30 May 2014

Never-Printed 'Korean War' Comic Books Now on Sale

Two graphic novels commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War are now available in print via on-line retailers, thanks to a successful crowd-funding effort conducted by a group of comic-book artists, veterans, and military supporters last November.

Originally written and drawn on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense for a June 27, 2013 commemoration, the graphic novels were never printed—possibly due to budget sequestration in 2013. Coincidentally, the Korean War is sometimes called "The Forgotten War," because of the lack of public attention it received during and after the conflict.

The books are available via Amazon.com at these links:
And via Barnes & Noble.com at these links:
Clayton Murwin, founder of Heroes Fallen Studios Inc., is the comic-book impresario who spearheaded the project. "These stories need to be told, they need to be put out there for the public, so that they'll be a lasting legacy," he said during the fund-raising campaign.

After copyright had been returned to the artists, Murwin and his fellow creators sought just $2,500 to help prepare the two finished, 50-page volumes for publication via a print-on-demand service.

Contributors to the Korean War volumes include: Jerry Bingham, Valierie Finnigan, Fletcher Horton, Levi EricksonScott Lee, Richard Meyer, Travis MillerClayton MurwinDan MonroeTom Orzechowski, Brian Shearer, Le Beau L. Underwood, and Eric White. A number of contributors are military veterans themselves.

Murwin recommends the books for most ages—the graphic novels aren't too graphic—although he cautions parents to preview the works before handing them off to younger children. After all, one can't accurately depict war without depicting a certain amount of violence. "[The project is] not so much about the violence," Murwin says, however, "it's about the sacrifice and dedication these veterans put through their service."

"Korean War, Vol. 1" tells stories centered around the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, which occurred in November and December 1950. The book is written and illustrated by Richard C. Meyer, colored by Eric White, and lettered by Tom Orzechowski. Meyer is a U.S. veteran of the Iraq War, having served in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment from 2000 to 2004. He served in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2010, and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He previously wrote and illustrated the 2008 comic "No Enemy, but Peace," which tells the story how U.S. Marine Sgt. Marco Martinez earned the Silver Star at the 2003 Battle of At-Tarmiyah, Iraq.

Meyer's Chosin Reservoir narrative moves from the ground war to that of Lt. j.g. Jesse Brown, the U.S. Navy's first African-American aviator, as well as his squadron-mate Lt. Thomas Hunter. Flying carrier-based F4U "Corsairs," Brown and Hunter were providing air-support to U.S. forces encircled at Chosin Reservoir when Brown's aircraft was hit by enemy fire. Hudner deliberately crash-landed to aid Brown, who was trapped in his cockpit. Hudner was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions, while Brown was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

"Korean War, Vol. II" comprises four stories derived from interviews with Korean War veterans conducted by Gulf War veteran and PTSD-awareness activist Scott Lee. Those stories include:
  • "Valor," a story of U.S. Army Cpl. Rodolfo "Rudy" Hernandez, who was once declared dead after the defense of Hill 420, about 15 miles south of the current border. During that action, Hernandez fixed his bayonet and charged, killing six enemy fighters before losing consciousness from grenade, bayonet and bullet wounds. He is a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
For more information about Heroes Fallen Studios Inc., click here. Or visit the organization's blog here.

For the Heroes Fallen Inc. Facebook page, click here

28 May 2014

Pairs of Parents Launch PTSD-Awareness Events June 7

As "Operation Engage America," two pairs of parents are partnering to provide California and Iowa military families with resources about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and veteran suicide. Together with veterans advocates, activists, and organizations, Jean and Howard Somers of San Diego, Calif., and Lisa and Jeff Naslund, Galva, Iowa, will host 4-hour information meetings in their respective states on June 7.

In the years to come, their goal is to see more "Community Days of Support, Awareness, and Education for Post-Traumatic Stress" every June, which is PTSD Awareness Month.
Daniel Somers during a deployment to Iraq. PHOTO: Somers family

Location for the California event is:
American Legion Post 731
7245 Linda Vista Rd.
San Diego, Calif. 92111
Location for the Iowa event is:
VFW Post 9662
1309 N.E. 66th Ave.,
Des Moines, Iowa 50313
California Army National Guard Sgt. Daniel Somers, 30, of Phoenix, Ariz. was a military intelligence soldier, rock musician, and Iraq War veteran. He died in June 2013.

Somers' parents subsequently urged the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to create more awareness and efficiencies regarding PTSD and veteran suicide.

Dillion Naslund during a deployment to Afghanistan. PHOTO: Naslund family 
Iowa Army National Guard Sgt. Dillion Naslund, 25, of Galva, Iowa was an infantry soldier, construction worker, and had deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-2011 with the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (34th Inf. Div.). His family's and community's reactions to his December 2013 death was the subject of a television documentary broadcast earlier this year, and previously mentioned on the Red Bull Rising blog.

In press materials related to the June 7 events, the Somers write:
We have learned countless facts over the past ten months: Among them, PTSD is not military-specific. It affects our first responders, victims of domestic, child and sexual abuse, even some of those who’ve experienced natural disasters and automobile accidents. Additionally, there are thousands of people who sincerely want to help. It is estimated that there are 44,000 volunteer organizations in the United States dedicated to helping service members and their families.

So, you may ask, what is the problem? The problem is visibility.

As parents of a married service member, we had no idea that there were resources for us, resources that could have helped us understand what our son went through, what he was going through and how to help him. We had no idea that we could have called the Veterans Administration and asked to speak with his mental health providers to give them a clearer picture of what changes we saw in Daniel. We had no idea that the Vet Center could have provided us insight and guidance in how to talk to him about his war experiences.

There has been much progress at the VA and DoD since Daniel last “touched” the government system that should have helped him. There is much still to be done. There are those 44,000 organizations trying to fill the many gaps. But how do you know who they are, how do you find them, how do you even know they are there for you?
Participating organizations include:
  • American Legion
  • Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • San Diego VA Medical Center
  • VA Central Iowa Health Care System
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars
For more information about Operation Engage America, visit the organizational website here.

For information about the California event, contact Jean or Howard Somers via e-mail: oea.sandiego@gmail.com

For information about the Iowa event, Lisa Naslund via e-mail: jelinasl@schallertel.net

26 May 2014

June 1 Deadline for 3rd Vonnegut Library Lit-Journal

The editors of a third annual edition of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library's literary journal, "So It Goes," are soliciting new and previously published work on a theme of "the creative process." Poetry, prose, photography, and artwork may all be submitted.

Deadline for submissions is June 1, 2014. The printed publication will likely be released in November 2014.

Unlike other contests, journals, and anthologies featured on the Red Bull Rising blog, this opportunity is not limited to military veterans, service members, or families.

In the past, editors have solicited writers with the note, "Keep in mind that we are looking for your unique voice and not just an imitation of Vonnegut's trademark humorous humanism." The first two editions have notably skewed toward work previously published by established writers.

The library's inaugural edition, organized on a theme of "War and Peace," was previously reviewed on the Red Bull Rising blog. The second annual edition's theme was "humor." Each is available for purchase via the library's on-line store, as well as its storefront location: The Emelie Building, 340 N. Senate Avenue, Indianapolis, Ind.

For more background on the "So It Goes" journal, as well as author Kurt Vonnegut's shared birthday with Armistice Day (November 11), click here.

Submission guidelines include:
  • Both new and previously published works are acceptable.
  • Use 12-point Times New Roman font.
  • Format as double-spaced document for prose; use of single-space is acceptable for poetry.
  • Simultaneous submissions are allowed with notification.
  • Submissions are limited to one work of prose (maximum 1,500 words) or up to five poems, photographs and/or works of art. Group multiple poems into one document.
  • Include cover letter with brief biography.
Questions may be directed via e-mail to: soitgoes@vonnegutlibrary.org.

The library organization maintains a Facebook page here, and a website here.


Note: This blog content regarding military-themed writing is underwritten by the Interlochen Center for the Arts' Summer 2014 series of 4-day writers' retreats, including Matt Gallagher's "From Blog to Book: How to Expand Your Web Log into a Book Manuscript," June 16 to 19. The Interlochen campus is located 15 minutes southwest of Traverse City, Mich. In addition to other published work, Gallagher is the author of 2010's non-fiction "Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War." For more information on all of the 2014 writers' retreats, click here.

23 May 2014

After Dinner with Family, It's 'Wheels Up' for 34th CAB

After "dinner with the family," 220 Minnesota National Guard citizen-soldiers of the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade (34th C.A.B., pronounced "cab"), and the 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion (2-147th A.H.B.) are wheels-up on the next step of a one-year deployment to Camp Beuhring, Kuwait.

Earlier this month, the soldiers conducted pre-deployment readiness training at Camp Ripley, Minn., including weapons qualifications, hand-to-hand combatives, and combat lifesaver training. After a May 17 send-off ceremony, the non-profit organization "Serving Our Troops" dished up dinner for some 3,000 military families and supporters at the Saint Paul Rivercentre.

"The Serving Our Troops team comprised of dedicated sponsors and volunteers from across Minnesota was proud to host this event, our 10th of its kind since 2004," a statement by the organization reads. "In addition to serving up a first-class steak meal with all the trimmings, cold beverages, greetings from special guests, and free tickets to the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota Children's Museum, it was most importantly a message of appreciation on behalf of a community to our soldiers and their family members."

According to the Minnesota National Guard, the mission of the 34th CAB is to support the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Infantry Division and the state of Minnesota by providing aviation assets for both federal and state active duty missions. The aviators of the 34th CAB fly the UH-60 "Black Hawk" and CH-47 "Chinook" helicopters. The headquarters is based in St. Paul. While deployed, the 34th CAB will provide command and control to aviation assets throughout Kuwait and the surrounding region. The 2-147th AHB will provide aviation support to similar areas.

21 May 2014

8 Ways You Can Support the Work of Artist-Veterans

From the Military Experience and the Arts on-line art gallery.
In a recent post on the Red Bull Rising blog, I described my recent acquisition of some original work drawn by Aaron Provost, an artist who happens to be a veteran. He's a working freelance illustrator, and I particularly like his military-themed stuff.

The visual arts are another way that veterans can help share stories, and bridge the civil-military divide.

When I boasted on-line about my new pencil drawing of an MRAP truck, I also asked others for their ideas on how else to help artist-veterans pursue their professions and their passions. Here's a start of a growing list of techniques, complete with examples:

1. Take artist-veterans seriously as artists. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: "Writing can be therapeutic, but it sure as heck ain't therapy." I think the same applies to the visual and other expressive arts. Yes, there are people doing great and healing art-therapy work in hospitals. And you can (and should) help support these efforts with your time, talent, and money. Don't assume, however, that every artist who happens to be a military veteran is somehow in need of healing, or is "just a hobbyist," or is limited in artistic vision, scope, or interest to expressing the experiences of war. Veterans have something to say, and it doesn't have to just be about the military.

2. Engage artist-veterans as artists first, veterans second. Travis Martin, founder of the non-profit organization Military Experience and the Arts, offers this suggestion: "Write reviews or informal reaction statements to show the veteran that they've seriously / critically examined his or her work and that they are willing to start a dialogue."That's great advice, and I plan to follow it. One caveat from Sherpa, however: "If you're face-to-face at an art show, however, don't monopolize an artist's time if you're not able to buy something yourself. Art-show time is money."

3. Feature the works of artist-veterans work in publications or websites. Previously reviewed on Red Bull Rising, The Pass In Review is a recently launched quarterly print and on-line journal that presents visual art in full-color glory, as well as fiction and poetry. The sophomore issue will soon be available for sale on-line, and it's pretty awesome. (Full disclosure: I'm a contributor.) In another example, Martin recently posted a virtual gallery of all the artwork featured in his organization's four on-line journals since 2012. Another caveat to would-be promoters, however: Make sure you first acquire copyrights and permissions from artists. When you can, try to pay them, even if it's just a token fee or honorarium.

4. Even if you're not a practitioner or publisher yourself, network with artists as a patron. In addition to the Facebook page of Martin's Military Experience and the Arts, you can "meet" artist-veterans via the social media pages of Veterans Artist Program, the Arts and the Military, and others. Offer them advice, encouragement, feedback ... or to buy them a coffee sometime.

5. Attend gallery openings, traveling art shows, and museum exhibitions. Sometimes, all you have to do be a supporter is to see and be seen. Here's the type of event to seek out: On May 23rd, there will be a reception for artist-veteran Rob Bates of Bates Illustration. His work is being shown at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's student union art gallery, May 15 to June 5, 2014. For more information, click here.

6. Create and participate in your local artist-veteran scene. Make spaces in which artist-veterans can meet, practice, and present their works. If you're in the Milwaukee area, contact the "Artful Warriors" at the Dryhootch coffee shop. Buy supplies for artist-veterans such as Denver's Curtis Bean, who are teaching art as therapy. Provide encouragement to artist-veterans, and engage other people about what's happening in veteran-generated art. In other words: Tell your friends.

7. Buy or commission artwork (or related merchandise) as an individual patron. More and more artists—from fine-art print-makers to web cartoonists, from woodworkers to sculptors—offer work for sale via on-line venues. Painter and mil-blogger Skip Rodhe, for example, recently wrote about establishing a sales-beachhead on Etsy. A group of artist-veterans in Maine banded together to set up an on-line arts and crafts shop. Original art too expensive? Provost uses an on-line fulfillment platform called Society6 to sell original art, prints and posters, coffee mugs, throw pillows, and more. The creator of the DoctrineMan!! web comic sells book-length collections via Amazon.com and coffee mugs via Zazzle. Art is like Justice Potter Stewart's quote about obscenity—I know it when I see it. And I think DoctrineMan!! certainly qualifies. (As art, I mean—not obscenity.)

8. Buy, commission, or recognize artwork by working within an organization. If you can't afford to buy art as an individual, perhaps you can work with your local library or museum foundation, veterans service organization, or other group to create opportunities to recognize and feature the work of artist-veterans. The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, for example, recently recognized a charcoal self-portrait by Oklahoma native Sarah Rothschild with its Colonel John W. Thomason Jr. Award. The work is now housed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, Virginia.

Semper art!

19 May 2014

Summer Writers' Event Sponsors 'Red Bull Rising' Blog

The Interlochen Center for the Arts' Summer 2014 series of 4-day writers' retreats has sponsored the Red Bull Rising blog. Scheduled from June 16 to 19 on the center's campus in Northwestern Michigan, series offerings include "From Blog to Book: How to Expand Your Web Log into a Book Manuscript."

The Blog-to-Book retreat will be hosted by Iraq War veteran and author Matt Gallagher.

Other Interlochen Summer 2014 offerings include workshops on short story, memoir, and using art as inspiration. "Spend four days writing new material in the genre of your choice, attending craft talks by award-winning faculty, enjoying lakeside lunches and evening readings, all while making connections in the literary world that will last for years to come," the series website reads.

As a young U.S. Army officer deployed to Iraq in 2007-2008, Gallagher first gained worldwide attention as a military blogger. He later turned his writing into a book-length memoir, "Kaboom:
Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War,"
which was published in 2010. In 2013, he was co-editor and contributor to "Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War." He currently serves as a writing instructor for Words After War, a New York City-based non-profit organization that seeks to bring civilians and veterans together to discuss literature regarding war and conflict.

"I'm very pleased to help signal-boost the Interlochen summer writers' retreats, and, specifically, Matt Gallager's 'Blog-to-Book' seminars," says Randy "Sherpa" Brown, writer of the Red Bull Rising blog. "We first met through the blogosphere in 2010, and I personally know him to be funny, insightful, and supportive of other writers' journeys, regardless of medium or genre. This would be the perfect opportunity for anyone—not just mil-bloggers—who regularly engages readers through on-line platforms, and who aspire to creating larger manuscripts."

Past sponsors of the Red Bull Rising blog include low-residency MFA in creative writing programs, writers events and conferences, and retail gaming stores.

For more information or to register for the Interlochen writers retreats, click here.

16 May 2014

Comic Book Review: 'Think Tank: Fun with PTSD'

Creators of "Think Tank," a monthly comic book about a super-genius young technologist and his battles from within the U.S. military-industrial complex, this week delivered a one-shot special issue titled "Fun with PTSD."

Published by Top Cow Productions, Inc. via Image Comics, the issue serves as a coda to the black-and-white series' initial 12-issue run. The series will relaunch in July as a full-color version. Think of it as a second season, similar to a TV series, in which the characters will continue in all-new stories.

Co-creator and writer Matt Hawkins reportedly came up with the "Think Tank" concept when his son told him that science was boring. Each issue even bears the warning: "Danger: Reading this book will make you smarter." Together with co-creator and artist Rahsan Ekedal, Hawkins has consistently presented challenging tales of morality and militarization, with gritty stories informed by today's technology forecasts.

Among other items, for example, past issues have featured submersible drones, high-tech camouflage suits, and genetically targeted weapons. As a bonus, each comic book typically features a number of text-only editorial pages, which point readers to additional references regarding the real-world, bleeding-edge technologies introduced in its stories. Think "Tom Clancy meets Danny Dunn" and you're in the ballpark.

The special PTSD issue hit the comic-book store racks, Wed., May 14. The 48-page edition is priced at $4.99, 25-cents of which will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. (About what Hawkins nets on a given book, after paying for artwork, publishing, and distribution, he writes.) A 20-page story involves prodigal scientist David Loren's attempt to create a tech-based solution to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.), in order to help save a Navy SEAL friend who is accused of (and admits to) murder. A breathless set of caption boxes introduces the story:
PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A brain injury caused by exposure to or experiencing traumatic events. These are common in combat situations.

Less than half the men and women with combat related PTSD see treatment because of a perceived stigmatism of weakness associated with it in military culture.

It's difficult for elite soldiers like Navy SEALs to admit they have a problem. They're trained to control their minds, to be calm in the face of extreme pressure.
The issue also includes 6 pages of "Think Tank" tech talk, and a 3-page teaser story for the next season. Some 10-pages of the issue is a preview of "Wildfire," a new tech-thriller about modified-plant genetics. The latter is also a bit talky, but, like "Think Tank," may grow on some readers—particularly those engaged by edgy predictions of the near-future.

As read by this veteran, "Fun with PTSD" is well-intended, heart-felt, and mostly on target. Sure, the soldiers and scientists are all drop-dead sexy, and the drone-flying puppies are cute as @#$%. This is an entertainment, after all, and it's engaging enough to look past the occasional mistakes in mil-speak. (Note to copy editors: It should be "JAG Corps office," not "JAG core office.")

The special issue's biggest success, however, is in illuminating for new audiences the topic of soldiers' mental health and injury. An entire page of editorial, for example, is dedicated to debunking myths about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, mostly using government-generated content:
  • Myth: PTSD is brought on by a weakness of character. [...]
  • Myth: People with PTSD are violent and unpredictable. [...]
  • Myth: People with PTSD cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.
  • Myth: People with PTSD, even those who have recovered, tend to be second-rate workers. [...]
  • Myth: Once people develop PTSD, they will never recover. [...]
  • Myth: Therapy and self-help are a waste of time. Why bother when you can just take a pill? [...]
  • Myth: I can't do anything for a person with PTSD. [...]
For all the chewy facts and myth-busting, however, the comic pages themselves are a bit fuzzy on the details, potentially conflating Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.), PTSD, and military veteran suicide. All are very real problems, and may have some overlap or relation to one another. Casual readers—the ones who skip over Hawkins' discussion points—may be left with the impression that they are all directly related, and probably causal: that TBI begets PTSD begets suicidal thoughts and actions. I'm not an expert, but I'm not sure that's the case.

Readers may also be left with the impression that PTSD could someday be cured by some sort of techno-magical targeted brain-rebuilder. There is no magic bullet, no pill, no therapy or treatment method that works for 100 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Everyone has their own war, and their own roads to recovery. That's why research and education continue to be so important.

Finally, given the melodramatic storyline, "Think Tank" readers may conclude that all military veterans are somehow mentally broken, "ticking time bombs," or former- or future- murderers. Such characterizations and stereotypes are themselves drivers of the stigmatization some veterans feel regarding mental health status, not only in military environments, but in today's news media.

Still, it's commendable that Hawkins and Ekedal have lobbed a reasonably informed—and informative—wake-up grenade at their readers. War isn't always easily addressed through technology, and neither are its after-effects. Sending the fictional scientist David Loren on an exploration of PTSD was a creative risk worthy of reward and recognition ... and continued conversations by its readers.


The "Think Tank" series has been collected in three hardcopy trade paperbacks: Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3.

Single issues, one-shots, and collections—including the recent "Fun with PTSD" special—are also available in digital formats via Comixology here.

A free PDF sample of Think Tank No. 1 is available from Top Cow Productions here.

14 May 2014

Sherpa Just Bought Himself an MRAP Truck!

Charlie Sherpa poses in 'Kilroy defilade' with his new MRAP truck.
Sherpa just bought a new vehicle! And, rather than the Boss 302 Mustang about which he fantasized while in Panjshir Province—it's a happy, hulking MRAP truck! Or, rather, it's a portrait of one, rendered in pencil by artist and illustrator Aaron Provost.

On the Red Bull Rising blog, I've previously mentioned Provost's work here and here. He's an Iraq War veteran, Navy spouse, and a talented and funny guy.

As readers of the blog may have also detected over the years, I seem to have grown increasingly obsessed with MRAP trucks. I have, for example, stashed a personal cache of Matchbox-brand MRAP toys around the office. (Other links about Sherpa's war toy chest here and here.)

At my Des Moines barber shop, I recently found
the same May 2011 issue of Road & Track
I originally read at the 'Bull Pen' at FOB Lion,
Panjshir Province. Obviously, the Boss 302 and I
were meant to someday be together. Call it karma.
The recent acquisition of Provost's work, however, marks my first foray into fine art. And it was much more affordable than the real thing. Or even a Mustang.

In my opinion, the Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected truck is the signature ground vehicle—or rather, the signature family of ground vehicles—of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were designed to protected Improvised Explosive Devices (I.E.D.)—the signature enemy weapons of those wars. With V-shaped hulls to deflect undercarriage blasts up and away from the occupants, the vehicles are both top-heavy and very heavy. The most dangerous spot in an MRAP vehicle is probably the gunner's, who sits in a turret atop the truck, exposed to bullets, blasts, and rollovers.

Priced at more than $500,000 each, the 14- to 30-ton MRAP trucks mostly did what they were supposed to do: Save American and allied lives, whatever the cost. In a counterinsurgency effort, however—winning over a population with lots of handshakes and smiles—armored protection becomes problematic. After all, it's hard to win hearts and make eye contact through bullet-proof glass.

That said, I am a little distressed to find that many MRAP trucks are following the troops home to the United States. The Des Moines (Iowa) Register's Kyle Munson reports, for example, that seven Iowa communities—including Washington, Iowa (pop. 7,266)—have taken delivery of "free" war-surplus MRAP trucks.

Beyond the potential hidden costs and safety hazards of MRAP ownership and maintenance, I'm not sure I like what that says about the over-militarization of law enforcement in the United States. You can't be "Officer Friendly" in an MRAP. I'm not saying police don't need tactical equipment and training, but does Smalltown, Iowa really need bomb-proof trucks to serve and protect its citizens? Heck, does any Iowa town?

If they wanted one so badly, maybe city leaders should have just bought a nice picture of one.

That's what I did.


For artist Aaron Provost's business Facebook page, click here.

For an on-line shop featuring his original artwork—including helos and Howitzers—click here. If you see something that he's done elsewhere that isn't listed here, he says, make sure to zap him a message!

He also takes commissions, including one recently executed for Treadswift Tactical, LLC. Provost's illustration "Recon On" (which I think should be alternately titled "OP Yorick") is available as a signed and numbered print here.

His military-themed and other commercial illustration work can be found here and here.

12 May 2014

25th Annual 'Iowa Thunder Ride' is Sun., May 18

2013 PHOTO: Iowa Thunder Ride
The 25th Annual Iowa Thunder Ride honoring past and present military veterans is scheduled to take place in Des Moines, Iowa on Sun., May 18. Starting at 1 p.m., motorcyclists will parade from Southridge Mall, 1111 E. Army Post Road, Des Moines, to the Iowa State Capitol grounds, where a one-hour ceremony will be held at the memorial gardens. (For a PDF map of the capitol grounds, click here.)

Staging at the mall begins at 10:30 a.m. There will be law-enforcement personnel will provide traffic control along the route. Organizers advise this is a third- or fourth-gear ride. In total, the event may last until 2:30 p.m. "Bring your honor, respect, and tissues," writes event organizer and Vietnam War veteran Dave "Rabbi" Decker.

"Iowa Thunder started as a one time deal in 1990," says Decker in an e-mail note to the Red Bull Rising blog. "Due to support and encouragement from prior military and the civilian sector, it has grown and now encompasses an hour-long presentation as well as the motorcycle tribute. Our mission statement at Iowa Thunder is to insure the honor and respect due all veterans is never forgotten."

The Iowa Thunder organization also runs an outreach program called "RECONN," which stands for "reconnect." Says Decker, "Our methods are simple. We go to the veteran [experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] rather than making him go to the big brick building in Iowa City or where ever. Our intent is to rebuild trust and foster hope that things will get better."

For a Facebook page for the 2014 event, click here.

For an Facebook page for the Iowa Thunder Ride organization, click here.

08 May 2014

Iowa Cav Snipers Take 2nd Place in Joint Competition

A Texas Army National Guard sniper team engages targets during the 2014 Winston P.
Wilson Sniper Championship conducted at Fort Chaffee, Ark. April 19-26. PHOTO:
National Guard Marksmanship Training Center (NGMTC).
A 2-soldier sniper team from the Iowa National Guard's Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment (1-113th Cav.) achieved second place in the 43th Annual Winston P. Wilson Sniper Championship conducted April 19-26 at Fort Chaffee, Ark.

According to a proud command sergeant major, Sergeants Jeremy Henrich and Jaime Koopman scored 1083 out of 2040 possible points, just 24 points under the team comprising Marine Corps Scout School Instructors Sgt. Daniel Ramos and Sgt. Shaun Garvey.

Seventeen teams competed in this year's event, which tested 16 skills involved in the tactical employment of the bolt-action M40 rifle, the semi-automatic M110 sniper rifle, and the M9 Beretta pistol.

The annual even, conducted by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center (N.G.M.T.C.) to promote sniper training, brings together competitors from both U.S. active-duty and reserve services, as well as those of foreign allies. According to rules, "all competitors must provide proof of current or previous assignment in a TOE/TDA position with an Army Additional Skill Identifier (A.S.I.) of B4 or completion of a service equivalent formal sniper training i.e., the Air Force Close Precision Engagement Course (C.P.E.C.), U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper Course, or the Special Operations Tactical Interdiction Course (S.O.T.I.C.)." Competitors must be rank of E3 or above.

Third and fourth places went to sniper teams from the Marine infantry school and the Army's 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

Iowa National Guard snipers Jeremy Henrich and Jaime Koopman,
both sergeants in the Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavelry
Regiment (1-133th Cav.), finished first in fieldcraft events. PHOTO:
1-113th Cav.
Henrich and Koopman finished first in fieldcraft events, which included range estimate, stalk, land navigation, observation, and target detection events.

"This is a remarkable accomplishment for a couple of Iowa National Guardsmen and we couldn't be prouder of them. This team has won multiple sniper competitions and were awarded the Meritorious Service Medal a few months ago for being the best damn sniper team in the National Guard," writes Command Sgt. Major Matthew Strasser on his organization's Facebook page.

A Southwest Times-Record news report includes video taken of the event.

For a PDF reference manual on the 2014 Winston P. Wilson Sniper Championship, click here.

06 May 2014

Speeches, Lunch to Honor Iowa Vietnam Vets May 7


Iowa will honor its Vietnam Veterans at the 2014 Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day Ceremony to be held Wed., May 7, 2014, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Iowa Vietnam Memorial, located on the south side of the state capitol in Des Moines.

Robert Myers, President and CEO of Casey’s will be the guest speaker. Myers is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and decorated Vietnam War veteran. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will make remarks.

Additionally, AMVETS Post 2 will open their doors (located at 2818 5th Avenue, Des Moines) for a luncheon following the ceremony. Disabled American Veterans (D.A.V.) will sponsor the free lunch.

This year’s ceremony will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War (officially proclaimed May 28, 2012 – November 11, 2025).

During the Vietnam War years, 115,000 Iowans served in all branches of the military. Their average age was 19. Eight hundred and sixty-nine Iowans became casualties of the Vietnam War. Five Iowans earned the Medal of Honor for their bravery.

05 May 2014

'O-Dark-Thirty' Publishes Poem about Driving to Drill

Traditionally, National Guard soldiers attended regular military training drills close to home: In the village green, or at a camp ground, or at the local armory.

The latter building was a centerpiece of many communities, used as much for social gatherings as military musters. In fact, living in rural Iowa in the early 1990s, one could still navigate most any medium-sized town by surveying the locations of a few archetypical buildings: The courthouse, the bank, the fire station, the water tower, and the National Guard armory.

In the Iowa Army National Guard, we used to say that we were a locally grown organization with a statewide mission. Sons would enlist in the same units as had their fathers and grandfathers. If the local unit was Field Artillery, you were a cannon-cocker. If it was Infantry, you were a foot soldier. Just like pappy and grand-pappy.

Times, demographics, and missions change, however. Rural areas have lost population to urban concentrations. Daughters and wives are now just as likely to join the military, leading to still more family names on unit manning rosters. And, as they progress in rank, citizen-soldiers often find it necessary to transfer to other military units located in other towns, in order to find new challenges and opportunities for growth.

It used to be that only Iowa National Guard officers might be asked to drive more than an hour to their military unit. Now, many mid-level and senior enlisted soldiers willingly drive for hours to their parti-time military jobs. We've become a state organization with dwindling local roots.

In some (too few) assignments, I lived only five minutes from my bed to the armory's front door. In others, I was 55 minutes. For a long stretch of years, however, my monthly commute averaged around 2.5 hours. When the first formation of the day is 0800 hours, that means wheels-up by 0515—assuming good weather and road conditions, and that your presence isn't required at any pre-drill coordination meetings. At best, then, call it an 0430 wake-up—provided you've packed your duffel, shined your boots, and ground the coffee the night before. "We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day" wasn't always a lot of fun.

Looking back, however, some of my favorite times in uniform were spent driving to drill in the early-morning dark, sipping double-strength coffee, and listening through the A.M. static to distant radio stations still operating on nighttime power. Later on, of course, I realized that it all added up to good training for running the night-shift in a Tactical Operations Center ("TOC"), keeping an ear on multiple radio nets. You might say I was driven to success.

I don't miss the periods of forced wakefulness, but I do miss the deliberate mindfulness and mental preparation brought about by long miles.

Many of my former colleagues were on drill status last weekend, so it was appropriate that the on-line version of the Veterans Writing Project's "O-Dark-Thirty" journal coincidentally published a poem written about those early-morning Interstate commutes. It's called "dawn patrol," and I hope you like it.

You can read it here.


You can now support the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Veterans Writing Project, publishers of the on-line and print literary journals "O-Dark-Thirty," by participating in the AmazonSmile program. Designate the Veterans Writing Project as your favorite non-profit here, and Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of the price of your eligible shopping to the organization.

For an Amazon FAQ regarding the program, click here.

02 May 2014

Deadline for Third Mil-Anthology is June 1, 2014

Deadline for submissions to a third volume titled "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors"—an anthology of military-themed fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, oral histories, and photography—is June 1, 2014. The project is open to all military personnel, veterans, and family members.

According to the call for submissions, entrants can submit to a contest in which each category carries a first-prize of $250, or submit to the anthology alone. All entries will be considered for the anthology. There is no entry fee to the contest or publication.

Through the efforts of the Warriors Arts Alliance, the Missouri Humanities Council, and Southeast Missouri State University Press, the first "Proud to Be" volume was published in November 2012. The second was published last December.

"[T]his series of anthologies preserves and shares the perspectives of our military and veterans of all conflicts and of their families," reads the Southeast Missouri State University Press contest page. "It is not only an outlet for artistic expression but also a document of the unique aspects of wartime in our nation’s history."

For a 2012 Red Bull Rising interview with "Proud to Be" editor Susan Swartout, click here.

To submit only to the 2014 anthology, mail previously unpublished work with self-addressed, stamped envelope (S.A.S.E.) for notification to:
Warriors Anthology
Southeast Missouri State University Press, MS 2650
Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701
To submit to both contest and anthology, e-mail previously unpublished work to: upress@semo.edu. Also note:
  • Entries must be sent electronically as Microsoft Word files (.doc or .docx).
  • Keep poems in one document (with 1st poem as title).
  • Put your name and contact info on first page and nowhere else on the manuscript.
For all submissions, whether mailed or electronic:
  • Limit one submission in each category per person.
  • Poetry: up to 3 poems (5 pages maximum).
  • Fiction, essay, or interview: 5,000-word limit.
  • Photography: up to 3 good-quality photos (will be printed in the book as black and white).
  • Submissions exceeding the limits will be disqualified.
  • Include a biography of 75 words or less with each submission.
  • Winners and contributors will be notified by Nov. 1, 2014.