by David P. Ervin
Randy Brown, aka “Charlie Sherpa,” released Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire on November 13, 2015. Sherpa, a veteran, prolifically published freelance writer, blogger at “Red Bull Rising,” and poetry editor for As You Were: A Military Review, published a poetry collection branded as a witty, humorous portrayal of military life through poetry. I picked up Welcome to FOB Haiku with one major expectation; a good laugh borne of the sometimes dark humor that uniquely military situations can create.
I did not expect the chills down my spine.
While there is certainly a humorous edge to much of the work in the fifty-one poem collection, many of the pieces delve into the deeper emotional landscape of military service. “Static” examines the challenges a military parent faces and how they communicate with their children. “We are the stories” is a look at what our war stories mean for the identities of military veterans. Several poems, like “here and theirs” and the title poem, offer a commentary on the broader implications of the war in Afghanistan and American foreign policy in general.
It’s war poetry. It’s military-themed poetry. Most importantly, however, it’s a lyrical relation of the human condition as seen through a military eye. Welcome to FOB Haiku is an important addition to the canon of military literature and art that will give posterity an impression of “what it was like to be there.” It will also help veterans in understanding their own experiences by viewing our pasts through a more abstract and artistic lens.