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In their words: Soldiers write about Iraq

The National Endowment for the Arts is helping soldiers in Iraq make sense of their wartime experience with Operation Homecoming, a writing project. On the second anniversary of the conflict, read four submissions, including one from a soldier who writes  of accompanying the remains of a fellow Marine home.

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.

Courtesy Of Michael Thomas

Sgt. Michael Thomas,
CO National Guard,
describes a hero's
welcome for a
disgruntled soldier

Courtesy Of Melissa Herman

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

LtCol Mike Strobl Manpower & Reserve Affairs (MMOA-5) Courtesy Of Lt. Col. Mike Strobl

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,

Courtesy of LtCol. Chris Cohoes

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,