Missouri Passages: Veterans’ Writing Collection Released November 1

Veterans’ Writing Collection Released
November 1

Contributed by Deborah Marshall, MHC Veterans Programming Coordinator

Monty Joynes was drafted into the Vietnam-era Army where he served with the 91st Evacuation Hospital. His fiction story, “First Day at An Khe,” is the first contribution from veterans and family members in “Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors,” a collection of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry published by the Missouri Humanities Council in partnership with Southeast Missouri State University Press and the Warriors Arts Alliance, released Nov. 1.

“Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors” is a creative writing anthology of poetry, fiction and nonfiction works from veterans across the nation and spanning generations.

Joynes’ story won the top prize in the fiction category of the national competition sponsored by MHC and judged by author William Trent Pancoast. Monty Joynes has published 18 books during his writing career, but his publication in “Proud to Be” holds a special place in his writing credits. “In my case, the poem was unseen for 46 years and the story for 34 years. At 71, the probability of their being lost was very high.”

Columbia Missouri poet Gerardo “Tony” Mena, a decorated Iraqi Freedom veteran, was awarded poetry honors by soldier/poet Brian Turner for his poem “Baring the Trees.” Turner, in making the selection, said this about Mena’s poem:

It is a highly memorable poem—in the tradition of Carl Sandburg’s “Grass” and Matsuo Basho’s “Summer grasses— /All that remains / Of soldiers’ visions.” This is wisdom poetry…It is a poem of recognition, of desolation, of resignation—one in which the use of repetition and tone underlines the poem’s theme and musical level.

Mark Bowden, author of “Black Hawk Down,” awarded Paul C. Mims honors for his nonfiction account of being deployed to Midway Island during World War II in his story, “Rockhappy 1944-45.” Two finalists were also named in each category, with their writing joining the winners in the front of the book, along with Jay Harden’s creative nonfiction piece, “Between Wives,” which was awarded “Best Writing from a Missouri Writer,” judged by the Missouri Humanities Council. Harden currently lives in O’Fallon, Mo.

Joynes’ story and Mena’s poem have both been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

This first volume in a planned series includes writing by four additional Missouri veterans:

  • Levi Bollinger, a local high school English teacher and master’s student in English at Southeast Missouri State University, served in the Army Reserve with a year at the Baghdad International Airport and surrounding area.
  • Larry Breeze, professor emeritus of history at Southeast Missouri State University, is a World War II combat veteran who fought in the European Theater 1944-1945. Breeze contributed the preface to the anthology.
  • Aaron Horrell, artist and manager of Painted Wren Art Gallery in downtown Cape Girardeau and columnist for the Southeast Missourian, served as a Seabee in the Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 74 during the Vietnam War.
  • Nicholas Watts-Fernandez, U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer and Southeast Missouri State University graduate with a bachelor’s and master’s of arts, is currently finishing a tour in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“Proud to Be” contains essays, stories, poems and photographs from 61 current military personnel, veterans and families of veterans from across the nation. One selection is a 1918 letter home from World War I soldier, Philip Renner from Southeast Missouri, donated by his family.

Another essay, “Hyphenated American,” by Jan Morrill, tells the story of the author’s uncle, a Japanese American who fought in the U.S. Army in World War II and was awarded the Bronze Star while his family lived in an internment camp in California.

Arkansas novelist Velda Brotherton contributed an essay and photos about her father who served in the Navy in World War II and her mother, who was a “Red-Haired Rosie” riveter in the Boeing factory during the war.

Geoff Giglierano, executive director of the Missouri Humanities Council, summed up the significance of the anthology in the book’s acknowledgements by saying, “…it is vital for the veterans themselves to experience the process of self-expression, to not keep these things bottled up; secondly, it is essential for the good of our society and our nation that the rest of us listen to what these men and women have to say.”

To celebrate the book’s release, an evening of readings for the public, hosted by the St. Louis Poetry Center, is planned for 7 p.m. Nov. 27 at the Focal Point (2720 Sutton Bldv. in Maplewood, Mo., 63043). Several of the book’s contributors will be on hand from around the United States to read their work that evening.

Readings will also be held on the Southeast Missouri State University campus at 7 p.m. Feb. 13, 2013 in Glenn Auditorium.

“Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors” is available on the Southeast Missouri State University Press website, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

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