Koa Books

Veterans of War
Veterans of Peace

Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace
Author Biographies
(alphabetical order - click on letter)

DOWNLOAD AUTHORS' BIOS (Click to download pdf file)

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | W | Y | Z

I was born and raised in Denver and attended the University of Northern Colorado. After graduation, I signed up with the Red Cross to go to Korea. My Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas (S.R.A.O.) class trained with the first S.R.A.O. class going to Vietnam at the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C. In class we discussed not using the term Donut Dollies or wearing skirts above the knee. There was no mention of body bags, 1,000yard stares, or incoming. I spent six months in Korea and seven in Vietnam—Da Nang, Phu Loi, and Qui Nhon. The Red Cross transferred us often to avoid attachments. The war seemed surreal, but returning home the day before Tet in 1967 left me feeling even stranger.

I continued to work for the Red Cross, first at the hospital at Travis Air Force Base on the psych ward, where the patients seemed like the sane ones. I was overwhelmed with the aftermath of the war when I was transferred to Letterman Hospital at the Presidio in San Francisco. There I worked on the quadriplegic, amputee, and plastic surgery ward. I tried to escape in a marriage that failed, lost a parent, and had many jobs and relationships. Twenty-five years later, I found myself meeting with a group of women in San Luis Obispo who had served in Vietnam. We discovered that none of us had spoken about Vietnam for twenty-five years, and now we couldn’t stop talking. I wrote “Dream Catcher” for the wedding of a woman from our group to a Vietnam vet. Deciding to go to the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial with the group inspired me to write “The Wall.”

Six years ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. No one else in my family has had this condition, which means it is probably more environmental than hereditary. I suspect that Agent Orange is a contributing factor, as there are a disproportionate number of veterans with P.D. It presents a new challenge, and I try to focus on the small things in daily life that I enjoy. Painting is a big part of my life now. I’m lucky to have a wonderful extended family here in Denver, where I grew up, as well as my second family, the coworkers I’ve worked with for the past six years. I miss the men and women who live on the edge (California), whose poetry fills these pages. They helped me regain a part of myself and introduce me to the world of poetry. I am honored to be a part of this anthology.

I am a sixty-two-year-old Vietnam veteran, and I live in Midland, Texas. I was an Air Force Aircraft Maintenance Officer in Vietnam with the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Danang Air Base from July 1968 to July 1969. I recently retired from a local retail store after twenty-two years but still work part-time for a convenience store chain. I am the proud grandfather of three beautiful grandchildren and recently became an equally proud great-grandfather of a beautiful great-granddaughter.

I started writing in 1988 after a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. I was fortunate beyond words to meet a beautiful lady named Lana Spraker, who had been a protester during the war. It was the beginning of a long-delayed healing process. She is my muse, inspiring me to use writing to heal from the psychological trauma of war. I have had some success in getting some poems and short stories published over the years. I have also written two novels not yet published.

After growing up in New York, I moved to Chicago in time to witness the mayhem that was the Democratic Convention in 1968. After supporting my husband, Larry Heinemann’s, work as a writer, raising two children, volunteering many years within the Chicago public school system, and working at several positions, I turned to my own writing and discovered how two wars—the war of my father (World War II) and the war of my husband (Vietnam)—have influenced and defined my life. My journey included obtaining a master’s degree in social science from the University of Chicago and a second one from the Smith College School of Social Work.

My birth was not only the result of an impassioned moment of my father’s homecoming but also a wish for a new beginning for the family that had waited out his war tenure. That hope died early as he practiced medicine for the next ten years while insistently drinking himself to death. My mother attempted to receive benefits from the Veterans Administration after his early death but could prove no direct link and her request was denied. The legacy of being a child of hope followed and drove me to live out the mission of saving a soldier and making a family work—one imbued with conflict and paradox. War and loss have been persistent themes in my life—an emotional legacy that lives on despite driven efforts to be rid of them. I had to be numb to be able to type and retype my husband’s books Close Quarters and Paco’s Story. Those who live with the soldiers who bring the aftermath of war into their homes develop strong barriers around their hearts. I have spent my life breaking down those barriers. “War in the House” explores that journey.

Martin Higgins

My earliest childhood memories are filled with laughter, songs, and an extended family so diverse it took me well into early teens to sort out aunts and uncles from close family friends. My father had returned from World War II severely wounded, so he was loved and respected by everyone in his New York City neighborhood. I was the firstborn son of a hero.

In the mid ’50s we moved to Long Island. My Catholic school education, guided by aged Dominican nuns, pointed me toward the priesthood. By the time I was twelve, the question was not college or seminary, it was which seminary. Two years later, a high school English teacher lent me a copy of Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer. I read it, and my stars shifted position. I lost the Faith, but not my faith in myself.

I toured with a blue-eyed soul band, built motorcycles and hydroplanes, sang in the New York State Choir, and by the time my draft notice came, didn’t have the grades to maintain my college deferment. I’d heard that some draftees were being routed into the Marines, so I joined the Army.

The following story was written with the loving support of Maxine and the Veterans Writing Group. My Vietnam experiences still tear at my soul, but they are much more tolerable when bound to paper.

Now I live in Denver with my patient and loving wife, Laura, and our two heart-song daughters. I have not found a way to avoid my memories when they pull me out of our comfortable life, but I’ve learned to incorporate the lessons and insights revealed to me into my stories, scripts, songs, and laughter. My advice: Share your stories.

I was born in 1960 and was evacuated from Hanoi at the age of six because of the American bombing. For the next seven years, I lived in refugee areas in the countryside. After graduating from the College of Diplomacy, I was drafted into the People’s Army and served in the 47th Battalion from 1985 to 1987. I was a diplomat in South Asia and am presently a member of the Executive Committee of the National Vietnam Writers Association and Chair of the Hanoi Writers’ Association, as well as consulting editor for Curbstone Press’ Voices from Vietnam series. I’ve written eighteen novels and short story collections.

In my 1985 novel, Nguoi dan ba tren dao (published in the U.S. in 2000 as The Women on the Island), I became one of the first writers in Vietnam to bring attention to what had been a forbidden subject: the terrible cost paid by thousands of young women veterans of the Youth Volunteer Battalions of the People’s Army of Vietnam. Their main duties during the war were to keep the Ho Chi Minh Trail network open, fill in bomb craters, repair the roads, and defuse or explode unexploded ordnance. After the war, many of the women who survived found there was no place for them in the society they had defended. They were kept together in their old units and sent as labor battalions to underdeveloped parts of the country. Exiled to lives without families or children, having lost the opportunity to get married when they were young, many sought consolation in getting pregnant and having a child out of wedlock.

The following excerpt from The Women on the Island depicts a confrontation by a brigade of these women with a callous bureaucrat who brutalizes a pregnant woman to find out who is the father of her unborn child. The women, empowered by the sacrifices of their military service, rebel against his mistreatment.

I grew up in Saigon and left Vietnam in 1974, five months before the war ended. I’ve worked as a teacher and freelance journalist, earned my Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California, and am working on a Ph.D. in English. I am finishing a collection of short stories, whose characters are mainly Vietnamese and Vietnamese–Americans. “Field of Heads,” which won first prize in the 2005 Writer’s Digest Short Short Com petition, is about the cultural and social isolation that some of us immigrants suffer in a modern society.

In 1967, I was in the United States Navy on the Aircraft Carrier USS America during the Six-Day War, watching the destruction of a culture by surgical air strikes. The precision of the bombs and the bravado of the carrier crew made a peace warrior out of me. I wrote “Firing Blanks at Moving Targets” to help heal the dreams that haunt me of screaming people in craters full of blood that I still dream in black- and-white 3D images.

I was shell-shocked and caught up in rock ’n’ roll when I joined the infamous Philadelphia revolutionary group MOVE in 1971. Then a self-proclaimed child of love, I attempted to bring a wreath of peace into a revolutionary war zone. I labored to explain to MOVE members and anyone who would listen that revolution means total change with an eye on human awareness, not just social structure. It fell on deaf ears as the blind continued to lead the blind into the noise of time. Yet that spirit, that spark of peace and love, lives on as a bulletproof entity that denies the theater of war respectability. This short story about the MOVE revolution comes from my unpublished novel, Born under Prophecy, and my poetics, “War Isn’t Peace.”