--Sgt. Jack Lewis, “Road Work”
American soldiers fighting in the Middle East recount their experiences in fiction, poems, memoirs, and letters.
This special SELECTED SHORTS features works drawn from the remarkable volume "Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families." Published by Random House, and edited by Andrew Carroll, the book is the result of hundreds of writing workshops conducted with soldiers all over the globe. The writing project was created by the National Endowment for the Arts, for, as NEA chairman Dana Gioia tells us in his introduction, “humanitarian, historical, and literary” reasons. The book may be the first documenting a war as it is still underway, in the words not of “politicians or pundits” (Gioia again) but ordinary men and women pushed to extraordinary insights by the weight of their experiences.
The selections here range from simple tributes to the range of people carrying this burden (“A Quick Look at Who Is Fighting This War,” by Capt. Ryan Kelly) to hilarious depictions of camp life (“Camp Muckamungus,” by Staff Sgt. Park Gyokeres) to a wrenching story about love and loss at the simplest level (“Safekeeping,” by Commander Kathleen Toomey Jabs.) The human connections made by these clashing cultures are acknowledged by Staff Sgt. Jack Lewis (in “Road Work”) and Specialist Ross Cohen (“Khost-Gardez), while poems reflect on the bonds of soldiers and the almost inhuman beauty of the desert. Finally, Lt. Col. Chris Cohoes simply writes home, telling his sons that he finds it odd to be fighting, in the cradle of “civilization.”
For these remarkable works, a remarkable ensemble cast was needed: Host Isaiah Sheffer is joined by Oscar nominee and Tony Award-winner Joan Allen ("Nixon," "Burn This," "The Marriage or Bette & Boo," "The Ice Storm"); Chris Chalk ("Defiance," Children of Herakles," "Rent," "Six Degrees," "Law & Order"); Stephen Lang, who has been performing his one man show "Beyond Glory" for thousands of U.S. Troops, and who conducted a number of the writing workshops from which "Operation Homecoming" is derived; and Matthew Modine ("Married to the Mob," "And The Band Played On," "Full Metal Jacket").
Selections from Operation Homecoming: Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families, edited by Andrew Carroll.
For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please visit Symphony Space