Our best writers on war were nobodies before they got a break.
This is doubly true of veterans, from Hemingway and Joseph Heller to Iraq war veteran Kevin Powers, author of 2012’s celebrated The Yellow Birds, whose apprenticeships began amid exploding shells, not newsrooms or creative writing classes.
So it has been with Ron Capps, a former Army lieutenant colonel (and former Battleland contributor). Starting in 2009, he found his well-received writing helped ease the pain of five wars in 10 years, from Kosovo and Rwanda to Iraq, Afghanistan and Dafur, where he nearly committed suicide. Two years ago Capps launched the Veterans Writing Project to help bootstrap fellow war survivors into putting their experiences on paper.
The results have been promising, judging from selections in the second edition of O-Dark-Thirty, VWP’s literary journal, which you can read in its entirety here. “Walk Until You Sleep,” a harrowing short story by Iraq war Army medic Rod Merkley, makes a strong case that our latest generation of wounded warriors may yet produce another Hemingway.
Read that selection here.