The Long Walk & the Search for the Holy Grail

by Jack Erwin

by Jack Erwin

“Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying: Who shall I send? Who will go for us? I said: Here I am.  Send me. Then I said: Until when LORD? And He replied: Until cities lie in ruins without inhabitants, houses are without people, the land is ruined and desolate.”  – Isaiah 6:8,11

Roger that…But what about when I get back? What about the dead? What about the wounded? What about the children? How can I look in the eyes of my own children, and not see the eyes of the other children? Why did I make it back and not my brethren? Why can’t I sleep?  Why am I so angry? Why am I so scared and still fighting to survive? Why have people I love turned away from me? Why can’t I stop crying? Why do I feel like there is a giant black spider that comes out every night to suck the life blood out of me, and I’m tangled in her web? When is everything going to be OK again? Hello?  LORD?

Brian Castner eloquently brings answers to some of these questions in his book The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows.  Brian has walked the walk.  The Long Walk.  He knows the path well.  Our brother has lovingly written down his story for all of us.   Like Hansel and Gretel, we can follow the path of bread crumbs into the enchanted forest.  Then when the ravens come, snatching up the bread crumbs, squawking “Nevermore!” tauntingly and fly away into the trees of the forest- we begin to feel what Brian has felt.  We begin to know what he has known.  We begin to see what he has seen.  We can take a walk in his boots.  The Long Walk.

If you love a Soldier, you need to read this book.  If you love a Marine, you need to read this book…a Sailor…an Airman…whatever, you need to read this book.  If you work with veterans, as a social worker, counselor, psychologist, doctor, nurse, caregiver…whatever, you need to read this book.  If you are one of us, you have probably already read it, but if you haven’t, you need to bro.  I found my copy at the public library.  Yes, I know, I’m old school and went to the library or an actual book, not downloading an e-book or any of that gizmo stuff.  That was six months ago.  The librarian is pissed with me, ‘Cuz I won’t bring it back.  I keep paying the fines, and then renewing it again.  I read it from cover to cover, and folding down the corner of the pages when I connected with something Brian shared with me.  Sometimes it’s at the top of the page, other times at the bottom, and quite often it’s both.   So now I have this library book that follows me around.  Sometimes I toss it in the back of my truck, meaning to return it to the library.  Sometimes I lay it on the bed stand next to my laptop, meaning to write this book review.  But I just couldn’t do it.  Not until now.  Brian’s story hit close to home.  In fact, it’s like hitting a home run and sliding into home plate, just to kick up some dust and get dirty, even when you don’t have to, because you knocked it out of the park, Brian.   I looked at his picture in the back of the book, and I was like Holy Sh*t! He looks just like me!  Or I look just like him.  We could be brothers.  In fact, I feel like we already are.

“Don’t be afraid of the soft sand, Lieutenant!”

These are words of wisdom.  The man who spoke them, The Chief, he’s dead now.  But they will always stick with Brian, and with me.  Now with you.  You see, as you are doing PT, running your ass off in the mind numbing scorching heat and humidity to the point where you can’t breathe because the humidity in the air is like a water soaked sponge and there’s not enough oxygen in the nooks and crannies of the air to fill the alveoli in your lungs but you have to turn around and do another lap because the Chief is hounding your ass and molding you into the warrior you need to be and then you have to run up the big f*cking hill again and that’s when you hit the soft sand so you double and quadruple the calories in your furnace while the lactic acid squeezes through your calves, quads, glutes, and hams until your legs want to detach themselves from your body and bitch slap you for making them continue but then you start sliding back down the hill again because the soft sand gives way and you slip and roll and get grains of sand stuck all over your sweaty skin and you look like a damn donut with cinnamon sugar sprinkled all over you and the salt from your sweat stings in your eyes and you start going blind but just run uphill on the downhill escalator of sand and grunt and get pissed off and roar out your war cry and spit sand out between your teeth as you grind them together and step through your bleeding blisters and push through the f*cking kill zone until you get to the top.  You flip the switch.  Out comes the War Beast.   As soon as you do you are going to punch the first enemy you see in the chest with your bayonet and butt stroke the next son-of-a-bitch in the face and spray the whole f*cking bunker with a full mag from your M-4,  toss in a frag, and slap in another mag without thinking. Just doing.   But do you have PID? Positive Identification of that enemy threat to justify your violent action? Shoot or don’t shoot? No time for that now,  you must fireman carry Billy to the medics so he won’t bleed out cuz there ain’t no f*cking way your gonna let him die on you and the other guys in your squad need you right now cuz you have to scan your sector and somebody needs to call a 9-line medevac for Billy and somebody needs to stick him with an IV and somebody needs to bring up more ammo for the machine gun and the barrel is getting hot and the radio doesn’t f*cking work and there’s an IED in the road that can go off any f*cking minute and you need a grid coordinate to call in EOD and your taking fire from heavy weapons and you need to get some indirect fire and some air support coming in so now you have to turn around and do another lap…

“So don’t be afraid of the soft sand, Lieutenant.”

And then you come home.  So now what? No, it’s not just like CALL OF DUTY, so shut up already!…Well, there’s green grass, and shade, running water, air conditioning, electricity, and a roof over your head.  People are not actually trying to kill you.  You can actually drink beer again.  Eat all the pork you want, Infidel.  Have a steak, eat a hamburger, get some tacos, go to a ball game, hang out at the pool.  If you’re lucky, you can even get laid again, and be in love.  You can even go back to your old job.  Hope it goes well.  You should talk to God.  Thank him for your life, and your many blessings…ask for forgiveness…pray for guidance…a way, a path to follow, because now you are going to feel lost.

You are the same person, but you are not.  You don’t FEEL the same.  Are you starting to get it yet?  That’s the whole point of this book, so you can get it, and start to understand. Brian was an EOD guy.  You know, Explosive Ordinance Disposal.  He’s the one the grunts call when there’s a bomb, kinda like 911 for warriors.  So Brian was in the thick of it. Every day.  Every night.  Multiple times.  You are probably thinking of that movie, you know, The Hurt Locker.  That film does a nice job of sharing the Iraq war experience for an EOD Soldier.  Towards the end, it shows him back home again, stuck- in the grocery store with his wife and kid, just staring at rows upon rows of cereal.  Then it jumps ahead, to him going back, back, back to Iraq.  It pretty much skips the home front.  So this is where Brian’s book fills the gap for us all.  It shares “A story of war and the life that follows….”  You may have noticed a theme here; it’s about PTSD.  He calls it his crazy.  I personally don’t like this term.  Anyone who has been exposed to the trauma of war and ends up with Post Traumatic Stress is perfectly normal.  If not, then maybe you were crazy to begin with!  But anyway, I understand why Brian just comes right out and calls it his crazy, people can relate to that.  He wants them to be able to understand, to listen to the story, and to benefit from it.  It’s about the family.  It’s about 22 veterans per day committing suicide, and the reaching out with a loving hand to stop that from happening.  Thank you, Brian.

There are really multiple meanings behind all of this.  The Long Walk is literally the EOD’s last resort.  After you’ve exhausted every possible approach, and if they don’t work, then somebody has to strap on the bomb suit, and take that Long Walk to go and diffuse the bomb by hand.  It also refers to the Long Walk that every Soldier takes when they deploy to a combat zone, and never know if they will ever come back.  It also means that Soldier’s Long Walk back home, struggling with PTSD and trying to return to some happy state of normalcy again.  Then of course, there is The Long Walk of having to go back and do it again.  Any one of these can ultimately end in The Long Walk that families must face at the grave side, reaching out to hold onto The Flag of the United States folded crisply in triangular form, from a grateful nation—with the tear wrenching shock-wave of the twenty-one gun salute, and the echoing of Taps.

For those of us who have made it back home, Brian does a superb job of demonstrating the need for a release, that search for a solution, a way to succeed and thrive.  I call it the “search for the Holy Grail.”  Like Percival, King Arthur, and the other Knights of the Round Table, we search the ends of the earth for the grail itself, if only to quench our thirst for peace.  Brian finds one way through his running.  It’s like a pressure release valve for him, and for me, so that he can let some of his crazy out, and perhaps be able to sleep for a while that night, and to stay focused and in control enough to function effectively at work, and at home for those whom we love and cherish.   There are many ways, and paths to follow that are out there.  Drugs and destructive behaviors lead only to a dead end.  Instead, find multiple paths.  As a wise 92-year old WW II vet told me, “Find many joys in life.”

For me, my faith is certainly a path to follow.  But like Brian, I also have others.  I started running.  I started putting one foot in front of the other.  I started moving out with a purpose to find a purpose.  I struggled at first, but found myself back in the zone, and sometimes I feel like I’m running on a cloud.  I ran my first marathon to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project and to honor one of my Soldiers who was wounded in battle.  I made it to the finish line.  There was no way I was going to let him down.  There is, of course, the traditional route.  Go to the VA, file your claim, take your meds, talk to your counselor.  I’ve done all that, and still do, but there still is a need for more than that.  Yoga.  That’s working for me too.  It makes me a better runner, more flexible, but also provides a routine, breathing, calming, healing…I joined Team Red, White, & Blue. Hit the easy button.  It’s free to join and you get a free kick*ss T-Shirt.  But you get more than that.  You meet local veterans just like you, and lots of friendly supporters, and you go out there and stay active and social, instead of isolating yourself.  I ran the Tough Mudder with Team RWB and had a blast.  It’s nice to feel part of a team again, part of something bigger than yourself,  and to feel that camaraderie again.  Do it all, just try it.  You will find something that clicks for you—archery, biking, rowing, etc. Like in the Valor Games.  Especially if you are physically disabled and were wounded, I know it’s hard for you to find that release, it’s not like you can just go running.  But there are ways you don’t even know about yet.  My buddy Ben Donovan, he was wounded and walks with a cane.  He can’t run, but he does crossfit, and he tried rowing with Team RWB.  He loved it.  Next thing you know, they say, “Hey, Ben! Come here for a minute.” So he checks it out.  When he looks down, he sees a new sprint row boat.  Painted on the side, Ben Donovan, they named the boat after him! Goose bumps…Now he is a leader too, recruiting more veterans to get out there.  So join. Find many joys in life. Team RWB, WWP, IAVA, VFW, AMVETS, AMERICAN LEGION, TEAM RUBICON, whatever.  Continue to serve again. It feels good.

So I hope you find your Holy Grail.  Keep taking The Long Walk.  Keep stepping out with one foot in front of the other.  Fooorwaaard..March!.


Line of Advance is the digital literary journal for the creative writing of military veterans.  Subscribe today to read the best in veteran writing.


Battle Scars, Boots, Hooves, & A Healing Place

by Jack Erwin

by Jack Erwin

A long and winding road led me to the Promise Equestrian center in Maple Park, IL and I mean that both literally and figuratively.  Josh met me there, and took my kids and me on the dime tour.  I went on a recon to check the place out.  He was thin, lanky, wore blue jeans, cowboy boots, a Carhart jacket and had gloves hanging out of his back pocket.  The place was under renovation.  He had been taking up old linoleum floor tile, knocking out dry wall, cleaning out stalls, caring for the horses- day and night, pretty much every day and every night.  You could see it in his eyes.  He was no stranger to hard work.  His Dad came in a few minutes later. His son was more or less a carbon copy of him.  He wore a black cowboy hat and denim jacket, and took the girls and I to go see the horses.  He’s an Army Veteran, and was an NCO back in the day.  He’s all about taking care of the troops.  They have like 80 horses there.  No kidding.  The place is huge.  You can check out their Facebook page, just search for “Promise Equestrian Center.” Enrique rents out one entire wing, his place is called Monte Cristo.  He trains Spanish horses- dressage is his specialty.  Most other folks are local boarders who rent out stalls for their horses.  This place has the only ¾ mile covered track in the Midwest.  It used to be an old bull breeding facility.  There is now a horse tack store co-located there, Klein’s Tack and Feed, not to mention acres of pasture and trails outside. Needless to say, my daughters loved the horses.  There was one who sticks his tongue out so you could play with it- the kids giggled like they were in Disney World when they saw that.  I liked the redheaded one; Taco was his name.  We seemed to bond almost instantly.  Then of course, my favorites were Chevy and Riley.  Chevy is a twenty-two hundred pound full Percheran and Riley is an eighteen hundred pound Percheron/Thoroughbred mix.  They are built rock solid, like the Incredible Hulk, but gentle and kind as a house cat. Riley would soon become my close friend; that was the point of the whole thing—“Boots and Hooves.”

Within a week, I took off of work to take part in the pilot program of “Boots and Hooves”- an equestrian therapy program for Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and Active Duty/Guard/Reserve service members suffering from PTSD or other injuries.  Oh, and did I mention that spouses, caregivers, and significant others can participate as well? Let me tell you NOW, that’s one of the most important aspects of this whole program.  I should know- my wife already divorced me; she wasn’t there.  So it was too late for a grumpy old Soldier like me to save my marriage, but it’s not too late for you.  They limit the number of Warriors to 10, and the spouses and caregivers form a second group.  In a nutshell, your days start at 0730 and run into the evening for five days.  You start with some barn chores and horse care in the morning.  Then there is a period of instruction with the horses, and team building activities.  After lunch, there are group sessions for the Warriors with a social worker, and a group session for the spouses and caregivers with a social worker.  Then there is time for expressive therapy and art therapy. There is also plenty of time to bond and shoot the breeze with your fellow Veterans.  You participate for free, eat for free, and they put you up in a hotel.  You just have to provide your own transportation.  For the next session, they are working on providing airfare once they find a corporate sponsor.

You are not alone.  There are people who care, and you can be a part of it.  There are 22 Veteran suicides per day.  The IAVA, VFW, AMERICAN LEGION, WOUNDED WARRIORS PROJECT, are “Storming the Hill” in Washington, D.C. to call on Congress and the President to act.  But people at “Boots & Hooves” right here in our own back yard are doing something about it.  You can check out their Facebook page for more info and some nice pictures, search for “Boots and Hooves.”

Much like my first blog about “The Welcome,” it’s a whole community of people who come together.  Matt Ruddick, Gary Kempiak, and Dan Nagel all pooled their funds together to make this happen.  A local fire department showed up to paint, clean, and work like madmen to get everything ready for the first day.  A local church donated a meal, companionship, and time with a service dog.  Local horse owners donated the use of their horses and equipment.  Susan and Peggy donated their time to lead and instruct the veterans in horsemanship.  Susan served as our social worker, and I should mention that her mom died, but she delayed the funeral so that she could be with us.  That says A LOT.  Then there is Andre who drove all the way from Michigan to bring his horses so they could be a part of the program, not to mention taking a week off of work to make it all happen, plus put on a jousting demonstration for us.  Shannon, an active duty Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve, took a week of leave to volunteer her time and participate.  Susan donated the use of her horses.  Pam, Sue, Peggy, and many others donated catered food, labor, their talents, and more all just to reach out with a little love and kindness to us Veterans and our families.  I will tell you- it humbles you and it makes a world of difference…

Oh wait! There’s more.  Massage therapists showed up one evening and gave the Warriors and their caregivers all a ONE HOUR massage, FOR FREE.  They were from The Healing Place in Naperville, owned by U.S. Navy Veteran Dr. Leona Di Amore. She and Samantha are both fabulous ladies who really care.  She provides both chiropractic care and therapy.  Combat veterans are welcome.  Check them out.  Good luck with the happy ending though…I tried, but failed big time!

Big Army heard what was going on, so they sent out SFC Sauret from a Public Affairs unit to check it out.   Like any good NCO, he quickly went about his business, thoroughly interviewing, taking notes, lots of photos, and wrote an article by the next day.  Check out his nice work at  (See “Veterans Corral Horses to take rein of own lives”). He also writes and does photography on his own.  He and others like him need to join us at We could always use a few good men.  And women, you know, female types, too.   Speaking of, I was surprised by the number of female Warriors who participated.  We can’t forget our sisters!  Monikka and Larissa really were sisters, one in the Navy and one in the Army.  Monikka married a British Soldier she met in Afghanistan, and now he needs to come to Boots and Hooves too.  Why not?  He’s one of us.  Shannon is still serving in the Army Reserve, and Susan was a Navy Corpsman who served in the first Gulf War, and is now retired.  Shane, Jeff, and I served in the Army.  Jeff was the quiet one.  He wasn’t ready to share everything with the group yet, but that’s OK.  I was Field Artillery in the Guard, and Shane was a Regular Army infantry sniper.  Does the Korengal Valley sound familiar to you?  Shane knows it quite well, plus Iraq, plus like umpteen other deployments.  He named is newborn son, Blake, after one of his best battle buddies who is no longer with us.  I’ve held him in my arms, and loved every minute of it.  What a great kid! Shane and I are good friends now.  He is a recruiter in Naperville these days, and I’ve been to his house grilling steaks and chugging beers, like battle buddies should.  If we ever get in a bar fight, just remember, Shane’s on my team.  Sorry about your face. Oh, speaking of Dogfaces, there are the jarheads:  Jacob and Obom.  Does USMC Infantry appeal to you? Ever heard of a place called Haditha, Iraq? Obom knows it quite well, he did the right thing despite what happened there, and made us all proud.  In addition to kicking Iraqi’s asses while shot in the leg a few times, Obom did what good NCOs do and kept fighting, leading, and taking care of his troops.  Even after all the bad stuff happened and everything cleared up.  He was the platoon daddy.  Nothing like coming home a war hero and finding out your wife forgot to be faithful.  Sound familiar to anyone? Anyway, Obom is a role model for all of us.  He went through all the bad stuff, combat, got shot, lost his wife, recovery from his physical wounds, PTSD, and was even homeless at one point.  But it’s about getting back up when you are knocked down.  Obom is a happy man now, and is making positive contributions to society every day.  He went back to school and earned his Ph.D.  He fell in love with and married his caregiver, Ana, owns his own business, and wrote a book. It’s called, The Philosophy of Success: A Journey Through Idioms by Obom Bowen.  Check it out; I have an autographed copy.  Then there’s Jacob.  I was worried about him the most.  But I’m not worried anymore thanks to Boots and Hooves.  If you’ve fought a war as a Marine Infantryman and held your best friend in your arms when he died, then you can start to know what Jacob knows.  If you’ve burned bridges with your family and friends when you got back home, personally know someone called a probation officer, feel like you need to self medicate, and just want to say to hell with everything! Then you know my friend, Jacob.  Sound familiar? Well- Jacob has something he didn’t have before- HOPE.  Thanks to Boots and Hooves, each of us has HOPE.  Oh, and did I mention that he now has a JOB, and a PLACE TO STAY, and a FRESH START?  He also has new battle buddies that he knows he can count on, even at 3:00 in the morning.  All he has to do is call one of us.  WE GOT YOUR BACK, JACOB!

Remember the quiet one, Jeff?  Well, he’s from Louisiana, and now we’re Facebook friends.  Jeff shared his private stories with his fellow Warriors late at night.  One day during the week, he needed a break, he couldn’t sleep, it was just too hard and too painful.  You probably already know about the long and painful road to physical recovery, and it’s probably ongoing, just like the road to emotional recovery.  But he came back a day later, and finished the course.  That lucky Son Of a Biscuit has a wonderful wife, Tracie, who is a nurse, and two beautiful children.  Jeff and his family will be coming back for a visit with us.  We’re going to have a little reunion of sorts, in September.  I can’t wait.  We’re going to be there for each other, FOREVER.  ‘Cuz that’s how we roll.

For those of you with ADHD and didn’t get it the first time, what follows is a series of Q and A I had recently with reporter Natalie Juns of the Elburn Herald.  It kind of sums everything up, you know, like Cliff Notes:

How do you think Boots and Hooves impacts veterans for the better? Do they have a different outlook on life after leaving? Does it help them deal with the trauma or pain they might be experiencing after serving?

Boots and Hooves is an awesome program for combat veterans with PTSD and their families.  People are naturally a little fearful of horses at first.  But with training and exposure, you have to face your fears.  This relates directly to facing your PTSD experiences.  However, you are also given an opportunity to bond spiritually and emotionally with the horses, and with each other.  Next, you experience team building exercises involving the horses, a series of seemingly impossible obstacles, and also during this time you break the ice with your military brothers and sisters, set aside differences, and do whatever it takes to “accomplish the mission.” Afterwards, you then conduct After Action Reviews to reflect on these situations not just literally, but also symbolically to your real life traumatic experiences and the aftermath of finding a way to heal and keep moving forward.  You relate directly to the fear, survival instinct, and trust of the horses, and also with each other.  You quickly bond with your “Band of Brothers” again.  This is good, because in the afternoons there are group therapy sessions led by a licensed social worker in small groups of no more than 10 classmates.  The spouses, caregivers, and family members also have their own group at the same time.  That’s when we slowly take turns”facing the dragon” again.  Nobody has to share if they don’t want to.  But when you are ready, you can share your stories, your wounds, your pain, your triumphs, and funny stories.  Sometimes it gets pretty intense and we have to take breaks, other times it’s pretty light and uplifting.  We take turns supporting each other, and being supported.  These are people look you in the eye and say, “I’ve got your back” and you know they mean it and that you can count on them.  There is really only so much we can share with the “civilians.” After a few hours, we transition to art and expressive therapy, to include writing about our experiences.  All of it is very therapeutic. The day continues in the evening with something fun and more time with the horses.  The next thing you know, your horse is your best friend, and so are your “battle buddies.”  So, it’s usually at night when we open up the deepest dark places.  It’s usually only with one or two of the others, the one’s you can really relate to.  You share the sleeplessness, the hyper-vigilance, the nightmares, the rage, the guilt, the confessions, the self-medicating, the destructive behaviors, the lost relationships, the dead friends, the wounded, the carnage, the face of death, the loaded gun– all of that stuff if you want to or need to– but also the need for unconditional love, respect, and forgiveness.  Then there is the gift of knowing you are lucky to still be alive. If you are lucky enough to still have a spouse, then you have a chance to share and grow closer together and focus on each other that week. If you have kids, you can bring them to see the horses and have fun in the evenings or on a weekend.  By the time the week is over, you are just floored by the kindness of complete strangers who volunteered, donated, and came out of the woodwork to show their love and appreciation for you.  The whole community is there in one way or another, and you feel indebted to those who have paid it forward.  You feel hope.  You feel like you have another second chance.  For me, I felt a renewed faith in God, and a kinship with the spirit of the horses.  You wear your dog tag with pride, and you know you can reach out to your “battle buddies” when you need to.  You are not alone.

What is your volunteer role at Boots and Hooves?

I’ve reached out to PROJECT WELCOME HOME TROOPS and they’ve agreed to be a resource for the Warriors after the next session from June 23rd-27th to teach the Warriors their research based breathing therapy and yoga techniques to help mitigate the effects of PTSD.  In the end, you have learned about new tools you can use anytime and anywhere when you need them.  They are graciously doing this for FREE.  Also, I’ve started reaching out and looking for sponsors to help with the $4,000 cost to sponsor each Warrior participant.  I am personally contacting Veterans I’ve served with and who I know really NEED to be here for this and invite them to participate in the Boots and Hooves program.  I plan to perform a support role during each day’s activities, and to participate in the group therapy.  Lastly, I share with the other Veterans the healing power of the pen.  Some Soldier friends of mine that I served with in Afghanistan have launched a webpage called Check it out. I write a blog for them and also have submitted some of my own writing.  We encourage Veterans to write about their experiences in whatever format they choose, poetry, prose, fiction, song lyrics, art, memoirs, short stories, novels, you name it.  We collect these and publish them in a quarterly on-line journal, and also provide assistance to them to become published with the advice and assistance of experts, if they so desire. It is an amazing outlet and window into our lives.

Happy Memorial Day to all of you out there.  I’m remembering on of my fallen, SPC Brent Ortega, by marching in the parade in St. Charles, IL on Memorial Day as part of CARRY THE LOAD and with my local VFW Post.  It’s a way of personally remembering our fallen and making it more meaningful.  Check them out on-line at Who are you carrying?

Lastly, I just ran the TOUGH MUDDER on May 10th with my friends and fellow Veterans from TEAM RED WHITE & BLUE.  Here are some pics for those of you who are too chicken to join us.  Go ahead, I dare ya!  It’s an awesome group aimed at enriching Veterans lives through sports and friendship.  Now, either go pound sand or move out and draw fire! I’m busy! PEACE OUT.

tough mudder

Team Red White and Blue at the Tough Mudder 2014 Chicago. Mike & Blake, Brennan, Nicole, Justin, Jack and Marty. We raised $1,375.00 for the Wounded Warrior Project, mostly due to Marty, Mike, and Blake. Thank you to Jason Dorsey for the awesome pics! and Zack Armstrong for the awesome support. May 10, 2014.

erwin part 2

Anybody got a Fat Tire? Gettin’ kinda thirsty over here!

Line of Advance is the digital literary journal for the creative writing of military veterans.  Subscribe today to read the best in veteran writing.

The Story City

by Erin Diamond

by Erin Diamond

In my family, a good story is king.  When I was a kid, my father used to sit on our front porch with men from our neighborhood, smoke cigars, and tell stories.  Recently, I asked one our our neighbors about those nights.  “Man, we loved hearing your dad’s stories about the army” he said.  “ About when he was in ranger school, and when he was stationed in Germany.  He’s got so many great stories!”  He’s right.  My father’s stories were filled with colorful characters.  When he was in college at Norwich University, he had friends with names like “Panther Piss”.  He was stationed in Germany for years.  He had a German girlfriend named Renata.  He went to something called The Officer’s Club. Continue reading


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