They Were Warriors First

by Matthew Davison

Prose


Sergeant Mackey

by Dwight Jenkins

Poem


Dwell in Hope

by Ben Hawkins

Poem


Dance Little Children

by Dennis O’Brien

Poem


A Place Where Soldiers Go

by Paul Gonzales

Poem


A Knock on the Door

by Diane Wasden

Prose


Broken Life, the Restoration

By Scott Sjostrand, Army

Writing Type: Prose

By Scott Sjostrand

It all began Sept. 27, 1964, when I was born into a dysfunctional, broken Christian home. My dad was my hero but had a severe alcohol problem. Mom was a saint. At around five years old, I remember im coming home drunk at night and him and mom arguing till all hours. I used to cry and pray that God would make them get along.

I’m the oldest child and felt very protective of my mom and brother and sisters. I grew up on a farm, so I learned how to drive straight-sticks at five also. Little did I know how life-saving that would prove starting three years later. I loved school but got very little sleep because of my home situation. At eight years old, instead of pulling dad out of the ditches early every morning, I volunteered to be his personal chauffeur. I drove him to every bar in Kittson County and waited for him after last call” every night like a faithful dog. He called me “Pardner;” I was his wingman.

We would usually get home around 3 a.m., including school nights, I’d usually get around three or four hours of sleep per night, but at least mom and the kids were safe. We never hit the ditch when I was driving in all four seasons. Dad was safe too. 

I graduated with honors from high school in 1983, but I never reached my full potential. Then, off to the U.S. Air Force in 1984. Top-secret security clearance, responsible for weapons of mass destruction. I prayed silently when handling them that those in charge would have enough sense never to use them ever again. I got married to Tracy, a British girl, the love of my life. Things were perfect for about three to four years.  I finish my time in the Air Force and returned home.

Then came Desert Storm. I enlisted in the Army as a psychiatric specialist, which, by the way, was my favorite job, helping people. During my entrance exams to the Army, I took a test.  At that time they said I was the only one they’d ever seen score 100 percent on complex problem-solving. I was glad when that test was done; it was frustrating.

They wanted me to be a linguistics expert. I needed a security clearance higher than top secret but couldn’t get it because I had a foreign-born wife at the time.

The last time I ever saw my wife was the beginning of 1991, when I left for the Army. She left me shortly after that. We got divorced, and it broke my heart. I loved my new career, but I started to increase my drinking and womanizing. Trauma from the past was starting to surface. I kept it all to myself. I did, however, get “Airman of the Month” and “Soldier of the Month” awards.

I first sought help in 1994, at Fort Gordon, Ga. I needed in-patient treatment but didn’t receive it. Next stop, Seoul, South Korea, Hooker Hill. Women and alcohol to the extreme. I earned two Army Achievement medals in 11 months there and a yellow belt in tai kwon do.

My life came crumbling down around me then. Walter Reed Army Medical Center came next. It took months; they honorably retired me with a damaging, inaccurate psych diagnosis leading to horrible forced injections in isolation wards that gave me epileptic seizures. Some almost killed me. Many trips to the emergency rooms.  It took over seven years to correct it.

My former psych diagnosis pretty much discredited anything I had to say. Atrocities were done against me by people who didn’t like me, and they would call me a liar. I was even given electric shock treatment. It was terrifying. I wished I’d never been born. I paid a severe price. 

Every Memorial Day I salute our flag and the POW/MIA flag with tears in my eyes. I can relate. I’m a paid-in-full, 100 percent lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans, but I’m a unique and able American veteran.

I now do creative writing as a therapeutic interest, and I won a few awards. I’m working on publishing my own books. I started a profitable new career from my kitchen table. My sister thinks I should have my biography published. Finally, the future looks bright!

 

This Road I Am On

by David Marchant

Poem


A Knock on the Door

by Diane Wasden

Prose


Just for Today

by Michele Johnson

Poem


The Turret Guard

by Jack Tompkins

Sketch


The Nurses and Staff of My VA Hospital

by Jeffrey Saarela

Poem


Empty

by Michelle Pond

Photograph