“I don’t think these pieces are lost on those who haven’t served in the military… Writing and expressing these things has a whole lot more to do with getting through things, using good tools that are there. Expressing is so helpful.”
– John Wall, US Army
SW:S staffer Margaret Bentley was a few minutes into her online Creative Writing session when another participant entered the Zoom room. “Hello everyone, I am John Wall,” he said.
John, a US Army veteran was the first veteran to write a song with us, more than 10 years ago, before we were officially SongwritingWith:Soldiers. He told us early on how much he loved to write. “My battle buddy and I actually shared a journal, taking turns writing in it” He had become a frequent volunteer at retreats over the years, but we hadn’t heard from him in a while. What a surprise to see him join the class!
“I’ve been writing these short vignettes lately,” he said.
“Do you have any you want to read?” Margaret asked.
“I just sent this one to Mary Judd, she thought you all might like to hear it.” He cleared his throat, quieted his little dog, then read:
Instead of the light of dawn, there’s the gray space of sleep,
the time before sleep where the veteran sees the demons
and wishes to stare at the moon instead.
It seems better to just stay awake until
your body makes you fall asleep…
or you can decide to keep drinking,
watch TV and pass out.
The morning light breaks and ground hog day begins again
and again and again.
The warrior’s mind does not seem to rest.
“That piece was written on an anniversary of one of my soldier’s deaths. It is one of my short little pieces I put down on paper. Writing these really allows me to go there, and then be able to go to another active duty or veteran and connect. And, I don’t think these pieces are lost on those who haven’t served in the military, either. Post traumatic stress is something that affects a lot of people. Writing and expressing these things has a whole lot more to do with getting through things, using good tools that are there. Expressing is so helpful.“
Fellow Army veteran Teresa Howes agreed. “Thank you, John. That really resonated. I had one of those nights last night.“
Since the Zoom call, the two veterans have remained in contact, sharing work and feedback with each other, and with others on our private Facebook Group page. The creative sparks keep inspiring countless connections.
John Wall with Margaret Bentley in Texas in 2016.
Photo: Matt Lankes