Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

 

Wars are fought on the battlefield, but it is the battles after the war is over that can be the most painful. It is here where the journey for a solider begins. For Matt Gallagher and Roy Scranton, this is precisely the case. Their work, “Fire and Forget,” details the horrors that our veteran soldiers have been through, from a fictional perspective. 

Matt and Roy met through the NYU Veteran’s Writing Workshop, where they felt their work needed to be shared with others. Scranton states: “By sharing our work, we realized there was really something we had, something we’re getting at. We thought we should pull that together and start an anthology, there had to be other people out there who wanted to share our vision.” Thus, the endeavor to find additional creative writers with similar experiences became the underlying priority. Matt and Roy wanted to recruit the best writers out there, as their criteria demanded a diversity of voices, experiences, and artistic approaches. After reading a myriad of stories, they came to choose the best 13 – the ones they felt the book could not do without. In addition, Matt (“And Bugs Don’t Bleed”) and Roy (“Red Steel India”) composed their own fictional work included in the book, for an accumulation of 15 thought provoking, heart wrenching tales.

The title was difficult to come up with at first, but “Fire and Forget” was finally decided on because it epitomizes how many soldiers feel. It is a paradox because on one hand they want to forget what happened, but at the same time it is necessary to make people aware of the circumstances and what transpired in the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gallagher points out, “It’s something that returning veterans need to do, however, that mentality has no place in daily life on the home front. It’s not that simple. You can’t come back and shed that part of your life that easily.” For this reason, soldiers try to embrace what seems like an unfamiliar culture back on the homeland, while there are many memories from war that still consume them.

Fiction is a powerful tool, one that can display various perspectives, rather than be confined to one. Nonfiction can be limited by a single individual, as this type of work is straight forward. Scranton points out, “With fiction, we are in a much more complicated situation, there’s me the writer, you the reader, and then there is the narrator, which creates this external space, as we come to engage these multiple perspectives through the dialogue.” Ironically, this type of fiction can reveal more truth, than nonfiction because it is more in depth and there are multiple angles.

This truth-telling through fiction may be an essential part of getting Americans to once again realize the burdens and atrocities of war. Through these stories, the reader truly embraces the daily struggles of a war veteran, as best they can, without actually knowing what it feels like to serve the country. The dialogue is authentic, as the book uses genuine lingo soldiers would use. Scranton mentions, “Lingo is such an important aspect of military culture- the way it reshapes the individual’s works and how an individual relates to his work: it can have a very startling effect on the reader. It creates an interesting dynamic, the way profanity is being utilized shows a wider culture.” This rhetoric opens the eyes of the reader, and helps the reader become familiar with a different culture. 

Since the military draft has been eradicated, the American people are not as connected as they once were. This is an overwhelming problem, as these stories from veterans hope to revive this connection. “Inevitably, there’s going to be a subculture that develops a disconnect.” Unfortunately, as Gallagher points out, this gives returning veterans feelings of further disconnection, because they are going home, not being able to share their stories or have people understand them.  Gallagher states, “it is a dangerous thing for democracy.” Many fail to realize these soldiers are volunteers, ones given assignments with no say; they just want to help this nation by protecting American freedom. It is easy to forget they are sons and daughters, with names and faces, not just arbitrary people. The book aims to combat this lingering disconnect, as Matt and Roy really want readers to be curious, independently think and most of all to not only be entertained, but changed.

 Matt Gallagher and Roy Scranton will be here on campus Thursday, April 18 at 3:15 p.m. in Philips Autograph Library, with Phil Klay who composed the tremendous short story “Redeployment” and Mariette Kalinowski who wrote the gut wrenching short story “The Train.” They will be reading excerpts from their book “Fire and Forget,” as well as signing copies. This is a perfect opportunity to close the gap of disconnection between the general public and our returning veterans, as we can get acquainted with the men and women, who protect and serve our freedom.

Evan Smith is a third year student majoring in political science with a minor in communications. He can be reached at ES777403@wcupa.edu.

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