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A glimpse of war, Hemingway-style

WASHINGTON — Describe a 15-month combat deployment, all the firefights and anguish and boredom, in just six words.

“Four trucks out, three trucks back.”

“Candy and soccer balls, occasionally bullets.”

“I’ll never be this cool again.”

That’s the idea behind two Army veterans’ Six Word War project, a crowd-sourced memoir of Iraq and Afghanistan.

West Point alumni Mike Nemeth and Shaun Wheelwright have been collecting ideas for the book-to-be for the last year, and this week launched a Kickstarter project to help collect funding for the first editions. The pair have already collected dozens of submissions on their social media sites, giving a glimpse into the enduring truths of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Hearts and minds are only targets.”

“Salsa night means we’ve lost direction.”

“Better group of guys, never again.”

The idea stems from an Ernest Hemingway legend, in which he challenged his peers to write a complete story in only six words. (Hemingway’s alleged bet-winning response: “For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”)

Nemeth said they considered limiting their war stories to five words “since the military is more efficient,” but eventually bowed to the literary great’s model. For the last year, they’ve been slowly building their story library, with the hopes of publishing this fall.

“Tried my best. We all did.”

“Where did I leave my pants?”

“Deployed three years, but for what?”

Wheelwright, who served in Iraq, offered “Deployment, missed first steps, self medication” as his six-word narrative. Nemeth, who remained stateside, has “Never deployed, uncomfortable with thank yous” as his wartime recap.

The pair are still vetting submissions for the upcoming book, along with donations from military and civilian benefactors. They hope the final product will become “the collective experience of our military at war” for the Twitter generation.

“Every soldier wants to write a memoir,” Nemeth said. “This is a pretty easy way to do it.”

View the veteran submissions so far at www.sixwordwar.com.

shane.leo@stripes.com 
Twitter: @LeoShane

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