Returning War Vets Recount Experiences in Six Word Memoirs

Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan face an amazing number of hurdles, from underemployment to health problems to post-traumatic stress disorder, and often it seems as though their issues are drowned out by the din of bureaucracy and spin. But this Veterans Day, the non-profit, non-partisan group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has collaborated with Six Word Memoirs to help get their voices, experiences and emotions out in real time.

Six Word Memoirs already make amazing poetry, as participants in the phenomenally popular concept know. Invented by SMITH Mag and pollinated by Twitter, participants are meant to carve out their lives in exactly six words, autobiographies laser-focused on lovely brevity. But with Six Word Memoirs on Coming Home from the War, returning veterans are encouraged to describe their experiences of coming home from war using the idea, and thus far it's produced the most poignant, evocative set since the project began.

Again, am trying to feel alive.

I left behind my lost comrades.

I can't forget I can't forget

The impact of economical language is a strong presence in these first examples, but even more acute is the sense of emotion–there's palpable despair in some of the veterans' words, but healing as well, and the simplicity is more than enough. IAVA knows something about the memoir–founder Paul Rieckhoff served in Iraq from 2003-2004 and wrote a critically acclaimed book, Chasing Ghosts, about his experiences there–so for those recently back home, the immediate nature of the medium serves its purpose. For those vets who are too often silenced or left astray after they return, the project's viral nature ensures that even if they choose to remain anonymous, they will be heard.

To read or contribute to Six Words Memoirs on Coming Home from War, visit SMITH.

To re-tweet: @smthmag "Six Words on Coming Home From War" –new Six-Word Memoir project with @PaulRieckhoff's @IAVA: // #6words

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at November 4, 2010, 4:26am

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