29 March 2017

Gold Star Museum Hosts Special WWI Events April 1

"Iowa Goes Over the Top." Illustration by Francis Webster, from "Somewhere Over There: The Letters, Diary, and Artwork of a World War I Corporal." Note mentions of the Iowa National Guard's 168th Infantry Regiment, and of the American Expeditionary Forces.
Blog editor's note: The following is based on press materials provided to the Red Bull Rising blog and other media outlets.

On Sat., April 1, volunteers and staff at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, located on Camp Dodge in the Des Moines-area suburb of Johnston, Iowa, will offer a series of special presentations commemorating the 100th anniversary of America's entry into World War I, The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free. All galleries are open. The Camp Dodge military installation is open to the public via the main N.W. 70th Avenue entrance. Note that photo identification at the gate is required for adults (a driver’s license is acceptable).

"This program honors the centennial of the United States entry into World War I," according to a museum news release. "WWI began with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo, on July 28, 1914. While the U.S. was initially a neutral state, continuing German attacks on American vessels in the Atlantic Ocean led President Woodrow Wilson to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917."

Special presentations are scheduled from 10:20 a.m. to 2:15. The schedule includes:
  • 10:20 a.m.: Welcome and introductions
  • 10:30 a.m.: Tom Clegg, living historian/re-enactor: "The Common Soldier in WWI"
  • 11:30 a.m.–12:15 p.m.: Mike Vogt, Iowa Gold Star Military Museum curator, presents "Camp Dodge during WWI"
  • 12:30–1:15 p.m.: Author/historian Darrek Orwig presents on Cpl. Francis Webster. Webster, trained as an illustrator under Des Moines Register political cartoonist Jay "Ding" Darling, captured the daily life of Iowans serving overseas in WWI with the Iowa National Guard. Webster was killed in action during the war.
More than 114,000 Iowans served in the U.S. armed forces during WWI, including 3,576 Iowans who died during the war from battle wounds, injuries, and illness. Camp Dodge became the organizational location and training site for the U.S. Army’s 88th Infantry "Cloverleaf" Division during WWI, one of 16 cantonment sites nationally. More than 111,000 Soldiers were inducted and trained at Camp Dodge during the war.

Seventeen National Guard divisions, including the 42nd Infantry "Rainbow" Division, were assigned to the American Expeditionary Forces during WWI. The 42nd Division was comprised of soldiers from many states, including the Iowa National Guard’s 168th Infantry Regiment from southwest Iowa. The 168th Infantry was commanded by Col. Ernest Bennett and later, by Col. Matthew Tinley. During U.S. participation in WWI, the 42nd Division was credited with 164 days of actual combat. While 42nd Division casualties included 2,810 killed and 11,873 wounded, the 168th Infantry suffered more than 700 Soldiers killed and 3,100 wounded.

For more information about these commemorative events, contact Mike Musel or Mike Vogt at 515.252.4531.

Established in 1985, the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum is the only federally recognized repository for military artifacts in the state of Iowa. The mission of the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum is twofold: to preserve Iowa’s military history and honor the military service of all Iowans.

The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum’s permanent exhibits tell the stories of Iowans who have served in defense of their state and nation, beginning in the early settlement of the state in the 1840s, through the Global War on Terror. An extensive exhibit honors the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division, which holds the distinction of serving the most continuous days in combat of any division in the European Theater of Operation during World War II. The museum also contains one of the finest military small arms collections in the Midwest. Additionally, an exhibit detailing the history of the Iowa State Patrol is also on display.

22 March 2017

Anthology Seeks Tales of Military Sex, Drugs & Coping

San Diego-based storytelling non-profit So Say We All is soliciting submissions to a second non-fiction "Incoming" anthology of military tales, this one about the coping mechanisms with which writers have engaged downrange and post-deployment. The first anthology, published in December 2015, focused on themes of homecoming. A Red Bull Rising blog review here. You can buy the 190-page trade paperback at Amazon here.

The second book will be titled "Incoming: Sex, Drugs, and Copenhagen," the latter a reference to a ubiquitous brand of chewing tobacco. The editors write, "We were originally going to call it 'Sex Drugs, and Coping Mechanisms' but couldn't help paying homage to the great and horrible chaw that has kept so many service members awake on watch through the night."

Deadline for the new anthology is May 28, 2017. Non-fiction only. Submissions are open to military veterans, family members, service members, and civilian interpreters of all branches and eras. Maximum word count is 7,000. Previously published material is acceptable, with notification. Pseudonyms and simultaneous submissions are acceptable. Contributors will receive one contributor copy each.

A Submittable page is here.

The editors write:
We’re looking for non-fiction stories related to coping mechanisms, affairs, violating protocol in the name of escapism, mental health vacations, shore leave / R&R adventures, emergency sex, adopting a base cat, or other extreme actions taken to alleviate boredom and preserve sanity during one’s service or the period that followed during reintegration to the civilian world. We’re interested in any interpretation you might take on the theme, so feel free to surprise us.

We hope in choosing this topic that we’re able to offer veteran writers a chance to consider their service through humor, absurdism, and surrealism if they find it appropriate (though all takes on the theme are welcome), and provide our readers insights into the lesser-talked about inglorious aspects of service: the tricks and tales of what people have to do to endure boredom, loneliness, heartbreak, trauma, and other human traits that undermine the all-consuming need to remain "effective." Active duty writers concerned about negatively affecting their careers are welcome to submit under a pen name. We get it.
A Facebook page for the organization is here.

16 March 2017

'She Went to War' Opens at Guthrie Theatre March 17

Opening Friday, four military veterans perform a script based on their military experience in The Telling Project's "She Went to War," The 50-minute production will play Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays March 17 to April 2 in the Guthrie Theatre's Dowling Studio, Minneapolis.

Friday and Saturday performances are 7:30 p.m., while Sunday matinee performance are at 1 p.m. General admission seating opens 30 minutes before curtain. Tickets are $9 and may be reserved on-line here.

Cast members include:
Jenn Calaway, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006 as public affairs specialist, and later deployed to Afghanistan. She says struggled with the constraints of a male-dominated organization (the American military) in a male-dominated country (Afghanistan) “If it was known that the American military had a female in their ranks, they would lose respect from the Afghans. They wouldn’t want to have conversations with them or do business or work with them. I had to disguise myself as a guy most of the time."
Gretchen Evans, who served in the U.S. Army from 1979 to 2006 as an intelligence analyst and paratrooper. According to press materials, Gretchen’s career put her in the crosshairs of conflict around the globe, including Grenada, Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In 2006, while working as a sergeant major in Afghanistan, a mortar blast threw her into a concrete bunker wall. She suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.) and lost 95 percent of her hearing, ending her career in military service. "I always tell everybody I had 27 good years in the military and one really crappy day," she says. She now works as al lead veteran outreach coordinator at the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program
Tabitha Nichols, who served in the Army National Guard from 2003 to 2011. At age 19, Nichols was injured in a mortar attack in Forward Operating Base in Kalsu, Iraq, just days after her arrival there. "When I got out, it was like cutting loose a ball and chain. I’m gonna keep that ball and chain, but it’s not holding me back anymore. I just put it on a shelf, look at it sometimes, maybe polish it now and then,” she says.

Racheal Robinson
, currently serving in the U.S. Air Force, who originally enlisted in the Army National Guard as an emancipated minor at the age of 17. “The military has been my whole adult life," she says. "It’s who I am." 
Since 2008, the Austin, Texas-based non-profit Telling Project has presented nationwide more than 40 community-based performances by military veterans, service members, and family members. Each production's script is based on interviews with cast members about their military experiences.

The all-female theatrical presentation "She Went to War" is a first for The Telling Project organization.

A website for The Telling Project is here.

A public Facebook group for The Telling Project is here.

The "She Went to War" production is also part of the Guthrie Theatre's "Level Nine" series, through which the Minneapolis organization creates opportunities for community engagement and dialogue.

08 March 2017

Stone Canoe, Wrath-Bearing Tree & Three Hoarsemen

At risk of sounding like an old Hair Club for Men TV commercial, I try not only to encourage veterans, service members, and family members to share their stories of military experiences through art and writing, but to do so myself, through my own work. So I hope you'll bear with me today—I'd like to share a few publishing success stories, in hopes that you'll consider sharing your stories with others, too.

Bonus fact: It's only 20 days until U.S. National Poetry Month!

Another bonus fact: I maintain a list of veteran- and military-friendly literary and art markets here!

I was thrilled to have a poem published in this year's issue of Stone Canoe. The YMCA Downtown Writers Center in Syracuse, N.Y. is the publisher of Stone Canoe, an annual literary journal now in its eleventh year. While the journal mostly focuses on the work of upstate New York writers and artists, its editorial mission notably includes an annual call for work by U.S. military veterans, regardless of geographic location or origin.

The poem is titled "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot," and was based in a conversation I overheard while waiting to purchase movie tickets to the 2016 Tina Fey comedy. It's my first poem on veterans' suicide, a topic I've tended to avoid in my past literary writing. I won't go into all the reasons why, but this was a time I felt compelled to get something down on paper. And I won't spoil the conclusions of the poem here, partly because I'm still wrestling with them. This excerpt sets the scene, however, and the poem's interior battleground:
All I want is a bag of popcorn
and some getaway laughs on a Friday afternoon,
and darned if the guy in line behind me
starts chatting up the stranger behind him.
First Guy is starting O.C.S. tomorrow, he says.
Buddy of his, another Mustang, committed suicide
earlier this week, and the funeral is Sunday.
Second Guy has drill this weekend. Remembers
after he last got home from active duty, his sergeant
called a few weeks later, said that one of the platoon
had first shot his wife and then himself.

I do not turn.
I do not engage.
Even though I know the password:
the name of the deceased. Instead, I hunker down
in my green fleecy hat.
The woobie I wore in Afghanistan.
The type that sergeant major hated. […]
Submissions for the 2018 issue of Stone Canoe open March 15, and will close in July. More information and guidelines here.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of the 2017 Stone Canoe, click for information here. The direct PayPal link is here. Total cost, including shipping and handling, is $21.17). To coordinate purchase of multiple copies, e-mail: stonecanoe AT syracuseymca DOT org

Back issues of Stone Canoe are available for $10 plus shipping and handling (total of $13.50). Click here.


The Wrath-Bearing Tree blog has recently launched into poetry and fiction. Editors there are seeking work about economic, political, and other forms of violence found in society—not just work on military themes. They plan to post new poetry and fiction the first Friday of each month. I was pleased to have four of my poems recently featured on the site. The poems included a selection of aphorisms; a reflection on COP Najil; a war sonnet; and a set of three Japanese-style tanka.

The tanka is similar to haiku form. I follow the syllables-per-line pattern of 5-7-5-7-7. Here's one of those short poems, inspired by the Mother's Day send-off ceremony of a buddy's Iowa Army National Guard unit last year. With any luck, he'll soon be home so I can share it with him directly:
With ceremony,
Old Man assembles his troops.
It is Mother’s Day;
sons and daughters are leaving
in order to sustain war.
You can read them all FREE here at this link!

A submissions page is here. Or e-mail the editors at: wrathbearingtree AT gmail DOT com


Much to my delight and surprise, there was a quick shout-out to my 2015 poetry collection, "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire," on the most recent episode of "The Three Hoarsemen" podcast! While the well-read gentlemen there discuss mostly science fiction, fantasy, illustrated story, and related genres, they also occasionally cast about for leavening literary fare. At the 45-minute mark, fellow military veteran Fred Kiesche briefly mentions his enjoyment of the "FOB Haiku" book!

As a bonus, a little earlier at the 39:45 mark, co-host John E.O. Stevens offers some great insights into what he affectionately calls Chinese hermit poetry. At his podcast recommendation last year, I purchased "The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain"—a recommendation he repeats in this episode—and I share his enthusiasm for Zen-Taoist poetry that features, as he describes it, "old guys complaining about sunrises."

Sounds like a first sergeant I once knew!

01 March 2017

March 30: Poet-Journalist Talks War at DMACC-Boone

Helping to raise funds for veterans charities via the "In My Boots 5K" student organization, 21st century war poet and Central Iowa journalist Randy Brown will present words, pictures, and lessons-learned from a 2010-2011 deployment to Afghanistan 7 p.m., Thurs., March 30, on the Des Moines Community College (DMACC) campus in Boone, Iowa. The public is invited.

"Des Moines Community College has a history of helping Iowans put knowledge, experience, and service together in creative ways," says Brown. "I'm hoping to share how and why our citizen-soldiers made history in Afghanistan, and how we can engage each other in conversations and stories about war."

A freewill-donation pasta supper will start at 6 p.m., with Brown's presentation to follow in the college's auditorium at 7 p.m. A number of related books will be offered as door prizes, as well as for purchase.

In 2009, Brown started blogging as a deploying citizen-soldier, writing under the pseudonym "Charlie Sherpa" about his family's experiences in preparing for war. The 2010-2011 deployment of Iowa's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division was billed as the largest call-up of Iowa troops since World War II. The 2-34th BCT is headquartered in Boone, with battalion and company headquarters located across the state.

When he was dropped off the deployment list just days from federal mobilization in 2010, Brown retired from the military and then went to Afghanistan anyway, embedding as civilian media with his former "Red Bull" colleagues.

Brown is author of 2015's "Welcome to FOB Haiku," an award-winning collection of often-humorous war poetry; and editor of the recently published "Reporting for Duty," a 668-page collection of journalism generated by the 2-34th BCT while deployed to Afghanistan. He is also a former cast member of "Telling: Des Moines," a veterans' storytelling performance that was staged at DMACC-Ankeny campus in 2012.

The annual "In My Boots" 5K walk, run, and ruck event annually raises funds for veterans-related charities. This year, proceeds will be directed toward Paws & Effect, a Central Iowa non-profit that raises and trains psychiatric service dogs for military veterans and others. The 2017 "In My Boots" event will take place April 15 in Boone's McHose Park. On-line registration is available here.

DMACC-Boone's Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society chapter will also be holding a food drive during the race.

A Facebook page for the "In My Boots" student organization is here.

A Facebook event page for the March 30 event is here.

For information, contact:

  • Jared Neal, president, "In My Boots" student group: jdneal AT dmacc DOT edu
  • Julie Roosa: 515.433.5215; jkroosa AT dmacc DOT edu
  • Nancy Woods: 515.433.5061; nawoods AT dmacc DOT edu
  • Sean Taylor: astaylor AT dmacc DOT edu

To make on-line monetary donations to "In My Boots," visit here.