Wednesday, March 1, 2017

War Poet to Speak at DMACC-Boone


Helping to raise funds for veterans charities via the "In My Boots 5K" student organization, 21st century war poet and Central Iowa journalist Randy Brown will present words, pictures, and lessons-learned from a 2010-2011 deployment to Afghanistan 7 p.m., Thurs., March 30, on the Des Moines Community College (DMACC) campus in Boone, Iowa. The public is invited.

"Des Moines Community College has a history of helping Iowans put knowledge, experience, and service together in creative ways," says Brown. "I'm hoping to share how and why our citizen-soldiers made history in Afghanistan, and how we can engage each other in conversations and stories about war.

A freewill-donation spaghetti supper will start at 6 p.m., with Brown's presentation to follow in the college's auditorium at 7 p.m. A number of related books will be offered as door prizes, as well as for purchase.

In 2009, Brown started blogging as a deploying citizen-soldier, writing under the pseudonym "Charlie Sherpa" about his family's experiences in preparing for war. The 2010-2011 deployment of Iowa's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division was billed as the largest call-up of Iowa troops since World War II. The 2-34th BCT is headquartered in Boone, with battalion and company headquarters located across the state.

When he was dropped off the deployment list just days from federal mobilization in 2010, Brown retired from the military and then went to Afghanistan anyway, embedding as civilian media with his former "Red Bull" colleagues.

Brown is author of 2015's "Welcome to FOB Haiku," an award-winning collection of often-humorous war poetry; and editor of the recently published "Reporting for Duty," a 668-page collection of journalism generated by the 2-34th BCT while deployed to Afghanistan. He is also a former cast member of "Telling: Des Moines," a veterans' storytelling performance that was staged at DMACC-Ankeny campus in 2012.

The annual "In My Boots" 5K walk, run, and ruck event annually raises funds for veterans-related charities. This year, proceeds will be directed toward Paws & Effect, a Central Iowa non-profit that raises and trains psychiatric service dogs for military veterans and others. The 2017 "In My Boots" event will take place April 15 in Boone's McHose Park. On-line registration is available here.

DMACC-Boone's Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society chapter will also be holding a food drive during the race.

A Facebook page for the "In My Boots" student organization is here.

A Facebook event page for the March 30 event is here.

For information, contact:
  • Jared Neal, president, "In My Boots" student group: jdneal AT dmacc DOT edu
  • Julie Roosa: 515.433.5215; jkroosa AT dmacc DOT edu
  • Nancy Woods: 515.433.5061; nawoods AT dmacc DOT edu
  • Sean Taylor: astaylor AT dmacc DOT edu
To make on-line monetary donations to "In My Boots," visit here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

'Best Defense' Blog: Pro-Tips in Haiku Form

The Thinker on the Butte de Warlencourt,
watercolor, 1917, William Orpen
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Tom Ricks, who writes the "Best Defense" blog for Foreign Policy magazine and who has been a long-time supporter of the Red Bull Rising blog, is currently running a micro-essay contest (150-word maximum) on the theme: "What should a military professional profess?"

"It isn’t as easy as it sounds," he writes. "It can’t be just 'patriotic,' because it should have application to the militaries of other countries. […] I’m asking this now because I suspect we will see some tests of military professionalism in the coming weeks and months."

Read his full pitch here.

The contest, which is likely only for professional-bragging points, will run through the end of February. Any "winners" (defined as the "best or at least most interesting") will be posted in March. In the meantime, Ricks is occasionally featuring responses he's received so far. You know, to help people get the creative juices flowing.

Those familiar with my work in the award-winnng collection "Welcome to FOB Haiku" will not be surprised that my own attempt to address Ricks' question was a series of pithy, Japanese-style poems.

One of my favorites:
Your moral compass
should be red-light readable
for work in the dark.
You can read them all here on Ricks' blog.

Send your own micro-essay entries to: ricksblogcomment AT gmail.com

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

MWSA Gold Medal Awarded to 'FOB Haiku'!

Book reviewers at Military Writers Society of America (M.W.S.A.) recently announced that "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poetry from Inside the Wire" (Middle West Press, LLC) has been awarded a 2016 Gold Medal in Poetry.

The award takes place after a 2015 MWSA rules revision. Under a new system, panels of three judges considered approximately 80 military-themed or -authored fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and other literature. According to the association: "The already stringent requirements were toughened further. Three judges read every book submitted and scored them based on content, visual, style, and technical criteria. The three scores were then averaged. To receive a medal, a book had to reflect MWSA's exacting technical standards as well as a high total score."

In a companion review to the award, author and Gold Star mother Betsy Beard described "Welcome to FOB Haiku" as "fresh, profound, illuminating." She continues:
[T]his is a must-read poetry book. It logs the humor and joy as well as the pathos and tragedy that comes as a result of serving in the American military.

The poetry is divided into several sections titled Basic Issue, Getting Embed, FOB Haiku, Lessons Learned, and Homecoming. A final section titled Notes contains valuable definitions as well as pronunciations for the ever-present military acronyms. Information in this section is critical to the understanding of how the poetry is to be read, since many of us do not know how to pronounce DFAC or TOC. My advice is to read the notes for each section before you read the poetry in that section. I think it will deepen the experience as well as allow you to get the meter that the poet intended.

One poem in particular changed the way I think of my son's service in Iraq, where he was killed in action. "Hamlet in Afghanistan" enabled me to realize more than I had allowed myself to think that "nothing we can ever do will change that day in the village." Heartrending, but true.

Not everyone in America understands the military culture. But for those who lived it, this book will bring remembrance and affirmation. For those who are families and friends of service members, this book will help you gain new understanding of your loved ones. For those without experience in this field, you may end up with a fresh look at what it’s all about.
"Welcome to FOB Haiku" can be purchased via on-line booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more. For more information, visit: www.fobhaiku.com