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Old Stone House to host warrior writers ahead of Veterans Day

Old wounds on display at soldiers’ stories session

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The site of the American Revolution’s first battle will host veterans of modern American wars to share stories of their harrowing experiences — of fighting and of returning home.

Veterans of the United States campaigns in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan will read their tales at an event called Writing War on Nov. 14 at the Old Stone House and the event’s organizer says that these will not be grandpa’s bottle-on-the-kitchen-table war stories.

“The talent level in this group has been extremely high,” said Peter Catapano, an editor of the New York Times opinion section and the reading’s curator.

Catapano started the blog “Home Fires” at the times in 2008, featuring the writings of veterans reflecting on their time at war. Since then, he’s seen copy go from humdrum to great, and claims he may one day unearth the next great war writer in the vein of Norman Mailer or Tim O’Brien.

“I’m starting to see the beginning of a post war literary generation,” he said.

In the beginning, though, many of those soldier-contributors were still on active duty and were simply writing guest columns about their views on the country’s current military involvement. But as they started coming home and became acclimated to civilian life, many with literary aspirations enrolled in school and started honing their craft, according to Catapano. Before long, their submissions started showing promise, particularly those from Iraq War veterans Maurice Decaul and Phil Klay, who both served in the Marines.

“Those guys started writing very in-depth literary memoir material and essays, as well as poems and fiction,” Catapano said. “What they were giving to me, at that time, were these kind of literary personal essays that were just kind of at a higher level than stuff I had gotten before.”

Vietnam veteran and author of the self-published novel “Brownstone Dreams” Kevin McPartland will be the oldest author featured. He will read a story about a reckless sailor who meets his end in Vietnam, which is anthologized in the war collection, “Adventures in Hell.”

McPartland said that, following the bloodshed and boredom that took up 18 months of his life, civilians back home confused the men that fought in the ill-fated offensive for the men that started it. And he hopes his writing will help prevent that from ever happening again.

“The civilians of America, the population as a whole, should never do what they did to the Vietnam veterans again.” said McPartland, “They need to know that the war was not [the soldiers’] policy.”

The reading, which was started by Old Stone House director Louise Crawford, has become one of the historic location’s most popular events, and one which brings out an unusual crowd for a literary event.

“There are so many veterans that come to this event,” said Crawford. “You do literary events and usually you get a lot of women, but with Writing War you get a lot of guys.”

Brooklyn Reading Works presents Writing War at the Old Stone House [336 Third St. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 768–3195, www.theoldstonehouse.org]. Fri, Nov. 14 at 8 pm. $5 suggested donation.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
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