Wordfest Lifts Up Veterans Who Tell Their Stories

Some of the most celebrated military veteran writers will be in Springfield for Wordfest. At 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28 at Mille’s Cafe, 313 S. Jefferson Ave., We’ll hear from veterans who will read their own poetry and prose, deepening our understanding of military life.

It’s called “Proud to Be at Wordfest: Prose and Poetry of American Veterans.” Admission to the program is free.

Join us for readings by veterans who participated in the 2012 Proud to Be Veterans Creative Writing Contest. Their work is included in the “Proud to Be” anthology published November 2012 by the Warriors Arts Alliance, the Missouri Humanities Council and the Southeast Missouri State University Press.  Authors reading examples of their work include:

            ■ Jay Harden,  a retired Department of Defense cartographer who flew 500 combat hours in Vietnam as a B-52 navigator. An essay about his aircraft won a gold medal at the VA National Creative Arts Festival in 2009 and another poem, “My Mother of All Letters,” was awarded a gold medal in this year’s VA National Creative Arts Festival.

            ■ Fred Rosenblum, a Vietnam war combat veteran who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1967. His first book of poetry, “Hollow Tin Jingles,” based on his experiences in Vietnam, is due to be released in September 2013.

■ Gerardo “Tony” Mena, a decorated Iraqi Freedom veteran, spent six years in Spec Ops with the Reconnaissance Marines and was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal with a V for Valor for bravery under fire. Mena has won several national writing prizes and was named one of the best 50 emerging poets in 2011 for his war poetry.

■ Colin D. Halloran, an Afghanistan combat veteran, English teacher and poet, leads student and teacher workshops on understanding war through poetry. His book of poetry on his war experiences, “Shortly Thereafter,” won the 2012 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award in 2013.

■ Lauren K. Johnson is an Afghanistan veteran and former military public affairs officer. Johnson has won regional and national Department of Defense journalism awards. She is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in nonfiction writing at Emerson College in Boston, where she is completing a memoir about the experience of female soldiers during and after war. Her blog, “UNcamouflaged” (uncamouflaged.blogspot.com), is read by military personnel around the world.  She serves on the editorial board of the literary journal, “Redivider,” and is a Graduate Reading Series curator at Emerson College.