Veterans' words in poetry

Most people who filled the Angus Bowmer Theatre on Memorial Day to hear veterans recount their experiences were moved to tears.

Veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam and their families used poetry and stories to help the audience understand what they had been through both overseas and at home.

After it was over, many of those audience members contacted event organizers Bill McMillan and Kim Shelton to see if there was a way to get copies of the poems.

Now that powerful, horrifying and poignant poetry has been published in "Voices of Vets: A Bridge Back to the World."

The Seattle-based Mosaic Multicultural Foundation is selling the book for $12.

The poetry in "Voices of Vets" was written this spring when veterans and family members gathered for a retreat at Buckhorn Springs Resort outside Ashland. They shared their poetry and stories on the evening of Memorial Day in the Oregon Shakespeare's Festival's largest theater — which was filled to capacity for The Welcome Home Project event.

Audience members heard from Rory Dunn, who was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He lost an eye, suffered a traumatic brain injury and spent more than a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Although Dunn was never expected to walk or speak again, he walked to the microphone on the theater stage and shared his memories of Iraq.

His mother and father also spoke about hearing the news of his injury and about their time with him and other soldiers at Walter Reed.

In a poem about war and homecoming, Iraq veteran Laura Carpenter said she felt like a piñata, "dangled out to be cracked to the marrow." After she returned to America, strangers would reach out to thank her for her service and shake her hand, but she would check their hands for grenades.

Since that evening, the veterans have continued to share their experiences. Many of the veterans who attended The Welcome Home Projects's Memorial Day event in Ashland spoke again during a ceremony earlier this month at the First Congregational United Church in Portland.

After finishing their organizing work on the Ashland event, McMillan and Shelton have turned their attention to producing and editing a documentary film that includes footage from Memorial Day. They hope it will show the impacts of war on veterans and their families — and also inspire communities across the nation to organize ceremonies for returning veterans, families and the public.

McMillan and Shelton said veteran centers, hospitals and universities have already expressed interest in using the film once it's finished.

To order the book "Voices of Vets: A Bridge Back to the World," call the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation at (206) 935-3665 or visit the Web site

To make a tax-deductible contribution to support the creation of McMillan and Shelton's documentary film, call 482-1072 or visit Their Web site also features samples of poems from the Memorial Day event.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or To post a comment, visit

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