Veterans ranging from James Jones to Oliver Stone have brought their war experiences to the mainstream media and been celebrated as artists. Today, veteran artists have proven themselves successful too, most recently with authors Kevin Powers and Phil Klay, but civilian audiences can fall into an assumption that a veteran’s art is therapeutic first, creative second. Those two often go hand-in-hand, given the empathetic nature of art, so where does one end and the other begin?
As we retreat from over a decade of war, the proliferation of war-themed novels and short stories are coming to the forefront, many of them written by veterans. Such authors empower veterans to reclaim the narrative that previously has been mostly controlled by civilians and journalists throughout the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. These personalized, fictional accounts are important as we draw down from the Middle East, because the narrative is already shifting. Whereas veterans were once cast as heroes defending freedom and democracy, now they are pegged as victims ravaged by unpopular wars in hostile and misunderstood environments.