Students from all GU/MSB showed off their writing skills and submitted original pieces to the 2011 Creative Quill. Hung Le and Ryan Wiens from MSB-Richfield took top prize for their submissions in poetry and non-fiction.
“The Creative Quill is a quarterly writing contest that was created to give students a medium through which they can share their meaningful experiences and creative and intellectual talents, The Creative Quill celebrates student diversity, contributes to cross-campus community, promotes literary excellence, and aligns with GU/MSB/BVU/IPR in fostering our school’s integrity.”
Read MSB-Richfield’s winning submissions:
Where I’m From by Hung Le (1st Place in Poetry)
I am from orchards under the burning sun,
Next to bullets laying in dry soil, empty endless tunnels when the war left.
I am from a three-generation family,
Taking a bath with coconut juice after being born.
I am from sunsets spent playing with bamboo toys,
Dancing in the rains, rolling in mud,
Digging for crickets, fighting for marbles
I’m from Buddhism with humanity and shiny, shaved heads,
Ending up only believing in my mind.
I’m from painful punishments, day dreams,
A stolen childhood, twelve years of school, and senior year’s fifteen
hours of studying, no weekends,
Waking up at three a.m. with a cold shower.
I’m from a green house with a green gate, graveyard in the back, snakes in the garden,
Surrounded by high wall, sharp pieces of glass on top.
I’m from Hogwarts, brooms and wands, a scared boy’s adventures,
Badminton training, father’s pride, the taste of victory.
I’m from canals and lakes, fish on my hook, sunburn on my skin
Chess and coffee, sticking in traps, toothless old friends.
I’m from an empty apartment, eighteenth floor, friend of loneliness,
Sleepless nights, her smiles.
I’m from the green fields, potential player chasing the disc, ultimate.
I’m from where I return, home, memories –
from laugher, tears, yells, hugs
Mortality by Ryan Wiens (1st Place in non-fiction)
Over the radios, everyone hears the Commanding Officer say “Fighting 13, Oscar Mike.” Our 300 vehicle convoy starts cheering, honking horns, flashing their lights, and locking ammunition into their weapons. As this is happening, the roar of helicopter propellers chop through the air like a lawn mower through thick grass and deafens us on the ground as they begin to rapidly fly ahead as advance scouts. My heart beats faster and harder. This is happening. We are finally going to war. I do a quick check to ensure I have all of the necessities: caffeine, flares, pep pills, more caffeine, and something more valuable than gold, Copenhagen, though I do not dip. It allows me to barter for services with a good amount of people of importance along our journey north. Our engine turns over, and we cross the border.
As we cross, I recall the night before leaving the USS Tarawa, The Big T, The Big 1. It was supposed to be a farewell to the sailors aboard the Big T, but the anticipation turned into a party that included steak, lobster, cake, ice cream, and karaoke. The sailors were celebrating that they were regaining possession of their ship from us, the smelly, lazy, obnoxious, rude Marines. We had walked the decks of the ship as if we had owned it for well over three months with little they could do about it. The Marines were celebrating the fact that the last 12 months of training we received was culminating into a real-world event. Some of the Marines were scared. These few skittishly laughed when we talked about how we were going to destroy the enemy. Their legs shook from their uneasiness, and they rarely said a word. No one noticed these cues, though. The rest of us were all busy surging our machismo to anyone who would listen. God damn we are Marines, we are the best, no one competes with us; we will die before we lose. Hell one of our sayings is “On the seventh day when God rested, we overran his perimeter and have been running things ever since.” In my head, I knew this rhetoric was brainwashing at its best, but do you realize how much an individual can do, much less a large group of individuals, when they have no fear of death because they believe they will never fail?
The backwash from the helicopters passing by shoots dirt and pebbles up at me, snapping me back into the present. I was placed in the turret of our Commanding Officer’s humvee, first in line. Not long after we cross, our vehicle dropped back considerably deeper into the convoy so the Commanding Officer can avoid being hit by a roadside bomb. Thinking about all of the motivating and inspiring speeches this guy has given about leading from the front during all of our pre-deployment training, I get slightly perturbed. What a crock of shit this guy is; he was the first vehicle to cross and now he is somewhere in the middle. Way to lead from the front, buddy. Nevertheless, my view is impressive. I am facing towards the passenger side looking into the desert. Through my night vision goggles, I can see several aircraft, an occasional convoy going the other direction, and a camel here and there. But one of the most impressive things I notice is how many stars are actually in the sky. In the states I have never seen stars like this; there is hardly an empty void in the heavens.
We stop to refuel on the side of the freeway. I ensure that all of those important people like the communications guy, the supply guy, the other supply guy, the mechanic, and our driver are adequately supplied with a pinch of my stateside Copenhagen. A young kid no older than 19 sees that I am handing out dip and comes over to me and asks if he could grab a bit. There is no way I can freely hand out a pinch of my moist, invaluable, stateside chewing tobacco to this kid, but he looks like his dog has died. He needs a pick -me- up. I toss him my tin and his face immediately lights up. He looks familiar; I think I saw him on karaoke night boasting about what a badass he was. He’s a light-skinned black kid, has a shaved head, a large athletic build, stands maybe five-foot-eight, and has a southern drawl. I ask him what his name is and he tells me enthusiastically, “Lance Corporal Slaughter.” We converse about how many brothers (me, two and him-one), sisters (I have none while he has two), and girlfriends we have waiting for us back home (three apiece), and how long we have been in. He tells me that he has been a Marine for six months, and I reply that he is lucky; it has taken me two and a half years to get over here. He chuckles and is interrupted by someone telling us that we are about to head out and to get back to our vehicles.
The trip north is now moving into early dawn. I start seeing signs for some of the towns I heard about for the first time while watching the initial invasion of Iraq, towns such as Basra and Nassariyia. I remember seeing this on TV, telling my mother that is what I need to be doing; now I’m actually here. It keeps my motivation high even though it is hot and windy. I’d volunteered to deploy for what seemed like an eternity and with my head in the sky, all of a sudden I hear the pops of a machine gun and see tracers flying over my head. With my ears pinned back, I become ready to engage, and I lock in on where the tracers came from. I get the call to stand down. Apparently an Army outpost thought our 300 vehicle convoy was the second coming of Sadam’s regime. I sigh; what dumbasses. The Commanding Officer taps my leg and yells up to me “Get used to them shooting at us; we don’t want any friendly fire from our side. Marines only kill our enemies.” This is insane, I tell myself shaking my head. It is so common to take friendly fire that my Commanding Officer is warning of future friendly attacks. Not what I expected at all out here.
As the day continues, my only concept of time is day and night for my watch is somewhere stuffed in my pack. Night falls as we continue at a snail’s pace. I sigh. We once again stop to make sure that some trash on the side of the road is not a bomb. As the hours continue without sleep, the caffeine has made everyone paranoid of an attack. We have moved 35 miles in several hours. While waiting for our explosive ordinance team to suit up to pick up roadside litter, I summon up another recent aggravating event that occurred a few days ago when we prepared to depart from the ship. It began with an Admiral telling us we were all family, and that they would all stay until we all came back and that we were in the fight together. In reality, I knew that this was a bunch of crap. This guy had orders back to San Diego in ten days, and he would not be returning. How is that in the fight together? He must have been joking. I could have been sleeping. The speech was followed by the logistical nightmare of purging 1,500 Marines and all of their equipment from this small speck in the Arabian Sea to the desert. Everyone was carrying hundreds of pounds of gear from one staging area to the next. One Marine screams, “This space belongs to me not you, now move.” Then my Sergeant gets word of this and screams, “Hell no, put the gear back there.” It was a futile exercise in who had more authority. The motto of “hurry up and wait” was in full effect. This became painfully true; every little thing was life or death: the Major left his copy of To Kill a Mockingbird in his stateroom and he has no time to retrieve it, run, run, run, then wait; The Sergeant Major cannot find his coffee mug, find it; The Commanding Officer cannot carry his pack to the helicopter, bring it to the flight deck, then return.
Still waiting for the all-clear I slam another energy drink and hear “Just some trash, ya want us to blow it up anyway?” We are, once again, Oscar Mike.
We stop again, not more than fifteen minutes later. The Commanding Officer is told that we actually have gotten hit by a roadside bomb. Seeming almost giddy, he tells the driver to pull out and go to the scene of the carnage so he can survey the damage. This is when I see it for the first time.
There is a seven-ton truck tipped over on the side of the road. It does not look like it has been hit by a roadside bomb, nor has it been. The truck looks as if it lost control and rolled over into the concrete embankment on the side of the road. There is a pool of blood gathering next to what normally would be the top of the truck, and at closer look, in the middle of the pool, there is a shoulder and an arm completely detached from an unseen body. I have seen all of the gory war pictures, but those do not compare to seeing the gore in person. The taste of blood accumulates on my tongue. I can’t stop looking, and the smell starts to creep up on me. As corpsmen run looking for the rest of the body, they find it, and somehow he is still alive. The corpsmen start to stabilize him in the ever growing pond of blood. As this is going on, I see someone familiar being dragged out of the front passenger seat. As he is laid on his back, I can tell he is no longer with us. His neck does not support his head; it looks like a slinky weighted on one end. I recognize Lance Corporal Brice Slaughter. Now he lays discombobulated and dead. I knew ahead of time that people might die out here, but not like this. Not a heroic death jumping on a grenade or grabbing a fallen comrade, but a vehicle accident.
Only hours earlier I found out that he had one brother and two sisters; that he joined to be the first in his family to go and to graduate from college; and how eager he was to be a part of our big green gun club. He now lays motionless. War is not always the courageous story or the adrenalin pumping action one often thinks of. Often forgotten in war are the people we lose to mundane tasks and coincidence.
As everyone is focusing on the more devastating scene of a lake of blood and a severed body, all I can do is gaze at this shell of a human being that no one is even acknowledging. This kid had family, dreams, and aspirations of going to college, now all gone. No one is doing anything for him. I jump out of my turret and walk toward him. Squatting over this unresponsive carcass, I touch him. His body is still warm, feels alive though I know he is not. I open his flak and put the rest of my can of dip in his pocket. “I was wrong, no one is lucky to be in this situation,” I say.
It feels like an eternity as I stare, until I hear commotion behind me. I look back. There is a Marine pushing another calling her a bitch. She is bruised and bloodied and looks like she was also in the accident. I jump up quickly and break them up. He is screaming obscenities at her because she fell asleep behind the wheel. I cannot believe this. People already are placing blame and the bodies are still warm to the touch lying on the ground. I stagger back to my turret, turn my back to the carnage; I reflect on this kid’s mother, sisters, and brother and then my parents, brothers and extended family. At this point, I know my time could be in 70 years or ten seconds from now. My mortality is now realized.
War is real. It is not a movie, a video game, a newspaper article, or a book. There are real consequences to those who choose to serve, and those consequences cannot be forgotten by hitting the power button on the TV, flipping the page in the newspaper, or closing the cover of a book and moving to the next.