What is it like to think you might be crazy or acting crazy when nothing is certain? Everything has turned so different. I’m looking at my world from a distant place where I’m not participating, no interacting.
My thoughts have blown up–they are so big and consume all my time. Are there aliens in the corner? I want to ask someone. It looks like there are buy my eyes can’t see clearly. I can’t ask because no one is paying attening to what’s happening, to what I’m seeing and feeling.
Everything that is…. Read more in the Spring 2015 issue of Veterans’ Voices magazine.
I was raised in Leavenworth, Kan., but I was living in Columbus, Ga. One spring, a friend and I went to Ft. Benning in observance of Armed Forces Day. It just happened that I had on a large Stetson. One of the vendors noticed it and yelled “Hey dude! Where you from? Texas?”
“Naw,” I said, “I’m from Kansas.”
Then, the vendor said,” “Oh, I know somebody from Kansas; maybe you might know her. Her name is Dorothy.”
I thought of all the Dorothys’ I knew. “Was it this one or that one?” I asked myself.
“Naw.” The vendor said, “She had a little dog.” So now I thought of all the Dorothys
with dogs, still to no avail. “Her dog’s name was Toto,” added the vendor.
H-m-m-m-m: Dorothy, Toto.
“A-w-w-w-w-h.” I finally got the joke.
By now a crowd had gathered. They all had a good laugh, as did I. The vendor gave me free beer the rest of the day.
”Hooray” is the closest spelling I can come to for ”Ooh-rah” in the English dictionary. The term ”Ooh-rah” is not even listed in this dictionary I have on my shelf, so I apologize: I don’t know how to spell the word. Obviously, as I write this article, a Marine is not handy to assist me with my spelling. I know ”Hooray,” an expression of joy, is not what the Marines had in mind when they invented the word ”Ooh-rah,” but it’s close enough to ”affirmative” or ”you got that right” for the purposes of this article.
What I mean to say is: ”good going” Veterans’ Voices magazine. This magazine has been a great help to me personally and to others as well. Writing for the magazine helped me work through my problems. Many a night I have awakened between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. with the problems of my world sitting squarely on my shoulders. I would think of suicide for a few minutes, and then, I would turn to my word processor or my computer and work on a story for Veterans’ Voices. If I wasn’t sure what to write about, I would read from Veterans’ Voices until an idea hit me. If I drew a blank for a story or article idea, I would instead work on ideas for raising money for the magazine. When people talk about writing as a therapeutic outlet for the mind, I think back to those many nights of darkness and despair that I went through. I wonder what would have happened if it weren’t for the magazine and the creative outlet it offered me during the middle of those horrible nights. I think about the guys coming back from war these days and the problems they must have on their minds and in their guts. Why is the suicide rate so high for our returning military these days? Thoughts of suicide or just thinking a suicidal thought is nothing for the living to be ashamed of, and the dead don’t feel guilty. Maybe the solution is to write about those feeling instead of acting on them in a shameful way. After all, one of the purposes of this magazine is to give a veterans a voice, don’t you think?
I wish for a time when Veterans’ Voices will go out to many more veterans to let them know we are thinking of them. If the magazine could afford to publish more magazines, maybe the returning veterans could know that we are interested in their stories. Support Veterans’ Voices magazine by spreading the word and encouraging others to subscribe today, or think of a way to look for new donors that can help support the magazine’s efforts.
I was asked to write about something that I, surprisingly, hadn’t really thought much about. I was asked how sharing my writings with you, my reader, helps me. Well, I have to be honest when I say that I really write for my own therapy.
I did this for several years before even considering submitting any of my work to be published or read aloud by another soul. I never wrote a thing until 2003, and I had my first poem published around 2006, I think, in “A Surrender to Other Moon” poetry collection book.
And while I still write for my own therapy, I have found sharing does fulfill a kind of void for me. It’s kind of like the phrase, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” You see, my life in the military was focused on a few things. Aside from the obvious, protecting this country’s great freedom, it was also to help, protect, and free others from oppression. I believe no man, or nation, has the right to commit crimes against humanity, such as genocide. Therefore, helping others makes me, as an individual, feel good in doing what I think is right. It is within this feeling that helps me share my work.
The very idea of someone reading it and realizing they are not alone, finding comfort in knowing there are others, such as myself, who shared in the same horrors of war. I guess one of my goals in sharing is showing that a person can find peace, like I have in my writing and sharing. The sad fact that I have myself attempted suicide is proof that
writing works. So, as I share my work, I pray that I have given strength to someone else to help them carry on. And I get the satisfaction that I believe I have. I’ll never actually, truly ever, most likely, never know for sure, but my heart says I have…and if I have helped just one person, well, that is enough for me to be satisfied with my writing. I urge people to press on through the hardest of times. I have been told by a few people that they started writing because of something I wrote.
So, to bring everything to a simple, yet strong statement, I guess I’ll have to say that helping others helps me. This is what sharing through Veterans’ Voices has done for me: I’ve received the gratification, the feeling of helping others, and fulfillment of a void, where I really feel good about a great number of things. After all, it’s been said that the pen is mightier than the sword, or the sniper rifle in my case.
The first time I can remember being published in Veterans’ Voices was while I lived in the Atlanta area. The inspired poem was titled, “In the Morning.” It was a time of struggling and suffering, yet the Holy Spirit birthed it through me.
My first health challenge—the horrible mental illness called schizophrenia—was present in me. Then, as if I’d slept for a period of time, the poetry came bursting loose. I’d ever heard of the disease before it surfaced in my life as fear, madness and the onset of uncertainty. As a child and teen, I sometimes would write. I used writing as a channel for the good part of my brain. I also used it to help encourage and bless others. Veterans’ Voices was and is ideal…a great means to get published. The life-long challenge of schizophrenia really baffles me, yet I know hope. Writing gives me a chance for freedom of expression—to write about the part of myself that I like. Writing is such a joy, yet I’ve learned I can write about many diverse things and occurrences.
Veterans’ Voices is great for veteran patients. We, the suffering, can share with others our joys, our struggles as well as various triumphs and victories. Creativity is a wonderful thing. Veterans’ Voices has been there for me since 1985. I am honored to have had poetry, prose and a few drawings published. I appreciate this outlet and channel for the various subjects I’ve pursued. The magazine is great therapy for us. Whether we are happy, sad or dealing with fears, emotional scars or discrimination, writing allows us to express ourselves. I feel as if Veterans’ Voices has many writers who can top my talents, but I’m always thankful for an opportunity to express myself in between the stressors of medical and physical disabilities. It is exciting to receive the magazine in the mail. Yet, I know not what emotions will explode inside me since it captures many journeys through others’ experiences. I appreciate being connected with other veterans. It’s an honor to be among a cadre of published writers. It’s an honor to have someone look beyond my illness and see a creative spirit. I am grateful to Veterans’ Voices, God, the veterans, the staff and the volunteers for allowing time to pass, for understanding my rants, and helping me capture my thoughts and jot them down in poetry and prose.
I suffer with things other than the schizophrenia that could have taken my very life. The magazine has sustained me during many hardships and joys. I am so proud to be an American, who happens to be disabled, living in one wonderful country as a member of the veterans’ family. I’ve saved copies of the magazine throughout the years and I see myself in other people’s work. The gratitude is endless. I’ve been ill for the last two years and it was an effort to write this but now a great weight has been lifted. That monster, schizophrenia, is a slave master, holding me captive. But, the Bible says there is a higher power, greater than all my diseases, who cares for me. Veterans’ Voices remains a source of ministry for sharing and blessing others. Veterans’ Voices is a mirror.
For three years, I served in the Pacific under General Douglas MacArthur. Due to my 1st sergeant rank, I had 244 men under my supervision. Numerous men were killed during the war and tried to take care of each other. Americans and Japanese were there!
When I was a youth, our family, the Robillards, lived in Lowell, Mass. Mom only spoke French, which was okay for the Lowell schools, but when we moved to Derry, N.H., only English was spoken. After completing sixth grade, I went to work. My two sisters and one brother also left school at an early age.
Horseshoe was a favorite pastime for all of us children and our friends. Making friends and helping people was always what desired to do. The whole world and everyone in it are my friends!
I was issued an automobile license when I was 16 years of age. I was permitted to drive a gray ford with a rumble seat- the speed limit was 20 miles an hour! A long, long time ago, Dad bought a Model T. Dad died at the age of 65 years.
I married my sweetheart, Jeannette, and we became parents of three boys and a girl. One of my sons was killed in Vietnam; he was only 18 years of age.
I was a carpenter. I made, sold and gave away numerous wooden tables. We were a Catholic family and we lived in Derry. Now I am a widower, I need lots of rest and sleep. Why? I am awake and out of bed at 3:00 a.m.
I’ve faithfully served as a volunteer at our Manchester, N.H. VAMC for 37 years. I arrive here at 5:30 a.m. six or seven days a week, I’m stationed at the outpatient section of our hospital. Making coffee and accepting and distributing delivered newspapers are part of my daily volunteer chores. I couldn’t live without this very worthwhile contribution to our great U.S. They need me, and I need them!
We grew up in the hollow of a small rural town with one store, one post office, one bank and one signal light. We had 13 in our family but those were the days when it didn’t cost much to feed a large family and most people grew food in the garden and kept chickens. We also butchered hogs each year. My mother did housekeeping for rich families in the area. My father drove a brick-and block truck to help pay our schooling, clothes and recreation supplies.
My mother and father were loving parents and there wasn’t anything that they wouldn’t do for someone in need. They instilled going to church on Sundays and we all had to be on our best behavior because how we acted reflected on them. Surely we didn’t want our privileges taken away for acting up in church or even in the neighborhood. They believed in discipline. I got whipping and that was enough for me. They would only whip your bottom but the pain lasted a couple days.
They believed in God and they love each one of us in his preciousness. My mother would sing the gospel music as she cooked in the kitchen and when she was cleaning the house. It made me feel loved each and every day. My father was quiet most of the time until he had to call us out for being too loud, or if the boys were in an argument over toys or girls, or if the girls squabbled over clothes and boyfriends.
We always had fish and fried potatoes on Friday. The rest of the family would always come by to pay their respects. All of my mother’s brothers and sisters would come by bring her things and she would give them food from our garden and clothes that had been outgrown. My father’s brother would come to help him build additional rooms on the house, help with the garden or to work on the cars.
Our parents would give all of us a little spending money to go to the store but we would have to be doing well in school. They rewarded us with money or something that we wanted if we had done a good thing. We didn’t always get rewarded because we weren’t always on our best behavior and we knew it when we weren’t. Mother tried to speak on our behalf but father would stand his ground. He really loved us and we knew he loved us all because he treated us all the same way. Mother was a little different than father, she would allow us more leeway.
My oldest brother died and it really tore my mother up. She would cry a lot and she would no longer sing, but father stood strong for her. We all came together for her but she had lost her firstborn and that was more than she could bear.
After a short illness, father was taken home to be with God and Mother was left without him. She fell deeper into depression and started to sit by herself on the porch in her favorite rocking chair. It took God to bring her out of the deep depression. Her faith in God jump started her life again. She got up one morning and started cleaning the house and singing her gospel songs.
She got us through those tough times and we all went on to do good thing with our lives. We owe it all to the wonderful parents who gave us rules and a good moral code that remains with each of us to this day. So, I thank God and my mother and father for believing in us. God bless all good parents in America and around the world.
By Charles L. Carey
VA Medical Center- Martinsburg, WV
Typist: Joanna Rench
While I was in the Air Forces at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., I was an aircraft mechanic. Different types of aircraft and squadrons were situated in rows on the flight line. The red, white and blue thunderbird squadron was on the line next to the row of aircraft in which I was a crew chief. I envied the mechanics in the thunderbird squadron. When those beautiful planes went out on a mission, both the mechanics and pilots moved like clockwork. The air shows were so perfect. They were awesome and breathtaking. There were times when they were gone on trips for performances.
Then on the fateful day, January 18,1982, while practicing for air show, four aircraft were performing a diamond shape pattern. They climbed several thousand feet and then after a backward loop, headed down at more than 400 m.ph., and leveled off at about 100 feet for a line abreast-loop. There was a malfunction in the lead plane. Each plane fallowed the lead plane, one after the other plowing into the ground, killing all fours pilots in instantly.
After this accident, there was a lot of talk about the price of the planes that were lots – that was what people focused on , about how much it would cost to replace the planes. There was also a lot of talk about how much time it would take to reorganize this unit and retrain pilots to fly different planes.
Not very many people spoke of these three captains and the major who died in the tragedy. How would you put a price on a person’s life? How do you put a price on a family’s loss? There isn’t a time limit that one can put on someone’s life. Only God has the right to do that. Sometimes we fail to see the big picture in a tragedy like this.
Saturday, Nov. 12th, 2016, 2-4pm, at the World War I Museum in Kansas City, Mo Register today! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/annual-veterans-voices-pen-celebration-tickets-27911438865 Please join us for The Annual Veterans’ Pen Celebration, and our keynote speaker Lou Eisenbrandt. Lou Eisenbrandt is a Veteran and Author of “Vietnam Nurse: Mending and Remembering”. About our Speaker – Lou Eisenbrandt Growing up in a small Illinois(…)
Veterans Voices is excited to celebrate 70 years of providing therapeutic writing to veterans! Watch both here and on Facebook for the various ways we’ll be celebrating this year. Join with us and share with fellow veterans, friends and family.
2013 Veterans Pen Celebration View Event Photos Saturday, November 2, 2013 2 – 4 p.m. Location: National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial 100 W. 26th St., Kansas City, MO Highlights: Premiere of the VVWP DVD “Veterans’ Voices…. Alive and Well” Featuring Veterans’ Voices authors & writing aides Writing Aide Phyllis Bibeau, Albuquerque VAMC & Volunteers of VVWP(…)
Deann Shinkle Mitchell, Vice President, VVWP and Deb Lilla, Marketing Committee Chair, discuss the Veterans Voices Writing Project (VVWP) that utilizes therapeutic writing to rehabilitate veterans on August 12, 2015. Listen here
by Dorothy Remo VA Media Center, San Antonio, TX Typist: Lee Torres What is it like to think you might be crazy or acting crazy when nothing is certain? Everything has turned so different. I’m looking at my world from a distant place where I’m not participating, no interacting. My thoughts have blown up–they(…)
by Paul Wilkison Every civilization Contains within Itself two types Of seeds: At the beginning, Seeds of greatness. At the end, Sees of destruction. VAMC, Albuquerque, NM Writing Ade: Phyllis Bibeau Typist: Jane Harvey
Radio interview with Veterans’ Voices Editor in Chief, Margaret Clark, as KMBC’s Person of the Week for April 13, 2015. Hear some fantastic stories of the impact Veterans’ Voices has had on healing veterans from the hidden wounds of war. You won’t want to miss this!!