BVL is proud to recognize and congratulate Mel Brinkley, the winner of the first BVL Fund Award for his poem “Warrior Peace” as submitted to the “Veterans’ Voices” publication. The BVL Fund Award is granted to the work most indicative of the theme, “Serving My Country: What It Means to Me.” Brinkley’s poem, “Warrior Peace,” is a deep, thought-provoking piece on the realities and struggles of what it means to be a veteran.
Brinkley has more than 30 years of service, mostly as a chaplain. A member of the ROTC at the University of Virginia, Brinkley held several positions during his time in active duty in the Army. Following that, he enrolled in the seminary at Emory University and became a USAF chaplain. Brinkley deployed three times as a chaplain: to the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Kosovo, and time during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Today, Brinkley serves as a chaplain at the VA Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz.
When asked about what writing means to him and as therapy for other veterans, Brinkley noted, “I know of no better therapy for veterans than writing, it’s important to get your story out there in whatever venture that fits your interests and abilities. My unit in Afghanistan suffered several deaths and injuries which I could not talk about for two years. When I first tried to tell that story, it was incredibly difficult, I felt as if I was having a meltdown.”
Continues Brinkley, “With my writing, I have been able to find more inner peace. While reliving that time is still incredibly sad, I believe the public needs to hear about the heroism of others. As a living witness to those heroic actions, I feel like it is my obligation to keep their stories alive.”
By Mel Brinkley
Some vets feel they’re still in a fight;
Their war’s over but they’re not right.
Try as they will, try as they might,
Those sweaty dreams just hang on tight.
Some came back from a combat zone
Without a scratch or broken bone,
But something followed them back home.
Now they’re stuck in a twilight zone.
Can anyone say how it feels
To lose a bud on the killing field?
Have some asked why aren’t you healed,
As if your grief is no big deal?
Vets are the ones who hit the ground,
Left their loved ones and their hometown,
Duty, Honor and Country bound.
When others ran they hunkered down.
Vets need lots of encouragement,
More time to grieve, more time to vent.
Getting better is time well spent,
Costs much more than dollars and cents.
When you meet heroes struggling,
Talk to them about anything.
It’s the hopefulness that you bring
That just might be the very thing.
Re-printed with permission from Veterans Voices