Several months ago, I was honored to learn that my story, “Hyphenated Americans,” about the service of my Uncle Yoshio in the 442 Regimental Combat Team during World War II, was accepted into Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors.
Then, I was even more honored to be invited to read my uncle’s story at the book launch event in St. Louis.
But my greatest honor came on Tuesday, when I attended the book launch and listened to veterans of several different wars read their own stories. It was perhaps my first opportunity to listen to how war affected the men and women who actually experienced it first hand. How different are stories told first hand from those we hear through the media.
Some stories were written and read as travelogues or newspaper articles, while others were written as deeply personal journal entries to which we had been given a peek. However the stories were written, all were poignant, harsh, raw, real.
But I have to say that the essay, “Between Wives,” by Jay Harden (Winner of “Best Writing from a Missouri Writer”) struck me the most deeply. This Vietnam veteran explained in heartfelt detail, one of the true costs of war, even how that cost can trickle down to future generations. Here is an excerpt:
Relationships with women are a personal problem and a chronic disease of veterans. I reckon we are unique this way, and I should know. The American public just does not fully comprehend their veterans and those far destinations and events bound up in us.
Mr. Harden had to pause several times as he read, clearing his throat so he could continue. His words touched me, and I had the urge to put my arm around him to let him know it would be okay.
Then, I realized how shallow that was, to think that my actions or words might take away his pain. I realized that’s probably what other women in his life have thought, and when they failed, he was once again “between.”
Mr. Harden ended his essay with these words:
Yes, it’s true, not self-mocking, when I say I’m “between wives.” I’m not being a calloused veteran; I’m reaching for understanding. Really, I’m reaching for the touch of a good woman; but between is where, for now, I think I had better stay.
After the readings, I wanted to thank Mr. Harden for sharing his feelings in the anthology, but I could not find him. It’s not easy to be so open and honest on paper–I know. I’ve tried and failed many times. But this kind of bravery is important to help us understand the cost of war that sadly, many of us don’t think about enough. For that reason, I am not only grateful for these veterans’ service, but for their words, too.
NOTE: Deb Marshall, Director of The Warrior Arts Alliance has announced that submissions for the Volume II anthology are now being accepted. If you would like more information, click here.
Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors is published through a partnership between the Missouri Humanities Council, Warriors Arts Alliance and Southeast Missouri State University Press and edited by Susan Swartwout.