Thursday, November 18, 2010
Continuities by Walt Whitman...
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Pictures From Stars, Stripes and Stories
Col. (Ret.) Scott McCrae, me, and Terri McCrae, and in the foreground, MSG Vince Jacques. Scott and Vince have put together one of the best Reintegration Programs (theirs is for returning Oregon soldiers and airmen) in the country.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
There's Something About Oregon
From the moment I arrived at the airport in Portland, Oregon on October 19th, 2010, to the morning I boarded a plane back to New York, October 23rd, I felt that I had stepped into a world of true community.
Backing up a little, last summer Chip Sammons, a Vietnam Vet and owner of The Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Oregon, wrote to me on my website and asked me if I would write a homecoming poem in honor of Oregon National Guard soldiers and their families for a Benefit to raise funds for the Military Family Scholarship Endowment, part of the Clackamas Community College Foundation. After a number of e-mails back and forth, I said I would write a poem for the event if I could talk to some National Guard soldiers and family members, thinking that would entail several 10 or 15 minute phone interviews. Twelve hours of interviews later, I realized that this had to be much more than a one or two page poem. As I expressed in the Notes at the back of the chapbook of voice poems which was born from those interviews, the only way to do justice to the men and women I spoke with and their stories, was to create a collection of voice poems drawn directly from their words. That collection became Voices of the Guard.
Some of the people I spoke with for the poem wanted to remain anonymous. Others were comfortable with having their names listed as contributors in the back of the chapbook. Shelly Parini, Dean of College Advancement at Clackamas Community College, a person who cares deeply about her community and its Veterans, put me in touch with Colonel Scott McCrae (retired) and Master Sergeant Vince Jacques, who put me in touch with the men and women who consented to be interviewed. Colonel McCrae and MSG Jacques started and continue to run a Reintegration Program for taking care of Oregon’s returning soldiers and airmen. The Oregon Reintegration Program helps returning service men and women transition back into their communities and their personal lives, as well as take full advantage of the benefits due them. The Program also helps them connect with prospective employers and pathways to further education.
In short, from top to bottom, from start to finish, the people I met in Oregon last week care about each other and their community, and that care and love is borne out in the actions they take every day to help each other. Oregon has suffered terrible losses in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as have so many communities throughout our country. The words of the soldiers and family members I interviewed and the visit to Oregon to participate in the benefit reminded me that the burden of our wars is being borne by a very few. My son is home safe, but there are thousands and thousands of young Americans who are not. In a perfect world everyone in this country would find a way to be personally involved in helping our soldiers and their family members. I saw something of that world I wish for in Oregon last week.
More later about the benefit, Star Stripes and Stories, and the terrific people I met while I was there...
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Casey Curry with children she met in Afghanistan
In this picture, the boy with his arm around Casey’s shoulder is Johnnie. Here is what Casey told me about him: “He hung out at our front gate. He had taught himself English over the years of soldiers being there, and he would be their helper. An Afghan national would show up to go to work. Civilian contractors would hire them to do the work. Because the Afghan nationals didn’t speak English, Johnnie would help our soldiers as far as translating to get them through the gate. He was a little helper. We all wanted to adopt him.”
Casey provided medical care to children like the baby in this picture who was brought to the medical mission she was on in Kabul. She told me, “...the children of Afghanistan have the most incredible eyes. They just melt you. They have no idea what’s happened there, no idea what the future holds...after we gave them care and medicines (women and children) that expression, like a kid that gets his first most favorite Christmas present, or they’re getting shoes on their feet for the first time in their whole life...or they’re finally going to have a warm coat.”
Friday, October 8, 2010
Voices of the Guard
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Amber Gilley's Poem to Her Husband Who Serves In The Oregon National Guard
For my husband with love
You are a Delta Demon I know that is true
It is in your blood and runs infantry blue
I knew that someday you would go again
It is never easy since you are my best friend
It was almost more than my heart could bear
Me driving away and leaving you there
Off to California you left in a hurry
Kissed me goodbye and said not to worry
That is not my nature not to worry you know
But I really will try because you told me so
It was a long month but you came home on pass
I knew time was short but I hoped it would last
But surprised I wasn't when our time was up
It happened...they loaded you up on that bus
With all of your guys, off to Georgia you went
There was no fear in your eyes, not even a glint
You all trained hard and were the best in the class
What's your reward for busting your brass
You get one day off then it is off to Kuwait
Then you'll go to Iraq I bet you can't wait
Wherever you are and whatever you do
Know that your family is here loving you
From this time on, and from here ever after
I will be waiting at home to start the next chapter
To my husband the light is on...come home to me soon.