17 June 2015

Mil-poet Tells Stories Unique to Modern Minutemen

In 2006, Colin D. Halloran deployed to Afghanistan with the Connecticut Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment (1-102nd Inf.), a unit with a command relationship to Vermont's 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (86th B.C.T.). Among other missions, he and his fellow citizen-soldiers were assigned to provide security to the Provincial Reconstruction Team (P.R.T.) located at Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province.

(Apparently, he's also walked some of the same Afghan terrain as elements of Iowa's 2nd BCT, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division in 2010-2011. In "Tours," an 8-page essay that's one part prose-poem, one part fever-dream, and additional parts medical history and autobiographical sketch, he also mentions bouncing back and forth between Bagram and Kalagush.)

After Halloran suffered a blown knee and broken wrist while in Afghanistan, the Army couldn't decide whether or not to ship Halloran stateside. He eventually was returned to the states early, without his platoon-mates.

In 2012, Halloran published "Shortly Thereafter," a collection of poetry—sort of a "memoir in verse." The narrative arc of the 80-page book traces the entirety of the military experience—some "hooah" moments, but most others ranging from "aw, shucks" to "aw, sh--." Halloran notably gives voice and detail to the experiences of the citizen-soldier, those modern-day Minutemen and Minutewomen who leave civilian jobs and life to answer their country's call. These are the stories not often heard above the hype and glory reserved for snipers and SEAL teams.

Consider, for example, his opening poem "Foxtrot," an illumination of the civil-military divide as experienced on the college campus:
[...] I had the documentation,
the prof knew the situation,
but I guess I went against his politics.

So I went to war with an F in anthropology
and a form written will,
leaving what little I had in the hands of by brother,
and forcing me to spend what little downtime I could muster
between missions on global phone calls to university officials
so if I returned from the desert, rendered my will unnecessary,
there would be a black mark on my transcript.
There is bone and gristle and flesh in Halloran's writing as well, more than enough for the meat-eating mil-poetry crowd. He writes with skillful and gleeful precision, for example, about minutia and militaria such as grenades, radios, and Quick Reaction Force (Q.R.F.) duty. In "Mr. Shingles," he provides the following character study:
[...] The joys of being grenadier.
Six extra pounds of volatility.

5 meter kill radius. 15m CR.
These are the things you need to know.
Knowledge to be effective in the field.
Knowledge that one round to the chest
(a chest maybe 70% covered)
will take you and anyone unfortunate enough
to be in that CR.

Given the circumstances of his final injuries downrange, Halloran's Afghan experience ends not with a bang but a solo flight outta Dodge. In his last poems, he wrestles, mostly alone, with the realities of home and coming home. Take "Hartsfield," for example:
Cane in hand, I disembark,
reentering the world I used to know. [...]

Pride—in what I've done.
Tears—for where I am. And what I've left behind. [...]
Homecoming is a journey, however, not a destination. Halloran's explorations of his wartime experiences are not complete. He has a second collection of poetry forthcoming this fall from Main Street Rag Publishing Co., Charlotte, N.C. In a quick e-mail note to the Red Bull Rising blog, Halloran says that "Icarian Flux" picks up where "Shortly Thereafter" leaves off: Using metaphor, persona, and narrative to explore his relationship with PTSD and those around him in the years following his deployment.

Based on the name-dropping present in the title of the work, as well as samples available at the Main Street Rag website, there's going to be lots of falling. And, one assumes, getting up. In "Self-Portrait as Icarus," Halloran writes:
If you can’t achieve greatness elsewhere,
find it in the fall

my next will be at night
not because of lessons learned
but because I want to see
the stars from the other side […]
For a limited time, the $14 book is available for pre-order for only $8. The book will be published in October 2015. For examples of his new work, click here.

"Shortly Thereafter" remains available via Amazon, local booksellers, and at discount directly from the publisher.

Bonus: Check out mil-blogger Peter Molin's ("Time Now") review of "Shortly Thereafter" here.

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