Thursday, May 22, 2014
Today I released my first 'book' with Visionary Press Collaborative. It's a short story entitled Panel 35. The panel 35 it's referring to is the 35th panel of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington DC. I'm sure we are all familiar with it in one way or another. I have been three times and have seen countless tour groups and kids on field trips. It's a meaningful place to me. A place that holds the names of many friends of my father, distant relatives of mine, and thousands upon thousands of brave men and woman. Because of my father I feel a connection to it. I only wish I had been able to bring him just one time.
I wrote this short story mainly to honor my father. And to remind people that Memorial Day is more than barbeques and the start of summer. It's to honor those who have fallen in service to our country. Not just those who fell on the battle field, but those who might have fallen on hard times, fallen into ill health, or just fallen to the demands of everyday life. I learned from my father assimilating back into this country can be hard, when you have seen the atrocious scenes of war first hand. No one comes out unscathed.
I lost my father fifteen years ago to cancer. But really I lost him long before that. Maybe even before I was born. I lost him when the doctor at the veteran's hospital told him and my mom that he 'wasn't depressed, just lazy. Flashbacks were nothing to worry about. It's normal to wake up with your hands around your wife's neck.' I lost him when alcohol deepened his depression and cut him off from us. I lost him when my mother couldn't keep her family together. I lost him when PTSD wasn't a diagnosis in a book.
But ironically the cancer I hated gave him back to me. He got sober. He got help. It gave me two years, the best two years we ever had, to know him in my adult life. In the end I knew him better than I ever had before. maybe better than anyone. That's where Panel 35 comes from. It comes from that place deep inside where ghosts can be the living, and forgiveness can be a gift from the one you're forgiving.
The 35th panel of the wall holds the names of soldiers that died during 1967, the year my father was in country. The whole wall always tends to be a religious experience for me. The stories my dad told me in the end tare at my heart. And I promised I wouldn't let people forget. It's time for me to finally explore those stories, and I will, through Blake's character.
Before we judge the homeless, or scoff at the plight of veterans, think a little. Think of what these men, and woman, have gone through. I think of my generation being that last one that can carry on the torch of the Vietnam Veterans, but I also think of my children's generation, and the wars their uncle has fought in. Just as misguided as Vietnam. But soldiers head into harms way so we may sleep at night. No matter what political side you fall on, you can agree that that they need help. That we don't do enough. That countless lives have been scared.
This Memorial Day thank a veteran. Visit the cemetery. Raise a flag. Think of that freedom. There are plenty of opportunities to show support. Any profits from my story Panel 35 this week will be donated to the Central Massachusetts Shelter For Homeless Veterans. You can check out their link here: http://www.veteransinc.org/services/housing-programs/sites/
You can find Panel 35 here: