided is often downright wrong.

The overall effect diminishes the author's implied expertise. Readers with military experiences of their own may find themselves cringing at factual errors. "Dust-off," for example, is not what soldiers call "brown-out" conditions of zero-visibility during helicopter landings. It's not the "101st Air Assault," it's the "101st Airborne Division." It's not "Bagram Air Force Base," it's "Bagram Airfield." That's why it's called "BAF."

The resulting impression is that Bonenberger's wonderfully personable, plainspoken correspondent may not only be an "unreliable narrator" (that, after all, is to be expected, given the epistolary form), but an inaccurate one, to boot.

Bottom line: Despite its technical shortcomings, Army leaders, families, and future recruits would be well-served by reading this book. In broad brushstrokes, it paints a picture of what a young active-duty officer's career and social life could look like. Civilians without military connections will likewise be rewarded with nicely framed and articulated insights into military life, and, specifically, observations of the United States' involvement in Afghanistan. A persistent lack of attention to military details, however, unnecessarily diminishes what could have been a definitive work.

In trade paperback, "Afghan Post" can be purchased via local booksellers near you, via Amazon, or directly from community-supported Philadelphia publisher The Heart & the Hand here.

Editor's note: A copy of this book was provided to Red Bull Rising for purposes of review.

07 February 2014

Artist-Veteran Group Releases Pentagon Exhibit Photo

The Veteran Artist Program ("VAP"), Baltimore, Md., recently released a photograph of a display of military veteran art currently installed in a public gallery space located within the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. The exhibit is the result of a juried competition conducted late last year.

In this first-ever Pentagon exhibit dedicated to veteran artists, approximately 50 works are scheduled to be exhibited throughout 2014. According to press materials, the gallery space is available to all those who work or have access to the Pentagon, at the apex of the first and second corridors.

In an earlier Department of Defense news feature, Pentagon curator Albert Jones praised the quality of the works selected through the VAP effort. "It’s of a professional level. We’re very pleased,” he said. “The Pentagon Patriotic Art Program is a rotating art program that provides opportunity to artists throughout the country to exhibit art in honor of all those that serve in defense of our great nation."

"The VAP exhibit fits perfectly into the program because the artists are veterans," he continued. "Veterans are actually foremost among those we’re honoring with the program. It is their selfless sacrifices, and that of their families, that help preserve the freedom of which every American is privileged. Our veterans more than deserve the very best opportunity that can be provided, and we’re very pleased to play a small part.”

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.

05 February 2014

'Telling: Minnesota' to Play at Carleton College Feb. 22

A production of "Telling: Minnesota," a collection of military veterans' stories originally staged at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, will be presented at 2 p.m, Sat. Feb. 22, at the Weitz Theater on the campus of Carleton College, Northfield, Minn.

Tickets are available FREE in groups up to four via on-line registration here.

The Northfield performance reprises an October 2013 production, which was presented at the Guthrie Theater's Dowling Studio.

As in other Telling Project productions, playwrights generate scripts based on long hours of interviews with the veterans themselves. Then, they work with those veterans to interweave stories into a unique, 3-act stage performance.

Since 2008, Telling Project performances have been conducted in more than 30 cities and eight states nationwide. This will be the first in Minnesota. For more information on the Austin, Texas-based non-profit organization, visit: thetellingproject.org.

According to press materials, "Telling: Minnesota" features stories that:
range from capture and escape in Southeast Asia and Scud missile attacks in Saudi Arabia, to accompanying Lynn Anderson to the Marine Corps Ball, flying injured soldiers out of Iraq and Afghanistan, [and] repairing helicopters in South Korea and military sexual trauma in the Army. "Telling: Minnesota" is an unvarnished look at the heroism, absurdity, horror, wonder and banality of military life as told by the Minnesotans to whom these things happened.

03 February 2014

Editor Seeks Writers to Share Their Post-DADT Stories

PHOTO: Vicki Hudson
The phrase "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was used to describe the 1993 U.S. Department of Defense policy that discouraged gay Americans in uniform from openly acknowledging their sexualities. The policy remained in place until Sept. 20, 2011.

In a new anthology, editor, poet, photographer, and 33-year U.S. Army veteran Vicki Hudson has taken on the mission to collect stories of the aftermath of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

The book is tentatively titled "Repeal Day—September 20, 2011, When DADT Became History."

"The Repeal Day collection is meant to tell the story of what was that first year was like, from the moment the repeal was finally 'live' and all through that first year," Hudson says via e-mail interview.

"I want to acknowledge the courage for those in the military that first year that went ahead and came out," she says. "The repeal did not change culture in an instant, and those that were out in the beginning were breaking down huge barriers. Their families, their comrades in units, their commanders all have some part to tell."

To further inspire writers, the Submittable page for the project is peppered with potential prompts:
  • Did you take part in a celebration, make a point of coming out to those you work with, do a small yet significant or symbolic action (like try and update your DD 93 with a change of ‘friend’ to ‘spouse’) that marked the requirement from forced in the closet to finally able to be yourself and true about those who are your family?
  • What is your story of how you experienced Repeal Day? What was the significance of the day for you and your family? How does the repeal affect you?
  • In the months following September 20th, what was life like for you in the service? What was your experience in that first year? What are your thoughts, opinions, emotions, and observations for you and your family during this historic first year when LGBT service members were finally visible?
  • Are you an ally? What was your experience of your compatriots no longer having to hide? Were you a leader? How did this impact your unit or leader responsibilities?
Deadline for submitting to the anthology is Oct. 1, 2014. Hudson seeks essays from 700 to 7,500 words in length. As an editor, she is willing to work not only with experienced writes, but also those who are still developing their own voices.

"As an editor, you aren't just asking for stories and then you print whatever shows up in the mail box," Hudson says of creating, collecting, and publishing anthologies. "Often, what I have received are short snippets of an experience well written in military writing style. [...] Part of my role as the editor is help that story be fleshed out a bit, and bring the person who had the experience more present in the story. This helps make the recounting of a memory turn into a compelling narrative which reflects and resonates for the reader."

The project will acquire first-time world anthology rights in English and translation, as well as audio and e-book anthology rights. Beyond that, writers retain copyright to their works, although mentions in any future publication of a given work would be appreciated.

For a full set of guidelines, click here. Submissions may be made electronically here, or via postal mail:
MRD c/o Hudson
P.O. Box 387
Hayward, Calif. 94543
Hudson has a history of encouraging writers to creatively and honestly take on tough topics, and resourcing her fellow editors to do likewise. For the past eight years, for example, she has sponsored a scholarship for an emerging writer to attend the annual San Francisco Writers Conference. This year, military writer Liz Hansen was the 2014 recipient of the award.

Hudson is also author of 2012's "No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique,"
a cargo-pocket-sized manual that's packed with tactics, tools, and techniques for optimizing workshop processes.

Some of her poetry was recently featured in a special issue of the Veteran Writing Project's "O-Dark-Thirty" literary journal.

In 2015, Hudson plans to collect an anthology of poetry and prose focused on a theme of military clothing and gear.