six words
November 14, 2013

Six Word War


This week, we are honoring the men and women who serve in our military. In this next story, two veterans decided to play off an idea from the famous author Ernest Hemingway, to tell a story in just six words. And as you will see, they show just how powerful six words can be.

Mike Nemeth: This one, actually, is one of my favorite ones on the website.

Maggie: West Point graduates Mike Nemeth and Shaun Wheelwright believe a lot can be said in just six words.

Shaun Wheelwright: ‘Responsibilities causing maturing beyond my years.’

Maggie: These are just a few of the thousands of Six Word War stories that they have collected from combat veterans since June.

‘Hearts and minds, I lost both.’

‘Taliban bullet. Army hospital. Found love.’

It all started as a Kickstarter campaign to create the first ever crowd-sourced book of online submissions from veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A chance to not just tell the story of one soldier, but to tell the collective experience of our entire military at war, in the words of the soldiers themselves.

Shaun: There is tragedy, there is sadness. You know, you have good memories, bad memories. So it’s hard to package it in six words. And what comes out is gratifying. It’s incredible what six words can say and how different each one is.

Maggie: Many are about the gut-wrenching routine of war: ‘Nicotine. Caffeine. Dead friends. No sleep.’

Others use humor: ‘Where did I leave my pants?’

Or focus on more personal battles: ‘Divorce, despair. Only God could repair.’

Mike shares his.

Mike: I never deployed. So my six words were, ‘Never deployed, uncomfortable with thank yous.’

Maggie: But Shaun spent 15 months on the frontlines in Iraq. He lost 14 classmates.

Shaun: If I dig a little deeper, my six words are, ‘Through madness comes clarity and understanding.’ War is absolute madness. There is no rhyme or reason to it. I don’t know how any of us got through it, I really don’t.

Maggie: There are more than 2.5 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet this number is less than 1% of our nation’s total population. Projects like the Six Word War try to connect our country’s other 99% with the harsh realities of war. And the Six Word War submissions continue to pour in on Twitter, Facebook and online – some with photos and some with words that speak for themselves: ‘Jimmy and Court died for this?’ All sharing war’s complexities in simple sentences.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $6,000 dollars in under a month, copies of the Six Word War are now being printed for pre-orders.


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