NEA Arts Magazine

Operation Homecoming Headed to Military Bases Around the Country & Abroad

NEA Launches Program at Women in Military Service Memorial in Arlington


Cover of Operation Homecoming booklet

Operation Homecoming booklet is available free from the NEA.

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, a program for U.S. military personnel and their families, was announced to widespread acclaim at an April 20, 2004 news conference that featured participating authors Richard Bausch and McKay Jenkins.

This unique literary program, announced by Chairman Gioia, is aimed at preserving the stories and reflections of American troops who have served our nation on the frontlines in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and stateside defending the homeland. In coordination with all four branches of the Armed Forces and the Department of Defense, the NEA is sponsoring writing workshops for returning troops and their families at military installations from Alaska to Florida, New York to California, and numerous sites in between. The workshops also will be held at overseas bases. Taught by some of America’s most distinguished novelists, poets, historians, and journalists, these workshops will provide service men and women with the opportunity to write about their wartime experiences in a variety of forms—from fiction, verse, and letters to essay, memoir, and personal journal. The visiting writers, many of whom are war veterans themselves, will help the troops share their stories with current and future generations.

Richard Bausch

Richard Bausch is the author of nine novels and five collections of short stories. Photo: Karen Bausch

McKay Jenkins

A former staff writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, McKay Jenkins has written three books and edited a fourth. Photo: Katherine Hinckley

Those who wish to, whether they have attended a workshop or not, may submit their writing to the NEA for possible inclusion in an anthology to be published next year.

“It is impossible to predict what stories will appear in this anthology,” said Chairman Gioia. “Much of it may be personal in importance, for example, a soldier’s or spouse’s attempt to capture and clarify a singularly challenging moment in life. Some of it may rise to literature—vivid accounts of experience that arrest the reader’s attention and linger in the memory. All of it will have historical value as the testimony of men and women who saw the events directly. Operation Homecoming will capture these individual accounts and preserve them for the public record. American letters will be richer for their addition.”

To give the troops a sense of their own capabilities, the NEA has also produced an accompanying audio CD for this program. Moving from a heart-wrenching letter from the Civil War to poems and memoirs about World War II to Vietnam War fiction, the CD explores the variety of literary responses by those who have come through similar experiences.

In addition to the multi-day workshops and audio CD, the NEA will provide an online writing tutorial to help the troops develop their writing skills and access writing resources.

Initial workshops will be held:

  • for Marines at Camp Lejeune, NC, and Camp Pendleton, CA;
  • for Army soldiers at Fort Drum, NY, and Fort Richardson, AK;
  • for Air Force airmen at Hurlburt Field, FL;
  • and for Navy sailors at Norfolk, VA, and San Diego, CA.

The NEA is issuing an open call for literary submissions from active military
personnel, reservists, guard members, and their immediate families. Items may include essays, letters, and other writings related to recent military service. The Web site also will be used to collect submissions. The best writing that emerges from this program will be published in a nationally promoted anthology of wartime writing that will be sold in bookstores and distributed free of charge by the NEA to military installations, schools, and libraries. Operation Homecoming is made possible through the generous support of The Boeing Company.

A selection of books from some of the authors participating in Operation Homecoming:

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy   Airships Ray by Barry Hannah   Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden   In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason



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