“And if one of the functions of art is to disturb the status quo, to force us to view the world anew, to consider our capacities to build or tear down, then we welcome those disturbances.” – Donald Anderson, “War, Memory, Imagination”

I don’t know how to tell this story yet because I don’t know how it ends. I don’t know whether we will have built, torn down, or some of each. I don’t know what the end result will be of the conflict I have participated in, have given friends to, have given years of life to, and am still giving, still want to give. I do not yet know how to name it.

I have not written yet of all the mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love, nor of the looks in the eyes that loved the ones lost.

I am not sure I will know how to write it, and I am not sure which is harder: to write that which is mine or that which is not, although the line may be finer than I perceive.

Even as I type the “I,” I can feel the critical or fearful fingers clambering at the backspace key. The uniform is packed away but there is more giving to do. I must open the door to welcome the disturbances, sit down and have tea with my most terrible questions.


Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Namedwell: Synonyms for Self by Farzana Marie. In her submission, Ms. Marie described Namedwell as “vignettes and mini-essays…composed of the raw materials of personal story.” Twelve days after submitting her work, Ms. Marie, a U.S. Air Force veteran (2006-12) and a doctoral student in Middle Eastern literature at the University of Arizona, suffered a massive stroke and fell in Afghanistan. She is now being treated in Arizona, but has so far lost the ability to speak or write, and is challenged cognitively. To find out more about the life of this inspiring young writer, please visit the fundraiser page set up in her honor.

Note on the Photo: ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan (Sept. 20, 2011) – Staff Sgt. Ryan Cooney, a senior squad leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, has a friendly meeting and drinks tea with Yatimake-y Oyla, a local Afghan Local Police commander of Ghane. A year ago this meeting would have been impossible because the village was being heavily intimidated by Taliban insurgents and villagers were afraid to come out of their houses at night. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ruth Pagan, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division PAO)


From Eight Slices of the War in Afghanistan by Farzana Marie

Introduction by Dan Cafaro, Publisher
I: To Merge, To Erase
II: Restrepo: One Slice of the War
III: Inside with an Itch
IV: Enter to Search
V: To Fight
VI: To Find or Be Found
VII: When Language Fails
VIII: Tea with Terrible Questions
Afterword by Dr. Timothy Kirk, Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Ret)