How Writing Helped a Vet Reintegrate - And How it Can Help You


My son was only a year old when I left for Afghanistan as an infantryman. When I came home, he was, at best, scared of me. My wife had problems with my return too. I didn’t know why. Maybe because she was used to taking care of everything and now I was home trying to make decisions about the family. Maybe it was because I was too quick to anger. Maybe because I’d get up very early in the morning and circle the house a few times, patrolling all the doors and gates. Only my daughter dealt with our reunion the way I thought she would.  I think she kept the family together that first year. That is a lot for a four year old to do.

IMG_5588But in the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t too bad.  My friend Matt, another soldier in the platoon, was also doing well. He’d gotten married, landed a job in marketing, bought a place. I got job teaching English. Everything was looking up.

The problem was that those buried parts of our deployments still needed to come out. I met up with Matt and we began talking about everything that we were experiencing.  We noticed that odd things were happening--panic attacks, drinking too much, lots of arguments with our wives, and getting startled easily.

Matt and I were trying to remedy the situation. The similarities were eerie and as we reached out to the other guys in our old platoon we found that most of them had similar stories. Some of them were much worse. At least Matt and I had paying jobs and some stability at home.

Matt and I are both writers and that’s why we were friends overseas. We’d share books and talk about writers and music when we spoke late at night on guard duty. We served on a small combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan. There were about fifty Americans and about the same number of Afghan army soldiers.

We occupied the outpost on the side of a mountain overlooking the intersection of three valleys. We patrolled and guarded and protected our little sector of Laghman province. There were almost no creature comforts.

So when there was down time -- precious little there was -- we often took notes, sketches really, of what was happening. I was a squad leader and received all the mission briefs and locations and paperwork documenting what we were doing. All of that went into the footlocker on the way home. We knew, without talking about it, that we’d be writing about our time over there. We’d eventually start documenting it, creating some kind of art from the experience.

And so, this past April, Matt and I were discussing our writing, where it could be published, and discussing where our community is being best served. We decided to start Line of Advance, a non-profit literary magazine for veterans and their families.

Aside from a handful of organizations, we were hard pressed to find the kind of serious, literary outlet that champions the work of our veterans and their families. We think it inevitable that this work is going to start changing American opinion about the last decade and cause our nation to look at itself in a more honest and understanding way.

Line of Advance will live primarily as online content: as a website and e-book issues (Kindle, iOS).  We will publish an annual, printed edition as well.  Authors and artists selected for print publication will receive monetary awards or scholarships to further their writing/artistic development.  We are targeting a November 2013 website launch.

We are currently engaged in an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the website. You can get the complete story by searching Line of Advance here.Also, please like us on Facebook at Line of Advance, from there we will announce dates, changes, and news of the magazine.

We are currently accepting fiction, non-fiction, essay, and poetry submissions. We will ask for other forms of media at a later date. Any US veteran, including family members, is encouraged to submit at chris (at) alineofadvance (dot) org or matt (at) lineofadvance (dot) org.  Please include a small photo for use with publicity.

Chris Lyke grew up in Ohio and was a US army infantryman from '03-'10. He served in Afghanistan and Africa. Chris currently teaches high school English in the Chicago Public Schools.


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