Vets Capture War In Six Words

What if I asked you to tell me about a major experience in your life with just six words? Good, bad, ugly, funny, whatever, but you only get six words to do it. That challenge is what two vets, Mike Nemeth and Shaun Wheelwright, asked of their brothers and sisters in arms who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They asked them to describe what they’ve been through in six-word essays. The finished result will be the first crowd-sourced memoir about these conflicts called Six Word War.

Nemeth and Wheelwright did not invent the six-word essay. A famous example is attributed to Hemingway, “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” But Six Word War expands on this idea by collecting the voices and viewpoints of many. Together, they tell a story that no single one could capture on their own. Some vets sign their essays. Some are anonymous. Here are some examples:

I am tired of the goodbyes. 

Mom, can’t chat now. Rockets incoming. 

Deployed three years, but for what?

Boredom, Boredom, Sheer Terror, Boredom, Boredom. 

Where did I leave my pants?

Air so bad. Filter cigarette’s healthy.

Sometimes I wish I was back.

Stories untold

When I came across Six Word War, I couldn’t help but think of some of the stories troops have told me. Especially the one I couldn’t convince a soldier to share in his real world. Maybe six words would be big enough for him to have a voice and small enough to not make him feel exposed.

I also think about the soldier who helped me understand PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) None of his buddies wanted to talk about the subject. So he described his own PTSD and it was a painful experience for him. But afterwards, I’m happy to say that he found it helpful to open up a little. I wonder if other vets who struggle with their story would find it healing to share it in six words. The brevity forces you to focus. And again, maybe it’s small enough to not feel completely vulnerable or raw.

Submissions and possibilities

The Six Word War Kickstarter campaign has been funded (I participated) but they are still taking essay submissions for the next few weeks at the Six Word War site. If you know a vet, please share this with them. Give them a chance to be part of it. If you are vet, please consider doing this. Be heard.

Six Word War

I hope the book becomes wildly successful. Because one possible result would be greater understanding between civilians and military. At some point, all of these thousands of men and woman who have been through this unique experience return to civilian life. How much better will we all be with a little shared knowledge and empathy?

I also wonder about a possible “companion book” from the family’s point of view. What six words would a military spouse have? How about a ten-year-old boy who’s Dad has deployed for half his life? Military parents? Or any loved one who has held their breath when the evening news came on.

Imagine the conversations that could begin with just six words.

© Gina left the mall, 2013

What are the chances?

What are the chances of reading an article online and then randomly “meeting” the writer in Iraq a few months later? Apparently, 100% because it happened to me with a deployed troop.

6 out of millions

I had just adopted a soldier and realized…I don’t know anything about soldiers. So I thought it might be a good idea to read some stories or articles written by troops. A quick search got me millions of results and I randomly chose six. Clearly, this was not exhaustive research. I just wanted to get a sense of what deployment was like for our troops. To understand a little how they felt when going through it.

A few months later, I started doing Cup of Joe (COJ) a wonderful program where you send a cup of coffee with a message to deployed troops. COJ distributes them randomly to any troop that signs up. It costs $2, many of them email back a “thank you,” and there’s a pen pal option.  I met Jim when I sent out a few COJs that Christmas.

ME:  Dear Soldier, A cup of coffee is pretty small to be a present. So what I really want to give you for Christmas is the certainty that you are not forgotten. And to know how grateful I am for your service. I’m from NYC and whether my day is crazy good or bad, I get to live it in peace. Your hard work and sacrifice gives me that gift. Thank you for all you do. I wish you a merry, happy and safe holiday. Gina

JIM:  That was about the sweetest sentiment I have ever received. I will copy this and save it for Christmas’s in the future. I truly appreciate your gesture and message. May Christmas find you with happiness, love and always security. Warmest of regards Jim Martin

I am using Jim’s name with his permission. Normally I don’t use full names because of privacy and/or security. He was a Senior Medical NCO for a Heavy Brigade Combat Team. When I told him I was a writer, he mentioned that had always been a dream of his. In fact, he had even gotten something published online once. I asked for the link. When I got it, I realized it was one of the six that I had read!!  Six articles out of millions…. thousands of deployed troops and my coffee finds him??  I smiled and laughed at this wonderful surprise. I had loved the emotional honesty in his words. “Meeting” the man who wrote them made it even more special. This is the article: Honor Our Sacrifice

$2

Along with a very nice “small world moment,” I got the pleasure of getting to know Jim. What our troops do, endure and brave is pretty amazing.  What are the chances we can do something meaningful in return with a $2 investment?  I’m happy to say the odds on that are also 100%.

chance

© Gina left the mall, 2013