It‘s been almost 100 years since the end of World War One (the Great War) and the literature that arose from that conflict remains as influential as ever. One thing that can be said is the poetry birthed out of WW1 has been taught in universities around the world and became masterpieces so profound that most educated people to this day still can remember them from school. Something about this poetry stuck out in society, maybe it was a product of its time where people read the news from a newspaper, or people actually picked up books and read them to acquire knowledge. Reading has become something that eludes people in 2018 if it’s not a meme or a twitter post. People had a desire to learn and be educated about world news, world history, & politics; people wanted to be aware. World War One was a devastating time in world history, many lives were lost for the world to thrive and evolve. So many military advancements came from those losses— tracer rounds, poison gas, air traffic controllers, tanks, aircraft carriers; just to name a few. The list could go on and on, the world never experienced war on that scale. Also from that brutal fighting came astonishing literature that exhibited how intense, terrifying, fierce & gruesome the conflict was. The world was presented with beautiful words from such a harsh environment that most people were taken aback.
A great amount of poetry was produced during this time, and a good amount of it has endured to this day. The poetry is enlightening, it’s appealing, the poetry is earnest, it is dark, the poetry that came from this time is truth. Truth in brutality, truth in horror, truth seen by men who never wished to be apart of it, but fought because in their souls felt it was needed to shield the world of the evil it was plagued by.
The same can be said for the men who have fought in the GWOT- a generation of men mobilized to fight an enemy in which their motives are fanatical & extreme. A generation of men who felt their lives and countries were threatened by extremists who needed to be eradicated. I’ve been to remote fields in Helmand province and I’ve walked in enemy held territory. The feeling is lonesome, the feeling of being completely swarmed at any moment by an invisible bomb somewhere in the ground. Death comes for us all, and in combat, death is as common as the air we breathe. I truly believe there is a connection to the warrior poets from the Great War and the Warrior poets of the GWOT. The wars have been drastically different spanning almost 90 years apart, they are clearly going to be very dissimilar. The casualties are beyond compare, because we all know the great loss felt in the Great War. The GWOT in Afghanistan & Iraq regardless of the motives of politicians and societies view; is our war. It is the war that we fought, it is the war that has had major mental repercussions on the men and woman who have experienced direct combat (like each war before it). It is a forgotten war that society wishes to believe was created by conspiracy or created for wealth gains. No matter what your view is on the matter- a ton of men and women went overseas to foreign lands to fight and pay their dues. I know I enlisted for myself, I was inquisitive of the realities in war. I was intrigued by it, i wanted to experience it, I wanted to feel it, be part of it. It‘s something I wanted to have like some disillusioned trophy of sorts. I truly had no clue what I was doing, I just knew that at the age of 19 I felt it was my duty as an American citizen to enlist like the generations before me. I had no genuine clue I would be patrolling in Afghanistan a couple years later pushing deep into Taliban held AO’s. I had the hopes of deploying to a combat zone initially, and never truly believed we would ever deploy to one, since the U.S. was pulling out of Iraq. Just hopes, i never knew that the U.S. Government had plans for Afghanistan. I found out as time went on that I would get my wish and we would be sent to dangerous areas to fight. Now looking back- I was a naive young boy who romanticized war from growing up watching war films, reading Combat memoirs such as “Helmet for My pillow” & “With The Old Breed”. Growing up hearing stories from distant relatives of valiant men who fought on Iwo Jima, in Normandy, Korea, and Vietnam. I never understood the brutality and viciousness that was ever in store for me. It’s something that I never thought of until I was actually in the Fleet and our Battalion lost its first couple Marines in OEF in late 2008. I Soon realized that this wasn’t a movie, this wasn’t just some job, this wasn’t something that happened regularly. This was shaping up to be our war, a gruesome IED riddled battlefield where month after month our battalion was losing men to KIA and WIA. My friends were coming home with no legs, or they weren’t coming back at all; becoming pink mist and a memory from stepping on an IED. Arriving to Helmand on my first pump I was a combat replacement, replacing men who lost their legs or died in Combat. Our war was real, it had all the makings of any war before it, death, destruction, sorrow, pain, loss, exhausting combat and misery. Death and loss of friends, watching men lose their limbs, stepping on IEDs or getting shot in the face, our war was filled with these attributes daily. Attentive to these men we were, and our knowledge and training was put to the test; under fire trying to stop the bleeding and tourniquet their shattered limbs properly. Stepping on low order IEDs that didn’t fully erupt and spraining our ankles not taking off our legs & shit memories of surviving the blast. Memories of watching friends bleed out, or images replaying of the enemies we killed. Our war was a fierce war, a war fought between young men and a civilization who have been fighting for decades. A war fought for convoluted reasons, a war fought for men who would never dare do it themselves, a war fought because our nation was attacked. Regardless of any of this it was a war where most men came home, a war that has evolved from the wars prior. It was a war nonetheless.
The poetry that has come from the GWOT has a great lineage- it has a beautiful past, it is something the world needs (in my opinion). Warrior Poetry seems to be a lost art form in society, not many Warrior poets have arose from the last 90 years. There are a handful of men who have taken the plunge into this world, a world where there is great history, a world where we can bring insight and perspective to our war. Bringing to light the devastation within the GWOT, this modern day Warrior Poetry is something special, it is something I feel the need to write. I believe that most people living around the world, are numb to the middle eastern conflicts. I write poetry to stray away from the market saturated literature that has come out of the GWOT (linear mission memoirs). Poetry is an elegant way to bring the GWOT experience to the everyday civilians who make up 99% of our society. I write poetry because there is a special bond that history has with poetry. I wrote poetry because it comes natural, I feel as a combat veteran I have a duty to share my story and share my experiences. I write poetry because I was inspired throughout life by the warriors before me. Men who fought against evil, men who answered the call to arms for their nations. Men like John McCrae, Alan Seeger, Rupert Brooke & Ernest Hemingway (who never wanted to be known for Poetry). These men have inspired a new generation of war fighters from the GWOT to begin writing poetry, men like David Rose, Leo Jenkins, Charlie Moose & myself. Men who have been immersed in direct combat on multiple fronts at multiple times throughout the GWOT, but collectively have put pen to paper and have written poetry. Poetry that evokes emotion, reflection of life, pushes the thoughts of the reader to deep dark places where the most horrific memories live. This poetry is poignant, pure, gloomy, inspirational, eye-opening, Violent, and most of all, it is the truth. The truth of our war. The truth that is and was the GWOT we experienced as young men post 9/11. The realities of war live on in our words, in our poems and Stories. Ultimately that’s all I want- for our war, to be told through the eyes of the men who fought it and experienced it. I want our war to be understood from a realistic standpoint, from the foot paths filled with IEDs, to the Fields in which we took direct contact, to the northern hills of Afghanistan to the urban streets of Iraq.
Our war will only be told properly if we do it, it’s our duty now to share our experiences with the world; like the warriors almost 100 years ago.