Gary Lee Miller
“In the late 1990’s, I curated a series of essays by participants in the Vietnam War for PBS online. Soldiers on both sides participated, as did nurses, civilians, even the now-grown son of a Vietnamese prostitute and an unknown American soldier. One of the things that struck me most about them was the utterly unique position from which they told their stories. There was such a gulf between my life experience and theirs that they might as well have traveled to another planet.
“When the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, this effect amplified; war was no longer history to me, and the gulf was wider than ever. I wasn’t the only one struggling to relate. Most often, it seemed, the attempts at connection fell bitterly short—yellow car magnets, and hollow calls to ‘support the troops.’ But I knew that all across America, real conversations about the effects of war were happening, out of the spotlight and in living rooms, hospitals, cafes and workplaces. In these moments, the real experiences of soldiers collided with the lives of their friends, families and even strangers. How could a soldier accurately explain what he or she had experienced? How could someone who had not been in a war possibly understand it?
“I wanted to write about the gulf of experience war creates, but I couldn’t find a way into the topic that worked. Then, completely out of the blue, came an image: a young Civil War veteran standing on a front porch, a crate containing the leg of his dead comrade slung over his shoulder.”
Gary Lee Miller earned his MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in a number of literary magazines, including Florida Review, Green Mountains Review, Hunger Mountain and Chicago Quarterly Review. His short story collection Museum of the Americas was the fiction finalist for the 2015 Vermont Book Award. Gary serves as creative director of Writers for Recovery, a program using writing to help people overcome addiction. You can find out more about him at garyleemiller.com