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Proud To Be Podcast  

The Proud To Be Podcast highlights veterans, military personnel, and family members published in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors—a creative writing anthology that preserves and shares our nation’s military experience through poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and photography.

The podcast features interviews with PTB contributors from all over the nation as we discover their military affiliation and real-life stories behind their PTB contributions. 

Available on all podcast apps. Click the button below to find your preferred platform. New episodes will be released on the last Thursday of every month. Don’t forget to listen, rate, & subscribe!

Please note: Listener discretion is advised. Some of the episodes address difficult topics and may include strong language. If you are in crisis and need to speak with a Veterans Crisis Responder, please call 1-800-273-8255.

Episode Nine: Jarrod L. Taylor

Jarrod Taylor is a combat veteran and served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army from 2000-2009. He completed four deployments, including tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2013, he received a Bachelor of Arts in History with Secondary Teacher Certification from Eastern Illinois University, and now has a Master of Arts in Education and an Education Specialist Degree from University of the Cumberlands. Jarrod has taught middle school history and high school English and social studies.

In this episode, we learn how military service has impacted Jarrod’s life and how his students respond when finding out he is a veteran. We discover how a journal he carried during service, a class called, “War Stories,” and a music video called, “Sadr City” have all led him down a path of writing about his military experiences. Tune in as we discuss the significance of “Section 60” and the mysterious “woman in blue.”  

In this segment, Jarrod reads the following excerpts from Proud to Be:

“Escort” from PTB, Volume 2
“Section 60” from PTB, Volume 5

Episode Eight: Kent & Stacey Walker

Husband-and-wife duo, Kent and Stacey Walker, both hold MFAs in writing and team-teach Veterans Writing Workshops for Missouri Humanities. Kent was a sergeant in the 3rd Infantry Division of the Army and completed two tours in Iraq. His wife, Stacey, is a lecturer at University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis Community College, and Jefferson College.

In this episode, we hear about Kent’s experience as a M240 gunner, the preparation of his unit leading up to the 2003 invasion into Baghdad, and the process of writing about his wartime experience. We learn from Stacey how her family inspired her to write about connection, relationships, and identity. Kent & Stacey reveal their “meet cute” and discuss how writing, storytelling, teaching, and therapy have been influential and healing parts of their relationship. In this conversation we are left with the concept of “living life one page a day.”

In this segment, Kent reads his poem, “Gun Baby” and Stacey reads her poem, “Grace in War.” Both poems are published in PTB, Volume 5. 

Episode Seven: Billy Jenkins

Billy Jenkins is a Pittsburgh-based writer and a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he retired as a Sergeant Major. He is a City of Pittsburgh Firefighter with over 22 years of service. In 2015, he earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University. In addition to writing, Billy is an actor and has appeared on TV, in movies, and on stage.

In this episode, we learn what drew Billy to service at the age of 17, about his 2003 deployment following 9-11, how a conversation over MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) inspired him to pursue writing, and how his writings speak to the memory of his father and his own military experience. We also discuss the expectations of “the eve of” a thing, his “Barney-style” of writing, on being a “spork”, the collaboration of veterans and the arts, and the benefits from acting vs. writing.

In this segment, Billy reads the following excerpts from Proud to Be:

“Going Home” from PTB, Volume 6
“The Night Before” from PTB, Volume 10

Episode Six: Ben White

Ben White is an author and professor. As he was serving his 22-year military career in the US Army and the US Coast Guard, and then again while earning his MFA from the University of Tampa, Ben thought he was a poet. He has since discovered he is not a poet at all, but rather a witness—and what he writes is testimony.

In this episode, we learn how this Kentucky boy became a “Cold War Warrior” serving overseas in Germany, as well as the impact his military experience and Kentucky roots have had on his writing. We also discuss his honest approach to writing, putting his military education funding to good use, being commanded by Vietnam veterans, the influence of other war writers, and the lasting impression of Nena’s song, 99 Red Balloons.

 

In this segment, Ben reads the following excerpts from Proud to Be:

“Cold Warriors” from PTB, Volume 6
“Recordings for Later Listening: Lost Rounds” from PTB, Volume 7
“Memorial Thoughts” from PTB, Volume 10

Episode Five: Valerie Young
Valerie Young is a veteran of the United States Armed Forces. She served approximately ten years, with a deployment to Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. She is a loving mother of two, an aspiring writer, and a servant leader in her community who is passionate about her personal growth and expressing herself through poetry.
 
In this episode, Valerie speaks openly about trauma, addiction, and rehabilitation associated with the aftermath of serving in a war and a natural disaster. We discuss the necessity of addressing stigma around veterans with PTSD, embracing support systems for recovery, community service, and advocating for mental health awareness through her poetry—both on paper and on the stage.
 

In this segment, Valerie reads the following excerpts from Proud to Be:

“To My Fellow Vets” from PTB, Volume 3
“A Soldier’s Bottle” from PTB, Volume 5
“Suffer In Silence” from PTB, Volume 10

Episode Four: Randy “Sherpa” Brown

Randy Brown is a former citizen-soldier, poet, and secret blogger. In 2011, he embedded with his former Iowa Army National Guard unit as a civilian journalist in Afghanistan. He is the author of the award-winning poetry collection, “Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire.” Randy has been published in nine of the ten volumes of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors.

In this episode, we learn how Randy merged his military communication and journalism skills as a technical writer and blogger, incorporates army jargon and humor into his writing, and expresses his military experience in the form of haiku. We discuss the concept of “poetry of witness,” the connectedness of the war-writing community, and engaging in meaningful conversation beyond the phrase, “Thank you for your service.” Randy even reveals the story behind his pseudonym, “Charlie Sherpa.”

In this segment, Randy reads the following excerpts from Proud to Be:

“what sacrifice has been” from PTB, Volume 1
“a Radio-Telephone Operator writes haiku” from PTB, Volume 4
“Suburbistan” from PTB, Volume

Episode Three: Charity Winters

Charity Winters is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and a freelance writer. During her six years on active duty, as an Air Force Security Forces officer, she completed three tours in Iraq. Charity has been published in six of the nine volumes of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors.

In this episode, we learn about Charity’s different security missions in Iraq, her special military connection with the island of Guam and her grandfather, and the Vietnam veteran who encouraged her to pursue writing. We discuss the necessity of women’s voices in telling wartime stories, the importance of veterans in the arts, and the value of words as we explore the profound effect the phrase, “bring me men” had on her and other female cadets.

In this segment, Charity reads the following excerpts from Proud to Be:

“Kaboom” from PTB, Volume 5
“Coming Up Americans” from PTB, Volume 8

Episode Two: Bill Glose

Bill Glose is an American journalist, poet, and fiction writer. Bill has been published in eight of the nine volumes of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors.

In this episode, we dive deep into Bill’s experience as a paratrooper assigned to the 82nd Airborne and his service as a combat platoon leader in the Gulf War. We discuss when and why he started writing about his combat experiences, his post-army years working in factories across the country, and his decision to walk away from a production career to become a full-time freelance writer.

In this segment, Bill reads the following excerpts from Proud to Be:

“Raised by Black Scorpions” from PTB, Volume 5
“What the Bomb Wants?” from PTB, Volume 8

Episode One: Jay Harden

Jay Harden, a Vietnam War veteran, who writes poetry, prose, and songs about love, war, and personal growth. Jay has been published in all nine volumes of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors and is known as the “Grandfather of Proud to Be.”

In this episode, we learn about Jay’s “Metal Mama” and his wartime experience while stationed in Guam—his thoughts on war and how one struggles to find oneself after the fact. Jay openly shares about his healing journey and the role writing plays in helping with his PTSD.

In this segment, Jay reads the following excerpts from Proud to Be:

“No Wonder War” from PTB, Volume 6
“Raging River” from PTB, Volume 2
“Unboot Camp: An Imagined TED Talk” from PTB, Volume 5

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