Veterans read their work from 'Proud to Be' anthology

Thursday, March 13, 2014 | 10:00 p.m. CDT
Veterans read excerpts from "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors" on Thursday.

COLUMBIA — Tears came to Jay Harden's eyes Thursday when he began to describe the "mistress" he took while serving the Air Force in Vietnam.

She was big, she was cold and she held a couple thousand pounds of explosives.

She was his Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, "but I just called her Six Six Eight Nine," he said.

Harden was one of three veterans to read an excerpt from "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Volume 2," an anthology of essays, fiction and poetry written by veterans and their families.

Gerardo "Tony" Mena of Columbia, who spent six years with the Marine's Special Operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom and is working toward his master of fine arts in poetry at MU, read part of his essay, "How to Build a War Hero."

"My most cherished hieroglyphs are the scars that reside above each hip; the skin looking as if someone had ran it through a cheese grater," he read. "The night I earned these was the night I was reborn."

Charles H. Brown, a veteran of the Vietnam War, read from his poem, "Long Days' Journey into Light."

Susan Swartwout, the publisher at the Southeast Missouri State University Press, said she published the book to give veterans a place to tell their stories.

She's planning a third anthology, and the deadline for submissions is June 1. The Missouri Humanities Council plans to continue creating anthologies as long as there is an interest.

The State Historical Society of Missouri, MU Veterans Center, Missouri Humanities Council, MU Army ROTC and Southeast Missouri University Press sponsored Thursday's reading in Stotler Lounge.

Supervising editor is Adam Aton.

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