Thoughts and musings for Memorial Day on the bravery and value veterans bring to our lives! Thank you for your service!
From 2011 through 2014 I was involved in a Creative Writing MFA Program through the University of New Orleans. It was a low residency program, so it was online during the school year and then each summer we’d get together for a month-long residency abroad.
The flexibility of this program was one of the best things about it. As a result, it attracted a diverse student population. People of all ages, from all over the country, with entirely different life experiences were amongst my classmates.
It’s amazing how fast you get to know a person once you read their writing. Who needs small talk and ice breakers when you’re immediately reading a person’s inner-most thoughts and experiences? Fiction or not– there are always traces of the author’s real life and personality on that page.
Hurricane survival, divorces, medical issues, motherhood– we glimpsed it all through the words on the page. But the experiences that really stood out for me were the ones shared by military veteran classmates.
There were some of the expected heroic moments in action pieces and examinations of mortality. But there were other truly surprising reflective stories about human emotions, commonalities in cultures, and appreciation of the small things in life.
One of my favorite pieces was about the smell of rain in the air (petrichor, it is apparently called). The piece was absolutely beautiful and surprisingly peaceful for the haunting setting of a soldier on patrol in Afghanistan.
I was raised with two veteran grandfathers in my family. One who never spoke about his military experience, and one whose stories became family legend. I think this is a common classification amongst veterans– those who cope by burying and those who cope by sharing.
The Memorial Day Writers project originated from a group of the latter. A trio of Vietnam veterans created an annual assembly of veterans who wanted to create beauty from their catharsis. Every year they gather by the Vietnam monument and share song lyrics, poetry, and stories.
I admire the bravery of these men and women. Not only for their service, but also their willingness to lay themselves bare and create something beautiful from their pain.
So on this Memorial Day- I thank you veterans. I thank those who sacrificed their lives for us. I thank you all for your service. And for those who have returned, I thank you for the many ways you enrich us daily from your experiences.