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Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience

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Sharon D. Allen

Sharon D. Allen

Sharon D. Allen was born in Miami, Florida and grew up in Cincinnati, OH.  At the age of 22, she enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard. While trained as a fueler, she worked as a mechanic in the 191st Engineer Company in Columbus OH, where she won Soldier of the Year of the 512th Battalion in 2001 and 2003, and Soldier of the Year of the 16th Brigade in 2001.  In 2004, she was mobilized to Iraq with the 216th Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy) (and soon realized that being in fuel truck with the word FLAMMABLE on the side may not have been a wise career choice).  While in Iraq she also received training to become a heavy equipment operator. Her platoon traveled around Iraq building or improving Forward Operating Bases and police stations.  She wrote a book, 100 Things I Learned in Iraq: Lesson 55, Try Not to be Outside When a Chinook Lands, which is not yet published, but can be glimpsed from her web site.  She now lives in Chicago, where she works as a mechanic.  She continues to write and is working on a second book, Memoirs of a Not-Famous Person

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Colby Buzzell

Colby Buzzell

Colby Buzzell, author of Men In Black, is a 28-year-old California native.  Before joining the army at age 25, he worked several dead end jobs, drank heavily and had a minor criminal record.  He enlisted in the army determined to turn his life around.  He was in Iraq most of 2003 and was assigned to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team as an army specialist. He was stationed in Mosul.  Buzzell began an anonymous blog after reading an LA Times articles about the growing number of soldiers blogging about the war.  As an anonymous soldier, Buzzell was able to share more candid experiences than an embedded journalist.  His blog became very popular with readers and the news media. After about a month of blogging, his Commanders caught on and ordered him to have his writings reviewed by an officer before they went online.  Buzzell stopped blogging.  He published a book on his war experiences entitled My War.  Esquire magazine also published two of Buzzell’s writings.  He now lives in Silverlake CA.

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Paul Fussell

Paul Fussell

Paul Fussell was born March 22, 1924, in Pasadena, California, USA.  He is a cultural and literary historian, and professor emeritus of English literature of the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of books on eighteenth-century English literature, the world wars, and social class, among others.  Fussell was drafted into the Army in 1943, at age 19. In October 1944 he landed in France, as part of the U.S. 103rd Infantry Division. On November 11th, he experienced his first night on the front lines. He was wounded while fighting in France as a second lieutenant. Fussell suffered from depression and rage for years following his military service. In his 1996 autobiography he associated this condition with the dehumanization of his military service and his anger at the way the United States government and popular culture romanticized warfare. He spent his undergraduate years at Pomona College, and earned a Ph.D. at Harvard University. He has taught at Connecticut College, Rutgers University, the University of Heidelberg, King's College London, and the University of Pennsylvania. He retired from teaching in the mid-1990s. Fussell's 1975 literary study The Great War and Modern Memory (1975) won the National Book Award for Arts and Letters, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of Phi Beta Kappa. Fussell now lives in Philadelphia, with his second wife, Harriette Behringer.

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Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman was born in Oklahoma City in 1943, and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. The recipient of a B.S. in Astronomy from the University of Maryland and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Iowa, he served in the U.S. Army from 1967-1969 as a combat engineer. Stationed in the central Vietnam highlands, he was severely injured and received the Purple Heart. His first novel, War Year (1972), which draws from his own wartime diary, follows Private John Farmer through a year of service in Vietnam. Haldeman turned to science fiction for his second novel, The Forever War (1975), about galactic soldiers in combat and the difficulties they face in their preparations to return to an Earth that has aged thousands of years while they have aged only a few. The Forever War received the two most prestigious science fiction honors, the Hugo and Nebula awards. Since then, Haldeman has written more than 15 books, including Mindbridge (1976), All My Sins Remembered (1977), World Without End: A Star Trek Novel (1979), The Hemingway Hoax (1990), 1968: A Novel (1994), Forever Peace (1997), Forever Free (1999), and Guardian (2002). He divides his time between Gainesville, Florida, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is an adjunct professor in the Writing and Humanistic Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

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Edward ‘Parker’ Gyokeres

Edward ‘Parker’ Gyokeres

Edward ‘Parker’ Gyokeres, author of Camp Muckamungus, was born in 1973 and raised in Howell, Michigan.   Active in youth ministry, vocal arts and mischief, he graduated from Howell High School in 1992 and immediately joined the United States Air Force.   His military service has taken him around the world and has included tours of duty at Lowry AFB, Colorado; Langley AFB, Virginia; Shaw AFB, S.C.; and overseas at Kunsan AB, ROK.   He has also had five deployments to Nellis AFB in Las Vegas.  His most recent deployment at Tallil AB, An Nasiriyah, Iraq was the inspiration for these writings.  The author follows his family’s long tradition of military service. He has ancestors who have served our country in every conflict since the defense of Jamestown in 1607.  Parker’s brother Zachary is also a SSgt. in the US Air Force, serving as a MH-60G Pave Hawk Flight Engineer in Japan and recently returned from Afghanistan. In the summer of 2006 he was awarded a  cross training into  the public affairs career field.  TSgt  Gyokeres graduated from  the Defense information School in November of  2006 as a Public Affairs  Specialist. He is now a military journalist stationed at Moody AFB in Valdosta Ga.   He lives in Panama City, Florida with his wife, Tina, their nephew Shawn, and their two dogs and two cats.

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Sangjoon (Simon) Han

Sangjoon (Simon) Han

Sangjoon (Simon) Han, author of Aftermath. was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up in New York.  He served from 2002 to 2006 in the United States Army as a field artillery officer.  He was a Second Lieutenant when he deployed in 2003 to Iraq, where he was stationed at LSA Anaconda and CSC Cedar II.  Sangjoon Han attended Stuyvesant High School, Dartmouth College, and the Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He currently attends Columbia Law School in New York City.

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Ed Hrivnak

Ed Hrivnak

Ed Hrivnak, author of Medevac Missions, is a professional Firefighter and Registered Nurse in the State of Washington.  Ed has 20 years of service in the Active Duty and Reserve Air Force.  A veteran of the first Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Hrivnak also participated in peacekeeping missions supporting in Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia. Combining his military and civilian flying career, the author has logged over 3200 flight hours on 20 different types of aircraft. His piece was inspired by his time serving on flights that brought wounded soldiers from Iraq to Germany. 

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Yusef Komunyakaa

Yusef Komunyakaa

Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, in 1947. His writing career began in 1969 when he was sent to Vietnam, where he was a soldier for the US Army, and a correspondent and editor of the military's newspaper, The Southern Cross. After leaving the army he earned a BA and MA at universities in Colorado and later earned an M.F.A. from UC Irvine in 1980.  Since then he has produced ten volumes of poetry and co-edited two anthologies, as well as winning a host of fellowships and awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems (1993). He has written the following collections and books: Toys in a Field (1986), Dien Cai Dau (1988), Magic City (1992), Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems (1993), Ploughshares Spring 1997: Poems and Stories (1997), Thieves of Paradise (1998), Blue Notes: Essays, Interviews, and Commentaries (2000), Talking Dirty to the Gods: Poems (2001), Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems (2004), Taboo: the Wishbone Trilogy (2004), Gilgamesh: A Verse Play (2006), Lost in the Bonewheel Factory (2006). Currently he teaches at NYU University in the Creative Writing program. Some of his poems are posted on www.poets.org.

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Jack Lewis

Jack Lewis

Jack Lewis, author of Roadwork, Jack Lewis was born in Portland, Oregon in 1964.  Since then, he has collected two sisters, one brother, three stepsisters, and five stepbrothers, along with a number of fine parents, two lovely former wives and the summit of his existence: a teenaged daughter who now knows everything and can keep him informed.  Twenty years ago, he was a private in Korea, but he took a few years off from the army.  Prior to serving a tour in Iraq as a PSYOP team sergeant for an activated Army Reserve detachment, Jack worked in news reporting, telecommunications infrastructure, general contracting, and hardware sales.  Jack has been honorably discharged and currently lives near Seattle.  He is finishing a memoir of his experiences.

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John McCary

John McCary

John McCary, author of To the Fallen, was raised in Nashville, TN and around North Carolina.  He graduated from Vassar College in 1998 with a degree in French.  He enlisted as an Arabic interrogator in 2000.  He deployed as a Sergeant in September 2003 with Task Force 1-34 of  the 1st Infantry Division to Habbaniyah, Iraq, just outside Fallujah.  John conducted a mix of tactical operations and interrogations.  He was awarded a Bronze Star.  John wrote To the Fallen as an e-mail to friends and family after attending a funeral for several soldiers from his unit in January 2004.  He returned home in September of 2004 and was honorably discharged from the Army in April 2005.  He currently lives in Washington DC.

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Tim O’Brien

Tim O’Brien

Tim O’Brien was born in Minnesota in 1946.  He earned his B.A. in Political Science from McAlester College in 1968.  That same year, he was drafted into the infantry and was sent to Vietnam, where he served from 1969 to 1970.  He served in the American Division, infamous for it’s participation in the My Lai massacre.  Upon completing his tour of duty, O’Brien went on to graduate school at Harvard and received an internship at the Washington Post.  His writing career was launched in 1973 with the release of, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Send Me Home, about his war experiences. One attribute unique to O'Brien's work is the blur between fiction and reality, which he himself discusses in The Things They Carried (1990), mentioned in May 2006 as one of the best novels of the past 25 years, especially in the section titled How to Tell a True War Story. Often, what is written is not what really happened, but what "should have happened," as he states. He calls this "story truth," as distinct from "happening truth."  O’Brien has also written the following other books: Northern Lights (1975), Going After Cacciato (1978), The Nuclear Age (1985), In the Lake of the Woods (1994), Twinkle, Twinkle (1994), Tomcat in Love (1998), July, July (2002).

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James Salter

James Salter

James Salter was born in 1926 and raised in New York City. After graduating from West Point in 1945, he entered the U.S. Army Air Force and served as a fighter pilot, flying more than one hundred combat missions during the Korean War.  He was credited with 1.5 MiG victories. Following the publication of his first novel in 1957, Salter resigned his commission. He has earned his living as a writer ever since. He is the father of four children and divides his time between Aspen, Colorado and Bridgehampton, New York.  Salter has written the following books: The Hunter (1957), The Arm of Flesh (1961), A Sport and a Pastime (1967), Light Years (1975), Solo Faces (1979), Burning Days (1997), Gods of Tin (2004); the screenplay Downhill Racer; and Dusk and Other Stories, a collection of short fiction that won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1989. He has been awarded a grant from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

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Lieutenant Colonel Michael (Mike) Strobl

Lieutenant Colonel Michael (Mike) Strobl

Lieutenant Colonel Michael (Mike) Strobl, author of Taking Chance,  is from Grand Junction, Colorado.  He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1983.  He is a field artilleryman and has served in all three active duty Marine divisions.  He has deployed to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf region with the 13th and 15th Marine Expeditionary Units and he participated in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm as part of the 1st Marine Division.   He is currently assigned to Headquarters, United States Marine Corps; Manpower and Reserve Affairs.  He wrote Taking Chance while serving with the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Virginia  in April 2004.

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Anthony Swofford

Anthony Swofford

Anthony Swofford was born in Fairfield, California in 1970. He joined the US Marine Corps in 1988 when he was 18.  He became a lance corporal in the US Marine Corps scout/sniper platoon.  In 1990, he was deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield.  He stayed until the war ended in March of 1991.  His book, Jarhead (2003), is based on his accounts of various situations he encountered in the first Gulf War.  After the war, he was educated at a community college in Sacramento and then at UC Davis, where he received a B.A. in English.  He received a M.A. at the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop.  He was an English professor at St. Mary’s College in California and then Lewis and Clark College, until he sold the film rights to the Jarhead movie.  Swofford’s fiction and nonfiction books have appeared in The NY Times, Harper’s, Men’s Journal, The Iowa Review, etc.  Swofford recently wrote the book, Exit A: A Novel.  He is a Michener-Copernicus Fellowship recipient.  He lives in New York.   

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Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas was stationed in Baghdad in 2003 with the 220th Military Police Company, 220th MP Brigade, which was attached to the Colorado National Guard. Thomas had been raised in a family with strong roots in the military; his father had been a first sergeant in the Army, his uncle was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, and his stepmother was an Army recruiter. Originally from Alabama, Ssgt. Michael Thomas joined the Army right after high school. After traveling to all corners of the world, he put down roots in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Thomas now works for a city electric department and serves with the Colorado National Guards. He and his wife Wendy have a daughter, Gracie, and are expecting their second child in 2007. 

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Brian Turner

Brian Turner

Brian Turner, author of Here, Bullet, What Every Soldier Should Know, and Ashbah, was born in Visalia, California, in 1967.  He earned an MFA from the University of Oregon before serving for seven years in the US Army.  He was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.  Prior to that, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division (1999-2000).  His poetry has been published in Poetry Daily, The Georgia Review, American War Poems: An Anthology, and in the Voices in Wartime Anthology published in conjunction with the feature-length documentary film of the same name.  He currently lives in California, currently teaching English part-time at Fresno City College and travels the country reading from his book Here, Bullet.

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Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff was born in Alabama in 1945. He attended the Hill School in Pennsylvania until he was expelled for repeated failures in mathematics in his final year.  He then joined the Army. He spent four years as a paratrooper, including a tour in Vietnam. Following his discharge he attended Oxford University in England, where he received a First Class Honors degree in English in 1972. Returning to the United States, he worked variously as a reporter, a teacher, a night watchman and a waiter before receiving a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University in 1975. Wolff’s books include the memoirs This Boy’s Life and In Pharaoh’s Army; the short novel The Barracks Thief; three collections of stories, In The Garden of the North American Martyrs, Back in the World, and The Night in Question; and, most recently, the novel Old School. He has also edited several anthologies, among them Best American Short Stories; A Doctor’s Visit: The Short Stories of Anton Chekhov, and The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Stories. His work is translated widely and has received numerous awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Rea Award for Excellence in the Short Story, and the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Wolff is the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, where he has taught classes in English and creative writing since 1997. He also served as the director of the Creative Writing Program at Stanford from 2000 to 2002. Prior to his current appointment at Stanford, Wolff taught for some time at Syracuse University.

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