11 October 2017

Same Mission, Different Verse: The Aiming Circle

When I first started writing the Red Bull Rising blog in December 2009, it was partly because I needed to learn about blogging technology and practice for a then-upcoming full-time Army job, and partly to document for my very young children what had been so gosh-darn important that I had to leave home for a year.

Later, when I got dropped off the deployment list for Afghanistan, I found myself writing in order to translate and document the experience for my buddies' families.

I eventually traveled to Afghanistan on my own dime (and my wife's airline miles), and embedded with my former unit as civilian media in May-June 2011.

In each and all of these endeavors, I've followed the same mission statements:
  • To explain in plain language the roles, responsibilities, and routines of the U.S. citizen-soldier, with particular focus on the U.S. 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division.
  • To illuminate ways in which citizen-soldiers past and present--as well as their families--can be remembered, supported, and celebrated.
After I retired from the Army National Guard, I found myself exploring different forms of art and writing other than journalism, often during events that brought service members, families, and veterans together to share military experiences. Since then, I've been published many times as a poet and essayist.

I wrote an award-winning book, "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire," which was published in 2015.

I also helped collect and edit a 668-page book of news articles and photographs generated by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division during its deployment. That book is "Reporting for Duty: U.S. Citizen-Soldier Journalism from the Afghan Surge, 2010-2011," published in 2016.

As I've continued to generate poetry, essays, and other military-themed writing, I've sought to encourage and enable others do to the same. I regularly signal-boost publishing opportunities via a special "Get Published" page on the Red Bull Rising blog. I conduct how-to workshops and seminars. I edit the poetry section of the non-profit Military Experience & the Arts' "As You Were" literary journal. I peer-mentor via conversations with my fellow members of the Military Writers Guild.

Having grown beyond military blogs, "Veterans Lit" is now a vital and vibrant field of practice. I'll include in this label any man or woman, military or civilian, who attempts to build community and mutual understanding through art and writing. This is not just writing to express one's feelings (as it is so often dismissively regarded)—this is doing the hard work of stitching society back together.

It may be time to expand the effort to include more fronts, and to ask for more active engagement by my fellow practitioners.

You can continue to read about citizen-soldiers and how to support them at the Red Bull Rising blog here, and at the related Facebook page here. That includes occasional humor, news, events, and reviews of books, movies, and other media of potential interest to military service members and their families.

You can continue to read about my adventures as citizen-soldier-poet at the FOB Haiku blog here, and at the related Facebook page here.

And now, if you are a fellow practitioner of military writing—poetry, fiction, non-fiction, essay, you name it—you can help support and explore a growing amount of how-to coverage at The Aiming Circle blog here, and at the related Patreon page here.