Saturday, August 2, 2014

War Stories From the Heart: Red, White and True, edited by Tracy Crow

A woman struggles to hold it together during a lingerie photo shoot with fellow military wives, an event that was supposed to be fun and boost morale for their men in the desert, but turns out to be a turmoil of emotions for the narrator.  A daughter follows her research from libraries to the living rooms of Holocaust survivors in a search for the truth about her father's World War Two experiences (which included liberating one of the most horrific concentration camps).  A female veteran of the Iraq War tries to deal with her memories of IED explosions in Baghdad while at the same time she's raising her young children.

These stories and 29 others can be found in Red, White and True: Stories from Veterans and Families, World War II to Present, edited by Tracy Crow and just published by Potomac Books.  I'm honored to say my essay, "Tenuous Tethers," is one of those 32 stories about military life.  The other authors in the anthology are Matt Farwell, Leah Hampton, Kathleen M. Rodgers, Caleb S. Cage, Lorrie Lykins, Kevin C. Jones, Alan Jones, Anne Visser Ney, Christal Presley, Gerardo Mena, Linda Adams, Beverly A. Jackson, Jon Kerstetter, Max "Joe" Dalton, Stephen Wilson, Alejandro Mujica, Leila Levinson, Amber Jensen, Brooke King, Dario DiBattista, Kim Wright, Tracy Kidder, Jeffrey Hess, Thomas Vincent Nowaczyk, Carol Everett Adams, Ronald Jackson, Donald Morrill, Rebecca McClanahan, Cheryl Lapp, Elizabeth "Libby" Oberg, and Tonia Stacey-Gutting.  You'll notice they range the gamut from Pulitzer Prize winners to first-time authors.  That's one of the beauties of this anthology--and, indeed, military life itself: there's a wide range of diversity and experience.  As Tracy Crow notes in her introduction, these "are thirty-two profoundly true stories that collectively represent an accurate portrayal of the American military story from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan.  I know of nothing else like this: thirty-two writers--veterans, military spouses, and now grown children of veterans--all sharing how their lives have been affected by military service.

Pinckney Benedict, author of Miracle Boy and Other Stories, offers up this wonderful praise of the book: “If you are or have been a member of the military, read this book.  If you love or have loved someone in the military, read this book.  If you don’t know anyone in the military, read this book.  It’s a revelation.”

Having just received my contributor's about a week ago, I'm still making my way through the book; but for now, let me whet your appetite with these first sentences, randomly plucked from the pages:

It's taken two years of being "normal" to return to the VA Medical Center.
      "False Positive" by Alejandro Mujica

It's three in the morning, and I am falling hard into a five-foot ditch.
      "Welcome to Afghanistan" by Matt Farwell

Sitting there, outside the San Diego Mission Valley PTSD clinic, I stared at my hands, turning them over and over again, as if to study each time why they looked as thought they belonged to a distant person walking in the shadow of my life.
      "Breathe Through Your Mouth" by Brooke King

From my turret in the gun truck, I was watching the ridge on the south side of the river when a Humvee exploded, most likely after running over a land mine.
      "To Kill, or Not to Kill" by Dario DiBattista

Day breaks holy on the morning watch.
      "Middle Passage, Morning Watch" by Anne Visser Ney

When I was a little girl, I used to have out-of-body experiences in military hospitals.
      "Above and Beyond" by Leah Hampton

My friend Petey white-knuckles the steering wheel when she's driving on base and a fighter plane screeches overhead, approaching the runway.
      "Remembering Forgotten Fliers, Their Survivors" by Kathleen M. Rodgers

So here I am, six years after the last day of my life.
      "The Lack of Weight" by Gerardo Mena

We fight wars because of rumors.
      "A Psychology of Rumor, a Psychology of War" by Caleb S. Cage

My father never made any bones about it: he saw the military as his way out of Sebring, Ohio, a small Steel Belt one-industry town that he unfailingly referred to as "the armpit of America."
      "How the Military Turned My Father a Genius" by Kim Wright

Joining the Marines was to be the first honest thing I ever did for myself.
      "Proud to Claim the Title" by Thomas Vincent Nowaczyk

To keep up with news about Red, White and True, follow it on Facebook and Twitter.  Thanks to all of you who take the time to buy a copy (or two or three) to read and share with those who'd like to learn more about the military....or remember their own time in uniform.

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