My story, Secondhand Smoke, was published today in the Veteran’s Day Issue of As You Were: The Military Review Vol. 17. It is set in the tail-end of the Vietnam War in Jacksonville, NC (home of Camp Lejeune) and draws heavily on my experience as a military brat though the story is fictional.
I am from moving boxes and the smell of Kiwi shoe polish on combat boots. I am from a home that was a group of people not a place. Where the only constant was the Naugahyde sofa my brother teethed on, And being the new kid. I am from cross country road trips on Rt. 66 and missing an exit in St. Louis. The Wigwam motel in Arizona and bathrooms you had to put a dime in the slot to use the toilets. From mountains and oceans and deserts and verdant forests. New telephone numbers and addresses and looking at maps to fix myself in space. From “Daddy do we need gas yet?” and not “are we almost there?” Where network television offered a constant – I watched Gilligan’s Island in California, Hawaii, Virginia, North Carolina and then as re-runs in every state since then. I am from “You don’t sound like you’re from around here.” I am from the places that when folks ask where I’m from, I say everywhere and nowhere. I am from Taps at sunset and men chanting cadence while running, standing with my hand over my heart at the movie theater when the national anthem was played. And classmates whose fathers never came home. Long-stay motels while waiting on housing and using an ironing board to do the worksheets my last teacher gave me to work on until I got back in school again. I am from 30-day leaves, the ever-present green Stanley thermos in the car of the moment, and crisp uniforms. And not being able to hang anything on the always white walls. New churches, new schools, new friends, and all new clothes for the new climate. I am from 29 addresses before I was 29. And now I am from a ramshackle barn in a ramshackle state where I’ve lived and loved for 37 years. On a dirt road where home is now a place as well as a group of people. Where I hang things on colorful walls and throw boxes away. Where I’ve had the same phone number for eons and friendships older than a couple of years. I am from Almost Heaven in the heart of Appalachia and happy to be here.Continue reading
The book has launched! I am awfully excited. The book is a project of the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center. Each chapter is anchored by an essay from one of the museum’s two writers-in-residence — one of them is me. The book is a serious look at gender, religion, race, identity, culture, and ethnicity in the armed forces. Active and retired service personnel, their spouses, and dependents were sent a survey asking about these things. Because the survey was completely anonymous, the open-ended questions generated additional stories from the respondents. A number of respondents agreed to contribute to the book. Thus, we have 276 pages of stories, photos, and quotes. A team of anthropologists provided a statistical analysis of the survey and their report is included as well. Though serious, the book is humorous, heartwarming, thought-provoking, informative, and infuriating — much like the military itself. This book will appeal not just to veterans, but to those who love them and want to understand their experiences. Proceeds support the museum and the writers-in-residence program.
You can read the official press release here
For the past 18 months, I’ve been one of two Writers-in-Residence for the Museum of the American Military Family. With other folks, we have crafted a book that looks at gender, religion, race, identity, culture, and ethnicity in military environments. We did ourselves proud. The book is still in press, but the cover is ready and I’ve been given permission to share. I can’t wait until this is out in the world!