How I Ended Up Sharing My War Stories With 200 Strangers

Support
Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), finish their performance during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual meeting and exposition at the Walter Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C., Oct. 22, 2012.
Photo by Sgt. Jose Torres Jr.

Back in the early Fall, my friend called and asked if I would do him a favor. He needed someone to help him with an annual performance in New York City called The Telling Project. His non-profit organization, Veteran Artist Program, helps coordinate and produce one-night-only events across the country that showcase a handful of veterans telling their war stories.


Sure, I do backstage stuff, I said. Acting isn’t my thing, I said. He said he would have the writer contact me. I figured I could maybe run lights like I used to back in ages past.

When the writer called, we had a lovely conversation during which I recounted a few stories I’ve told over and over: The funny ones, the ones on the surface that I can pull off the top of my head and say with a smile. But we also talked about things I don’t share often; indeed one of the things I don’t like to put a voice to at all: The day my career ended with a very literal bang.

Veterans rehearse for The Telling Project performance held Nov. 9 in New York City.Photo courtesy of The Telling Project

But that’s the story he chose to write, to mesh with the other tales of soldiers and Marines. The story I don’t talk about was now about to be shared with 200 strangers. I didn’t tell anyone I knew to come and watch the performance. I rejoiced that my parents were out of town and my friend-who-is-a-boy was busy filming his television show pilot. I was embarrassed: I was standing there with my script in my hand. My brain couldn’t learn lines and cues; I can hardly recall my breakfast. I was putting what I’ve tried for years to hide out on stage for people to see.

And it hurt. Rehearsals meant I had to relive the story over and over. Confessing my new-found, IED-generated inabilities to not just the audience, but to myself. It was awful and horrible.

But it was also the best thing for me. Afterward, members of the audience with traumatic brain injuries thanked me for putting a voice to what they had not yet been able to say. Family members said they had a better understanding of the condition and how it can affect those who have traumatic brain injury, even those who went through years of therapy to try and dampen the impact. My jerk friend who got me into this mess gave me a huge hug and bought me a beer and I admitted I might feel a little relieved to finally have some of this out in the open.

The Telling Project is one of the best and worst things I have done since leaving the service. I didn’t want to tell that story, but I realize now that at least I can and admit my limitations. It prompted me to go back to therapy and maybe move forward, and hopefully motivated others to find ways to push themselves, too, when they are ready.

It took me a month and a half just to be able to write this reflection. It’s even hard for me to admit something was hard. I’m probably a therapist’s dream.

It’s not so much when we do it, but that we do it at all. If you can catch The Telling Project in a city near you, please do, and support others as they finally put their words out there.

US Marine Corps

The Marine lieutenant colonel who was removed from command of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May is accused of lying to investigators looking into allegations of misconduct, according to a copy of his charge sheet provided to Task & Purpose on Monday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump just can't stop telling stories about former Defense Secretary James Mattis. This time, the president claims Mattis said U.S. troops were so perilously low on ammunition that it would be better to hold off launching a military operation.

"You know, when I came here, three years ago almost, Gen. Mattis told me, 'Sir, we're very low on ammunition,'" Trump recalled on Monday at the White House. "I said, 'That's a horrible thing to say.' I'm not blaming him. I'm not blaming anybody. But that's what he told me because we were in a position with a certain country, I won't say which one; we may have had conflict. And he said to me: 'Sir, if you could, delay it because we're very low on ammunition.'

"And I said: You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general," Trump continued. "No president should ever, ever hear that statement: 'We're low on ammunition.'"

Read More Show Less

At least one Air Force base is waging a slow battle against feral hogs — and way, way more than 30-50 of them.

A Texas trapper announced on Monday that his company had removed roughly 1,200 feral hogs from Joint Base San Antonio property at the behest of the service since 2016.

Read More Show Less

In a move that could see President Donald Trump set foot on North Korean soil again, Kim Jong Un has invited the U.S. leader to Pyongyang, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday, as the North's Foreign Ministry said it expected stalled nuclear talks to resume "in a few weeks."

A letter from Kim, the second Trump received from the North Korean leader last month, was passed to the U.S. president during the third week of August and came ahead of the North's launch of short-range projectiles on Sept. 10, the South's Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple people familiar with the matter.

In the letter, Kim expressed his willingness to meet the U.S. leader for another summit — a stance that echoed Trump's own remarks just days earlier.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.

In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.

A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.

The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.

Read More Show Less