I want to use this opportunity to make you all aware of one of WIU’s newest and very important publications, “SITREP: Veteran Perspectives of Combat and Peace.” This publication is authored and edited entirely by veteran students and alumni, along with the help of some amazing faculty members. The term “SITREP” stands for “situation report,” and is given to those radio communications in the military in which a unit gives a brief description of the current status of a mission.
This publication features works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as a few pictures from some of the veterans involved. It is a way for veterans to express themselves and for non-veterans to gain some insight into the community, and to enjoy literary creations.
This year’s issue will be the pub’s second, and the team is very excited to release it. It will be available May 11th, when a public reading reception at the Macomb campus is planned to be held in celebration. If you are interested in obtaining a copy for yourself or someone you know, please feel free to contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep an eye out for the call for submissions next spring, and spread the word to any WIU veteran students or alumni that you know.
I will be including an excerpt from Issue 1 of the publication this week, and next week an excerpt from this year’s issue. I hope you enjoy and plan on checking out the rest of the pub for even more great work from our very own!
A short excerpt from “Broken But Breathing” by Luke Cummings – featured in Veterans’ Voices: Personal Stories of Combat and Peace, 2015:
“He took a deep breath, pulled the door open, and popped around the corner into the hallway, his handgun leading the way. Sweat began to seep from the pores on his forehead, and the rate of his heart increased as he instinctively, methodically cleared the rooms in his duplex. The bathroom was just as he had left it, only the shower curtain was folded and lying on the counter, having lost its supporting partner. The living room was absolutely spotless: no empty Scotch bottles, no chopping knife, no filet of flesh and tattooed skin, and no blood stains. The kitchen was just as clean, and his keys sat on the counter as if nothing had ever happened. When he had checked every corner of every room, including closets, he went to the door that led to his garage. He burst into the one-car space with a violence that would leave most trembling, and was both relieved and confused to see his truck sitting there. He quickly checked the garage to make sure he was alone, then lowered the gun and held it at his side with his right hand.
He leaned against the truck, his forehead resting on the bandaged forearm that lain atop the hood. The sweat that was beaded on his face sporadically dripped to the concrete below, leaving dark, splattered spots that resembled the blood in his memories. His breaths were now deep and controlled as he made an effort to slow down his heart. He hadn’t felt that kind of adrenaline since Fallujah, and it had a peculiar way of making him feel right at home. The gun found its way into the waistband at the back of his blue, athletic shorts, and a tap of the small white button on the wall opened the garage door with an incessant hum and obnoxious squeals. He slowly walked toward the light flooding into the garage, and winced when he saw the rear end of his truck. The bumper and tailgate formed a wide U-shape right in the middle, clearly telling the tale of having met a stubborn tree trunk. His license plate hung by one screw, as if desperate for help, so close to giving up. Groaning aloud, he stroked his short, auburn beard as he chastised himself inaudibly. He stepped out into the driveway and squinted in the late afternoon light, contemplating a neighborhood walk as an attempt to clear his mind.
After stuffing his gun under the mattress, grabbing his keys, and ensuring his duplex was locked, he walked down the driveway and into the street. Directly across from him was a sight that was sure to catch every eye that passed. He stared at the tire tracks ripped into the turf that led to the large oak tree in the yard across from his, and noticed the painfully obvious chunks missing from the tree’s brown, corrugated armor, pale colored scars that clashed with the natural beauty of the oak. Beyond the tree was an immaculate lawn of deep greens and a quaint, white-sided home guarded by beds of wood chips and pink flowered bushes. Flanking the driveway was a flag pole that stood watch over the property, proudly flying two flags, an American flag above a black, POW/MIA flag. He walked past the home, another crack at suppressing his thoughts. He stared at each house as he passed them on his way down the street, all of their perfect yards and undamaged trees screaming at him, calling him ‘liar’ and ‘scum.’ The cul-de-sac at the end of the road tried to force him to return on the opposite side of the street, the same side as the house with the flags. He defied its guidance and crossed back over to retrace his initial path, staring straight ahead the entire time. When he finally came back to the end of his driveway, he couldn’t take another step. His father’s words clawed at his conscience: ‘A man without integrity is no man at all.’
As he walked up the driveway to the home with the flags, he noticed that the small, blue pickup truck in the driveway had a Purple Heart on its license plate, a mark he indignantly refused to get on his own plates. He didn’t know how he’d pay for the damage to their property, he hadn’t had a job since being discharged. Jobs required interaction with people; people were like flies buzzing around his corpse that his dead hands couldn’t swat.”