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Deadly Writers Patrol Lifts Vital Voices

By Doug Bradley

A 1960s Georgetown University student, grappling with his Vietnam decision, befriends the daughter of the then president of the Philippines as they consider the murderer at their door; two Iraq female combatants play a mystifying contest of “which part is true?” regarding their harrowing tours of duty; a German-born Vietnam veteran has what he calls a “Dong Ha moment;” an Iranian woman who had a close relative gassed by Saddam Hussein helps a Vietnam veteran reconcile with his son; a mother and son visit the Dachau Concentration Camp in search of the truth…

What do these incidents have to do with the Deadly Writers Patrol magazine?

Everything.

That’s because these powerful experiences are among the more than 30 stories, poems, and memoirs that fill the 96 pages of the latest edition of this unique, veteran-centered publication. Born out of the Vietnam War experience, the Deadly Writers Patrol (DWP) is, according to its mission statement, “interested in writing that looks both outward and inward, grappling with what we were, what we became, and what we might be if we deal honestly with the things we ignored.”

As we are realizing all too dramatically today, America has ignored a great deal, including the service and sacrifice made by members of its Armed Forces and their families. We say “thank you for your service.” We stand and applaud soldiers in airports and at sporting events. But we know nothing about their lives, their experiences, or their stories. And that’s where the Deadly Writers Patrol magazine comes in.

DWP originated as a form of therapy, a way for some Vietnam veterans, through writing, to peel the onion of their Vietnam service in ways that counseling and rap groups and drugs and other therapies couldn’t. And while it didn’t work for everyone, it made a difference in the lives of some. And isn’t saving a few lost souls good enough?

After the funding and the therapists and the support were gone, a core group of us veteran writers, calling ourselves the Deadly Writers Patrol, stuck with it because writing made us whole, made us who we were. That sure was the case for me. The community and rigor of DWP were crucial to my completing DEROS Vietnam: Dispatches from the Air-Conditioned Jungle in 2012, and to my DWP colleague Steve Piotrowski just releasing No Where Man: One Soldiers Journey Home from Vietnam. Neither book would exist without DWP.

Eventually, we members of DWP decided that others needed to read these stories and poems. And that more of our veteran brothers and sisters needed to be writing them. So, we started the Deadly Writers Patrol magazine which has evolved and grown and become something pretty special. But what’s truly distinctive aren’t the graphics or the numbers of submissions or the quality of the writing — all of which are first-rate — but rather it is the verification. The magazine authenticates, and validates, the words of these men and women as a part of the public record.

And that matters. Because today or tomorrow, a young man or woman will stand up and swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against enemies, foreign and domestic,” and they need to know what that means and how it changes you.

Over the course of its 15 years and 17 editions, the Deadly Writers Patrol has lifted the voices of hundreds of veterans, shined a light on numerous experiences, and mended the hearts of countless others. Now more than ever, “we the people” need to know what that takes and why some of us do it.

And what it did to us.

* * *

For more about DWP, or to order a copy, please visit https://www.deadlywriterspatrol.org

(Vietnam veteran Doug Bradley is the author of DEROS Vietnam: Dispatches from the Air-Conditioned Jungle and co-author, with Craig Werner, of We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War which was named best music book of 2015 by Rolling Stone magazine. His latest book, Who’ll Stop the Rain: Respect, Remembrance, and Reconciliation in Post-Vietnam America, was released by Warriors Publishing Group in December 2019.)

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