02 December 2015

'A Few of Sherpa's Favorite Things': Holiday Gift Ideas

ARTWORK: Christina Fawn
The mailroom at FOB Sherpa has been working overtime this week, with both outgoing and incoming parcels. The past year has been a productive one for Task Force Sherpa, judging by the November arrival of three books featuring by-lines related to the Red Bull Rising blog. I hope you'll indulge me and my inner Oprah if I include them on this year's list of favorite things:

The most obvious, of course, would be the just-published "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire." Early reader response has been overwhelming, and I am wonderfully surprised and wholly grateful.

A number of reviewers have suggested that "FOB Haiku" might be a good holiday gift for veterans, but I also hope that veterans might share it with family members and friends. Maybe my small book can be a way to open conversations with others. Give the book to a friend or loved one, and then talk about it afterward. That way, your discussion doesn't have to be uncomfortably centered on you, but on the types of experiences described in the book.

Also, I hope that some of them make you laugh. (Check out some examples at: www.fobhaiku.com.)

Published annually on Veterans Day, the anthology "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors" ($15 U.S.) is now in its fourth volume. I'm proud to have work featured in this year's volume, and prouder still to see the names of friends, colleagues, and fellow travelers. The best part of receiving this literary care package, however, is discovering new voices and perspectives in civil-military discourse.

There's something here for every reader, from every branch and era, including short stories, poems, non-fiction essays, photographs, and interviews. A joint project of the Missouri Humanities Council and the Southeast Missouri State University Press, Cape Girardeau, Mo., no other book series engages the world with such precision, passion, and professionalism. I look forward to offering a more complete review in an future Red Bull Rising post, but for now, here's the bottom line: For a great holiday gift—one certain to inspire much reflection and conversation—"Proud to Be" is a clear and present choice.

To spread such literary joy over an entire year, consider giving a $40 print subscription to the Veterans Writing Project's "O-Dark-Thirty" journal. Each 80-plus-page issue delivers a curated blast of the best of current military writing. Spring 2016 will see the publication of a special issue, one focused on the stories and perspectives of women veterans.

A third book newly arrived is "No, Achilles" ($15 U.S.), a 75-page collection of poetry published earlier this year by WaterWood Press, Austin, Texas. The book collects 64 poems witnessing the experiences of war. My own "night vision," inspired by 2011's "Operation Bull Whip" and other air-assault missions like it in Afghanistan, first appeared in the publication. Unfortunately for Internet-clickers like me, the book is not available on-line. Orders by check or money order to: WaterWood Press, 47 Waterwood, Huntsville, Texas 77320. Include $1 per book shipping and handling.

Sherpatude No. 26 starts with "Humor is a combat multiplier …" And no creator delivers so regularly on that premise than DoctrineMan!!. When he isn't busy trying to draft retired U.S. Marine Gen. James Mattis (Callsign: "Chaos") to run for president in 2016, the mysterious DoctrineMan!! continues to crack wise from his undisclosed location, posting his pithy comics on Facebook and elsewhere.

He, too, has recently issued a fourth print volume, this one titled "Up in Smoke: An Illustrated Memoir of War (The Further Adventures of Doctrine Man!!)" This year's cover features a tech-suited warrior pulling picket-stirring duty in some foreign land. As I like to say, "All this has happened before, and all this will happen again." And DoctrineMan!! makes me laugh, again and again. He's always (wait for it) ... stirring things up.

Speaking of Mattis, writer, artist, Iraq War veteran and former Marine Christina Fawn has made a "Chesty vs. Mattis" vintage boxing poster art print available for sale at her on-line store at Society6. There are a variety of sizes and formats available, including 10x8; 17x13; 21x17 inches. Available framed or unframed. The perfect gift for any Marine, whether "Old Corps" or "New Corps"!

(Bonus question from an old Army guy: Aren't they all Marines just "Hard Corps"?!)

PHOTO: RangerUp
Another artist-veteran friend of Sherpa, Aaron Provost, sells a variety of artwork and (at Society6) merchandise featuring his signature black-and-white illustrations of military equipment, logos, and scenes. His was the pencil illustration of the Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected truck that now graces the cover of "Welcome to FOB Haiku." I love how his work makes you see military machinery in new ways.

In his day job, Provost also works for the volcanic creative collective that is RangerUp gear and apparel. Trying to keep up with these guys is like running a 3-minute mile. There's always something new on their website. My personal favorite of their current line-up? The "Bagram Hiking Club" vintage T-shirt. On the back, it reads "Tread lightly."

There's a similar one for Iraq-deployment enthusiasts: "Bagdhad Summer Camp: You'll have a blast!"

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