CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo, Nov. 9, 2012 — Veterans Day, Nov. 11, marks the release of a new anthology “Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors,” Volume 1, published through a partnership between Southeast Missouri State University Press, Missouri Humanities Council, and Warrior Arts Alliance. This first volume in a planned series includes writing by four local veterans:
- Levi Bollinger, a local high school English teacher and master’s degree student in English at Southeast Missouri State University, served in the Army Reserve with a year at the Baghdad International Airport and surrounding area.
- Larry Breeze, professor emeritus of history at Southeast Missouri State University, is a World War II combat veteran who fought in the European theater in 1944-1945. Breeze contributed the preface to the anthology.
- Aaron Horrell, artist and manager of Painted Wren Art Gallery in downtown Cape Girardeau and columnist for the Southeast Missourian, served as a Sea Bee in the Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 74 during the Vietnam War.
- Nicholas Watts-Fernandez, U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer and Southeast graduate (Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts), is currently finishing a tour in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“Proud to Be” contains essays, stories, poems and photographs from 61 current military personnel, veterans and families of veterans from across the nation. One selection is a 1918 letter home from WWI soldier, Philip Renner from southeast Missouri, donated by his family. Another essay, “Hyphenated American” by Jan Morrill, tells the story of the author’s uncle, a Japanese American who fought in the U.S. Army in WWII and was awarded the Bronze Star while his family lived in an internment camp in California. Arkansas novelist Velda Brotherton contributed an essay and photos about her father who served in the Navy in WWII and her mother, who was a “Red-Haired Rosie” riveter in the Boeing factory during the war. Author and screenwriter Monty Joynes, a Vietnam veteran, wrote a story about a soldier’s first day of duty in an Evacuation Hospital. Joynes’ story and the poem “Baring the Trees,” by decorated Iraqi Freedom vet Gerardo Mena, have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
The Warriors writing project began with Geoff Giglierano, executive director of the Missouri Humanities Council, and Deb Marshall, president of The Missouri Writers’ Guild, who paired up to launch a pilot program: The Missouri Warrior Writers Project. The project featured creative writing workshops in veterans hospitals to promote self-expression and confidence, with laptops provided by Missouri Humanities Council and writing instruction by Deb Marshall.
The workshops metamorphosed into the Warriors Arts Alliance and a new project: an annual anthology funded by the Missouri Humanities Council. The Missouri Humanities Council and Warriors Arts Alliance extended their partnership to include Southeast Missouri State University Press and its director Dr. Susan Swartwout, who edited the anthology. The project grew to include a writing contest, judged by stellar writers Mark Bowden (“Black Hawk Down”), William Trent Pancoast (“WILDCAT”), and veteran/poet Brian Turner (“Here, Bullet” and “Phantom Noise”). The title of the anthology emerged from veterans’ comments about the pride they feel in serving their country: “Proud To Be: Writing by American Warriors.”
The Missouri Humanities Council and Warriors Arts Alliance continue to offer and expand the confidence-building work of the writing workshops. The anthology will be an annual series published by Southeast Missouri State University Press. The Missouri Humanities Council hopes to expand the partnership to include additional organizations that are both concerned and supportive of American veterans.
“Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors” is available on the University Press website (http://www6.semo.edu/universitypress/Proud_to_Be1.htm), at the Southeast Bookstore on campus, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, and Amazon.com.