updated 3/17/2005 3:52:55 PM ET 2005-03-17T20:52:55

Literary traditions and war have been cultural companions for as long as civilization has existed.

So it made sense to the National Endowment of the Arts that it should somehow try to help soldiers and families involved in the Iraq conflict make sense of the trauma of war. The NEA created Project Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, a series of writing workshops at military bases across the nation taught by prominent American writers including Tobias Wolff, Bobbie Anne Mason and Tom Clancy.

The NEA also has called for writing submissions from soldiers and their families. It has received nearly 1,000 so far, including letters, poems, journal entries, stories and memoirs. The writers are as diverse as the genres, from a military cook in Bahrain to a Marine who escorted a fallen soldier’s remains home.

Taken together, the writings will go into an archive for researchers, historians and the general public. The best works will be published in a 450-page book next year and sold in books stores.

Click on the links below to read some of the submissions.

Sgt. Michael Thomas,
CO National Guard,
describes a hero's
welcome for a
disgruntled soldier
in 3 a.m. at the VFW.

Melissa S. Herman, wife
of Warrant Officer 3 Mark
A. Herman, a pilot, describes
hours of uncertainty after
reports of a helicopter
shot down, in One Day in February.

Marine Lt. Col. Michael R. Strobl
recounts his trip escorting the
remains of a fellow Marine home,
and the bond he developed with
the fallen soldier along the way,
in Taking Chance.

Lt. Col. Christopher Cohoes
writes home to his boys about war,
history, baseball, the sadness he feels
about missing their first day of school
and the importance of eating vegetables,
in Five letters to my boys.

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