Brit vet with PTSD compiling poems, prose by fellow sufferers
“I cry for no reason, my country shouts treason
All the pills and the booze,
make bad memories ooze
I was 19 in June,
under a bright crystal moon
I died that day,
but I’m still here to say
For the brave and the free,
my award PTSD.”
— Excerpt from poem titled “PTSD” by Tony McNally
RAF MILDENHALL, England — British army veteran Tony McNally went to war for Britain at age 19 in the 1982 war with Argentina over control of the Falkland Islands.
McNally was in an anti-aircraft unit, making his Rapier class weapon the first line of surface-to-air defense against incoming jet fighters. But as he recalls, an electrical fault rendered his weapons system useless during an attack, and he witnessed many horrors as enemy aircraft killed dozens of his comrades.
According to Imperial War Museum figures, 255 Britons and 635 Argentines died in the war — which lasted only 74 days. Although McNally said he began experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder shortly after his service, he battled with his own understanding of his behavior for nearly two decades.
“I started writing poetry about 10 or 12 years ago, when I was diagnosed with PTSD by a civilian doctor,” he said. “I didn’t want to believe her. I didn’t really understand it. It’s like she was trying to put a label on me.”
McNally has been writing about his past ever since, trying to de-stigmatize the perceptions, he says, that accompany PTSD sufferers. Now, he’s asking others from all over the world who have experienced PTSD to contribute examples of their poetry or prose for a compilation he is calling “The Little Book of War.”
“… As I have PTSD, I need something to help get me out of bed in the morning and give me a purpose,” McNally wrote by email. “If I can raise some money for veterans and help awareness along the way, I’m happy with that.”
The deadline for entries is Sept. 20, although that date is tentative, according to publisher Remy Benoit. Due out before the end of the year, all proceeds from the book will be donated to Talking2Minds, a mental health charity based in Britain.
The “Little Book” has become a big project, Benoit said, and efforts are under way to seek submissions from veterans in other countries, not just the U.S. and U.K.
“PTSD is a commonality of all soldiers and trauma victims, which is why we have included them, too,” wrote Benoit.
Several Americans have already contributed, according to Benoit, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. journalist Eric Newhouse, who is writing the introduction to the book. Newhouse is also known for his 2008 book “Faces of Combat, PTSD & TBI: One Journalist’s Crusade to Improve Treatment for Our Veterans.”
Al Beck, Korean War veteran and author of more than 16 poetry books, and long-time U.S. veterans counselor Ed Tick are both contributing material. There are other American veterans who have served in World War II, Vietnam, Korea and Iraq, Benoit said in an email. Ted Engelmann, a Vietnam veteran and photojournalist with media embeds in Iraq and Afghanistan, is to provide a cover photo, she added.
Other contributors include: Edward Wood, World War II veteran and author and retired Army Col. James L. Malony, son of Maj. Gen. Harry Malony who commanded the Army’s 94th Infantry Division during World War II, among others.
Submissions can be sent to the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org