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Release of AS YOU WERE: THE MILITARY REVIEW, Vol. 9

MEA is proud to announce the release of As You Were: The Military Review, Volume 9 on Veterans Day 2018. This edition contains over thirty creative works of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction that represent several generations of military veterans and families. It includes work from new writers as well as award-winning poets, most of whom collaborated with editors to revise and polish their creations.

Take a look at As You Were, Vol. 9 and learn about the lives of the greater military community through their own words.

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Release of AS YOU WERE: THE MILITARY REVIEW, Vol. 8

MEA is proud to announce the release of As You Were: The Military Review, Vol. 8. This publication contains the work of 52 veterans and family members, most of whom collaborated with volunteer editors to revise their work.

These stories and poems illustrate the experiences of veterans and family members throughout more than seventy years of military history, including World War II, the Vietnam War, and the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their perspectives range from granddaughters and friends to combat veterans and the parents thereof.

Please take a moment to read through As You Were, Vol. 8, where you can be entertained, educated, and perhaps even moved.

Giuseppe Pellicano / Left. Left. Left, Right, Left (2) / The Journal of Military Experience, Vol. 3

Unfinished Lives

by Lieutenant Colonel (P) Zoltan Krompecher

We live in an age where some confuse heroes with entertainers, role models for charlatans, but remembering Americans who died in distant lands places perspective in sharper relief.

As a boy, I spent afternoons dashing around the neighborhood playing “Army” with friends.  Tree forts became castles, and passing cars were tanks to avoid at all costs.  Somewhere in our minds we were aware of Vietnam, but the neighborhood sheltered us until two names came to personify the war: Corporal Frank Miller and Lieutenant James Francis O’Laughlin.

Frank was the uncle of my best friend while James O ‘Laughlin was the father of another classmate.  Both Soldiers died in Vietnam.  Each representing link to Athens.  Every Memorial Day, I thought of them.  Decades later, I visited the Wall in Washington and etched their names.

Iraq and Afghanistan are my generations’ wars.  One autumn day I was told my friend Dave was killed in Iraq.  I was to escort him home.  I reflected on our time together at Fort Bragg. Fighting was the melody he danced to, and Dave knew the steps well, but he had a clean heart, too.  Ever the consummate warrior-scholar, Dave was a well-read Green Beret who helped children wherever he served, but life shifts in an instant. I remember how he set his jaw in grim determination when challenged and suppose that’s the look he had on the final day of his life when the sun boiled.  There was no manual instructing me what to say when his wife threw herself onto his casket.  The experience skinned my insides.

Some nights I stare at the stars and think of Bill, Laura, Ted, Justin (who grew up down the river in Coal Grove) and Drew.  They were the brave ones willing to lay it on the line when things got rough and now remain eternally young, preserved in the minds of those who knew them best.

When visiting their graves, I don’t blunt emotions or debate the logic behind the wars in which they fought…that is for other venues. What I see are patches of grass containing dreams of what might have been—Daddy/Daughter dances, games of catch, first days of school, walks down the aisle, and reunions.  Their unfinished lives moor me to the past while whispering the warning not to allow life to grow stale.  The cemetery is a confessional where secrets to my friends leak out of my mouth and the past grafts with the present.  But what of graves with no names and few visitors?

Just off to the right of the Fort Myer entrance to Arlington Cemetery stands a stone with a simple epigraph:

#8067

Unknown US Soldier

 

Behind this grave is number 8429.  Behind that stone is 8443.  Flanked on both sides are others.  Who knew these brave souls “Known but to God”? 8067 is buried in one of the Civil War sections.  Did this Soldier know my Great-Great-Uncle Eli who joined the Union at eighteen, saw action at Shiloh and died soon after?  I can only wonder.

On Memorial Day I try to make my friends’ sacrifices worthwhile by evaluating relationships, determined to fill the in-betweens of my life by doing better.

Each one of us has the capacity to make a difference: surprising our children at school lunch; calling old friends with whom we’ve lost contact; inviting neighbors or clergy for dinner; visiting retirement homes to listen to stories of times that disappear with each breath; or spending the day with a spouse.  Maybe it’s a simple “Hello” to one who least expects it.  Showing kindness and empathy to fellow Americans—even those with whom we disagree—is the least we can do for Frank Miller, James O’Laughlin, Soldier #8067 and others who left behind unfinished lives.

And so what’s the cost?  A moment of our time, that’s all.  And what some wouldn’t give for a moment.

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel (P) Zoltan Krompecher is an active-duty officer from Ohio.  He served in Iraq and Afghanistan and now lives near Washington D.C. with his family.  These views are his own.

 

(Featured Image: Giuseppe Pellicano / Left. Left. Left, Right, Left (2) / The Journal of Military Experience, Vol. 3)

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The Other Side of the Gunfire: Life in a Battalion Aid Station

By Sean Tyler

There are plenty of firsthand articles about the life of a door kicker. This isn’t one of them. I don’t want to paint the picture that I’ve ever experienced combat first hand. I was an enlisted infantryman prior to OIF/OEF, and then a medical platoon leader/headquarters company executive officer in an infantry battalion in my career as an officer and during my deployment to Ar Ramadi, Iraq in 2006-2007. My experience in a combat zone is much different than that of the combat infantrymen and line medics I know and love. I don’t know what it’s like  take a life or to treat wounds under fire. What I do know is the result of combat operations when things don’t go quite as planned.

When people ask what it was like as a medical platoon in a combat zone I simply reply “It was like running an ER for all of my best friends,”  but that didn’t quite paint an accurate picture. Being “dual-hatted” as the battalion medical officer and an executive officer, 95% of my time in Iraq was spent doing the behind-the-scenes work.. Yet only 5% of my most influential memories were from this position. Read More…