by David Tucker
I became involved with the WGI Writers Workshops through pure happenstance. In 2000, I was working in professional theater at the Pasadena Playhouse when playwright/screenwriter Warren Leight and I had an opportunity to work together. I was also getting ready to deploy to Kosovo as an officer in a U.S. Army Reserve unit. When Warren was invited but couldn’t participate in the newly-formed WGI Writers Workshop, he recommended me since I was both a writer and (now-retired) soldier. I readily accepted the invitation and was a writing mentor for the very first workshop held in 2008 in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve participated in nearly every workshop since.
There are so many incredible moments I’ve been lucky to experience during these workshops. As a vet of the Iraq War, I particularly love working with fellow vets because there is a brotherhood shared between those who have been “in the sandbox,” a brotherhood that spans generation, race, gender and ethnicity. Though our uniforms may look similar, every Soldier/Airman/Sailor/Marine experiences war differently. And those differences are what make each story unique.
Some of the most vivid stories I remember are those written not about war, but about life before or after combat: the Marine who, a month after coming back, found himself going to jail time and time again until he rediscovered the man he once was and turned his life around for himself and his family; the Soldier who created a sisterhood in the bond of fellow wounded female soldiers that remains to this day; the Sailor who discovers joy in every single day despite life’s challenges.
I know what it means to put down on paper the experiences of war – the moments of heartache, of beauty, of kinship, of sacrifice. Like a lot of soldiers, I didn’t feel comfortable talking about what I saw, what I felt, what I lived through, and what I carry within to this day. Writing about those moments gave me a different perspective. By searching for and crafting words that explain the intangibles of combat and of life, I discovered for myself a way to not only share those experiences but also navigate my way across that emotional landscape – to be able to look back from where I’ve come so I can better understand where I’m going.
That’s the opportunity these workshops give our wounded warriors: a way to express, to communicate, to explore and to discover. The stories they write aren’t merely of war – they are stories of life, of survival, of possibility.
We at WGI simply help give them the tools to create those stories.
David Tucker in Baghdad