As a pair of Army veterans who have successfully transitioned from life on the battlefield to civilian life, Spc. Matt Marcus and Staff Sgt. Chris Lyke know they’re two of the lucky ones.
“For a lot of the guys in our position, there’s a ton of guilt that we carry with us I think every day about guys we served with, guys who--they had our backs, we had theirs and you spread out and some guys just can’t seem to make it,” said Marcus, a 33-year-old Ukrainian Village resident who works at an ad agency.
“Bright guys that just kind of can’t get it together,” added Lyke, a 41-year-old Bucktown resident who works as a high school English teacher for CPS.
Now, they’re hoping to do something about that.
Marcus and Lyke, along with Army Capt. Ryan Quinn, who remains on active duty, are launching a not-for-profit online literary magazine for veterans called Line of Advance.
The pair is hoping to raise $25,000 through an Indiegogo campaign for the publication, which will be distributed bi-monthly via e-book with the goal of eventually putting out an annual print edition. To date, the project has raised just more than $7,000 with nine days left.
“(We’re hoping) to get the machine going basically so it will be as inexpensive as possible,” Lyke said.
“It’s not about making money at all,” Marcus added. “We’re going to make it as much as we can as accessible as humanly possible.”
Part of that is because they say the stories they have to tell are the stories that need to be heard by the general public at large.
“With combat veterans in particular, guys come home and there’s always that really awkward moment when you run into an old friend and the first question is ‘So did you see combat?’ or ‘Did you kill anybody?’ or something along those lines,” Marcus said.
“A lot of people that you talk to don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” Lyke added. “They haven’t been there. They’re concerned about getting a train downtown to work, and you’re just freaked out about getting on the train at all.”
The project’s goal, they say, is twofold: give the general public a glimpse of what combat is really like through the eyes of those who were on the front lines and give veterans a chance to exercise their creative muscles.
“We didn’t think we were unique in that we were veterans who wanted to write,” Marcus said. “Despite maybe the caricature of the Army grunt, I think most veterans are pretty artistically minded one way or another.”
Getting those stories published could be one small but significant step toward helping some veterans successfully transition back into a “normal” life.
“Just going through the process of seeing a small success, writing something to a veteran journal and knowing that you’re sending it to a couple other veterans to read through,” Marcus said. “Having it published professionally, having people read it, I think that might be a small success story.”
“Even if they don’t, let’s say they submit something and it’s not ready yet, that process of getting better at something, of going back and re-crafting something so it’s good enough, that’s really therapeutic in and of itself and getting it to the point where it can be published,” Lyke added.
Marcus said giving veterans a place where they feel comfortable sharing stories from the battlefield is the first step to unleashing some of that creativity. A major issue he said is going to be breaking down that wall that some veterans put up about telling their tales to an audience that can’t fully appreciate them.
“When you want to tell your stories, it can be sort of an alienating experience,” Marcus said. “To write and to know that the place that’s going to publish your work is going to do it in a way that represents the context, I think that’s what we’re trying to achieve.”
There’s also the therapeutic aspect of drawing all of those stories out.
“Writing about it, sharing it with one another kind of exorcises those demons and maybe resets you back to zero at least to some degree,” Lyke said.
While deployed, Lyke kept a notebook specifically so that he’d remember parts of his deployment once he got home.
“I was cataloging any interesting thing that happened,” he said. “I’d write it down on a little slip of paper and it would be interspersed in my notebook.”
Going through those notes proved to be his therapy.
“It helps enormously to actually sit down and go through those notes, to try to remember everything that happened and how they happened,” he said. “What was real comes into play, how you perceive a situation and what the situation actually was can sometimes be different, but how it affects you is what matters.”
The pair is hoping to publish the first edition of Line of Advance on Veterans Day. Those interested in donating to the Indiegogo campaign can do so here.
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