The Six-Word Memoir Blog

Veterans Day 2010: “I don’t know who I am.”

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

By Larry Smith


So much of storytelling these days—and certainly at SMITH—happens behind a computer. That’s one reason one we love to take the Six-Word Memoir project on the road for readings and events, at bookstores and music festivals. Live, in person, the stories, and storytellers, take on a whole new life. So when PBS’ Need To Know program heard about our newest six-word project, “Six Words on Coming Home From War,” a collaboration Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), asked for our help getting in touch with some of the veterans, we knew something special would happen. PBS interviewed a number of veterans, asking for the backstory behind their six words, some seen in this short video.

In one interview, we meet Jeff Kohler, a 24-year-old from Canton, Ohio, deployed to the Green Zone in Baghdad. “Returning home was a culture shock. I would look at my driver’s license and it said, ‘Jeffrey A. Kohler,’ but yet I didn’t feel like Jeffrey A. Kohler; I felt like a completely different person. I’d look in the mirror and I wouldn’t recognize who I’d see,” he says. He ends his interview with the six words which summarize his life after war: “I don’t know who I am.”

Millions of words have been blogged, written as books and screenplays, and performed as theater about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and their aftermath. These Six-Word Memoirs directly from those who’ve served, don’t tell the whole stories, but they do provide a different, distilled perspective.

“Body at home; mind still overseas.”
“Don’t look at me with pity.”

“Forgiving and trusting myself brought healing.”
“Best. Words. Ever? ‘Mom, I’m home.’ ”

No one would posit that war is a simple concept. And yet this Veterans Day and every day, six thoughtful, well-chosen words can offer an unflinching glimpse into a soldier’s heart. Talk a look.

One response

  1. LIttlemadman says:

    40 months deployed lifetime of war

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