Once a year I go through the exercise of cleaning my closet. Some clothes go to the cleaners, some go to the donation box and a few get tossed in the trash. During this ritual is one of the few times that I remember that sitting well behind the work suits and the jeans hangs a pristine Army class A uniform. I pause for a moment. I reflect. But for some reason I never touch it or, god forbid, move it someplace else. In some ways I think I’m afraid of that uniform. It represents a past I’ll never return to and someone I’ll never be again. But it is also a vessel for my stories, and something like 1% of Americans have a closet that looks very similar to mine.
These days talking about the 1% is nearly always a reference to economic status, but a different 1% exists, a slice of the public that during their lifetime has, for one reason or another, put on the uniform of their nation’s military and given up some portion of their time in this world in its service. Each and every one of them has a story to tell, and if we were to collect those stories from across the generations it would tell a story of this nation. A story of ambition and bravery, of loss and heartbreak, of recovery and repentance. It would tell the story of how we have fallen and how we have advanced.
We created Line of Advance for two reasons. First, to collect those stories – to foster them, seek them out, and give them a place to be told and remembered, And secondly, to provide them to the larger community who deserves to hear them. For while Plato wrote that “only the dead have seen the end of war”, it was Margaret Atwood who wrote that “war is what happens when language fails”.
Perhaps the current wars, my wars, are ending. If we learn nothing from them, then we are the poorer for it. I often hear my friends argue about these last thirteen years, and whether or not they have won us anything measurable. They sometimes look at me as though I can provide some sort of answer. But I look to the veteran community and say, share your stories. Write. Creatively, expressively, but write! And perhaps together, and across the generations of those who found themselves across oceans, who lost themselves and lost others and who found themselves and found others, perhaps we can work to find meaning. Because, as in all things, progress comes from finding a way to move forward. On behalf of the entire team, welcome to Line of Advance.
Line of Advance is the digital literary journal for the creative writing of military veterans. Subscribe today to read the best in veteran writing.