"War is not the answer,
For only love can conquer hate." – Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On”
Traveling back to a place in one’s past is infused with memory, and meeting the memories head-on can be painful, and yet, freeing.
Earlier in July, I set out on a personal pilgrimage back to Yucca Valley, California, sister town to the high desert communities of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms. For many lowcountry residents, Twentynine Palms is familiar territory. The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center is located there.
In July 1990, I moved to southern California from New Orleans to follow my husband, a Marine captain, to his new assignment in the desert. He had just completed a tour in Okinawa. I had just finished an MBA at Tulane. We were reuniting in Yucca Valley. Our reunion was short lived. Just weeks after I moved our belongings from Louisiana to a small rental home, Mac was deployed in what is now known as the First Gulf War. Compared to the present day conflicts and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Desert Storm was a blip on time’s radar screen. For me, it was a period of uncertainty that seemed to drag on for a lifetime as I dealt with the possibility of losing my husband. I was blessed by his safe return home.
In 2006, my husband noticed an announcement in The Boot, the newspaper for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island. A writing seminar, offered free-of-charge to active military, veterans and military family members – active and retired – would be led by Sally Drumm. I met Sally a few months earlier at a poetry reading at the Firehouse – when it was a bookstore. For me, Sally’s background as a writer and teacher made the Milspeak Creative Writing Seminars (MCWS) an inviting opportunity to learn and advance my skills as a novice writer. I signed up.
Milspeak opened doors to begin to process my experience as a military wife. As a result, I have been writing about my time in Yucca Valley for the past three years, culminating in what is currently a one hundred-page manuscript.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, July 23-25, in the Beaufort Performing Arts Center, a very special and free performance by the Rogues & Vacaboundes Players will bring to life the pages of the military anthology, MILSPEAK, in what is being defined as “theater memoir.” Each evening, actors (and writers turned amateur actors!) will be performing the written word. I am privileged to have the opportunity to read an excerpt from a piece I work shopped with Sally.
The stories that will be brought to life in a one-hour performance are real. Writing the military experience is a journey into healing. Sally has created a program that affords people the opportunity to gather up courage, pick up a pen, and share a piece of their life story. She writes, “Milspeak writers, their friends and mentors come together in MILSPEAK to share their understanding of the power of writing to heal wounds of memory and to broaden civilian understanding of military life.”
Spend an hour attending a performance of “Scars on My Heart,” the staged reading of the MILSPEAK anthology. A book signing will follow each performance and proceeds from the sales will be used to distribute copies to deployed service personnel, toward future seminars, and to the Chaplain Helping Hands Fund, which assists wounded warriors from all branches of service with spiritual and financial needs.
Hope to see you there