Fan Mail

Fan Mail June 28, 2012

I made a quick trip to Portland and then the Oregon Coast today. There and back, all in one day. That isn’t something I would normally do but my friend Captain (Soon to be Major) David Moses is in town after three tours of duty — two to Iraq, one to Afghanistan. Captain Moses helped run the command that was the last boots on the ground in Iraq. He’s going to be spending the next few days with us. I’ve arrived home late, late to find the following message from a reader. This is another one of those God Poetry moments I’m always telling you all about. As you prepare for the Fourth of July, you might consider reading After the Flag has been Folded . You might also think about making your own donation to any number of organizations that assist veterans and/or their families. Or refugees like the boy that Captain Moses was:


Dear Karen:

I finished After the Flag is Folded tonight while waiting for my son’s pre-freshmen high school basketball team to take the floor. I was moved on several levels. First, it is an extremely well written and engrossing story. All of you came across the pages as very real (which of course you are)–no easy feat in non-fiction for the majority of readers who don’t know your family. Your story as you shared it was quite compelling.

It also affected me because of the grief aspect. Even though my life has been totally different from yours and your family’s, as a widower with two children I wonder how my kids will process their loss as they get older. Your book certainly gave me a lot to think about.

And then there is what you shared abut your father, the soldier who died in service to his country. I was born in 1959, so I didn’t protest the war, nor was I in danger of being drafted. As I grew up into the proud lefty I am today, one who has participated in countless protests against the Iraq wars, nuclear arms, South Africa, and the military industrial complex in general and was arrested in 1980 for blocking the Post Office in Hartford, CT on the day draft registration went into effect, I have always been ambivalent about soldiers. I’ve read too much about the horrors of war and I will admit I put some of the blame on the regular men and women of the armed forces.

I had always felt it was better to honor the peacemakers than those who went to war. But your powerful story reminded me (or slapped me upside the head) of the truly human aspect to all war. That the men and women who died as soldiers for our country were somebody’s father, son, daughter, wife, husband, etc.

I oppose the death penalty because once these killers were grandchildren etc., but why can’t I extend that mercy to men and women who wore the uniform of our national armed forces? Especially when their service is most often honorable versus the crimes of killers.

While I know intellectually that one can oppose wars and still support the men and women who fight them, support their efforts to stand for something and also pray for them to return safely, your story hit me viscerally. I even made a contribution to the USO today.

A Fan



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  • Gloria

    Strong powerful words. Thank you for continuing to tell the truth in your writing KZ! It will continue to change lives.

  • A65roger

    Dear Fan:
    Thank you very much for writing. I’m especially moved by your words “the truly human aspect to all war”. Yes. It is.

    This year, I hope to once again visit Washington, DC for Veterans’ Day. It will be the 30th anniversary of the Wall. I may never get there again. But something tells me I must go. There is something I must see, someone I must see, something I must write, as the Vietnam generation ages and fades.

    My last visit was 15 years ago. It was my fourth visit to the Wall, my fifth to the National Mall, but my only visit for Veterans’ Day. I spent three days in reflection, observing those around me, writing and taking photographs. Mostly, I wanted to take my own photographs to be used in a multimedia segment of a two-hour play I had written and would stage the following year.

    Something struck me that I had not expected. I had always known in my gut what I had never thought “out loud” in so many words. Until I was there. Vietnam was a quantum shift in our expeirence of war, and the memorials speak to that unmistakably. It began with the Wall itself. Reflective black granite does something white marble is functionally incapable of doing. It opens a window.

    But the Wall is not alone. It is the largest piece of what has become a trilogy. There is the bronze sculpture of the three soldiers. And then there is the Women Veterans of Vietnam Memorial sculpture, the fallen soldier and the three women nurses, one expressing the grief of endlessly trying to snatch one life back from death with nothing more than her heart and her hands.

    Finally I realized. The Vietnam memorials, all three of them together, are the starkest departure from all the other public sculpture and monuments in the area. With no less nobility than the Iwo Jima sculpture, the Vietnam memorials have at last put a human face on war. No galloping steeds with fire breathing nostrils. No eagles with lightning bolts in their talons. No chariots and armor evoking the glory of ancient Greece or the prowess of Rome. Instead, we see the countenances, the hearts and hands of fellow young Americans doing their duty in something entirely beyond human scale, yet completely and fully human in the doing. And in the reflections of the granite, we at last see ourselves as we take their place and our own place in living our nation’s story.

    If you’ve never been, I hope you visit the Wall in Washington, DC. I hope over Veterans’ Day. I hope it’s a clear, crisp autumn evening after the flowers, the ribbons and the artifacts, the handmade cards have been left at the Wall. As the dim lights come on and you walk past the silent stone, it will be like entering the grandest cathedral of stained glass windows with all their brilliant color. Actually, I think, one does exactly that. I think it is that: Sacred human space. Sanctuary.

    Thank you for reading Karen’s book. Thank you for recognizing the truly human aspect of this. Here’s a gift for you from Veterans’ in DC 15 years ago.

    A Time of Changing Leaves

    In a time of changng leaves
    In a time of leaves that bleed the colors
    of the seasons all
    We pass and place our fingertips into
    familiar spellings on the Wall
    of those whose journey passed it outer marker just
    just a little sooner than our own
    In a time of changing leaves.

    In a time of changing leaves
    In a time of leaves that shed their passing
    quietly upon the earth once more
    We are again confronted by
    the passing of ourselves
    even the passing of our passing.

    Whose familiar letters?
    Whose the names well worn into our hearts?
    And whose the memories that rain again into the earth,
    one by one, day by day, year by year,
    now in a time of changing leaves?

    One day
    No one shall come here who has ever heard the voice
    of any upon these sacred walls
    And yet, they shall keep coming
    to pause and to pray in passing
    When all have taken their turn in passing quietly
    into a time of changing leaves.

    Thank you. R.

    • A65roger

      And Fan, blessings and prayers to you and your children. May community and hope surround you.