It was because of the pervasive violence and constant insurgent attacks that they called a portion of Iraq's Al Anbar Province "The Triangle of Death." And it was there that Marine Sgt. David Rose experienced the best and worst of humanity while fighting alongside his fellow Marines with Camp Lejeune's 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.
He turned to writing poetry and narrative as a natural catharsis. And in 2018, Rose was awarded the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation's Robert A. Gannon Award for his collection of poetry, "From Sand and Time," which focused on his experiences in the Marine Corps.
"It was wild to receive. Here I am, surrounded by generals, some of whom were my age during Desert Storm," Rose said. "Surreal. It was a great night."
General Mattis was in attendance to receive an award as well and personally congratulated Rose on his award and book.
Poets throughout history have distilled the stupefying horror of war into art -- from Homer's Iliad, from around the 8th century BC; to World War I British Army veteran Wilfred Owen, who wrote about trench warfare; to Vietnam Army veteran Yusef Komunyakaa's moving poem "Facing It" about a Vietnam veteran visiting the Wall in Washington, D.C., for the first time.
"I started my own attempts at poetry while in the Marines," Rose said. "I believe a book of Jim Morrison poems, bought at a Chapters outside Camp Lejeune, got me started."
He said that some of his influences include poets Rudyard Kipling, Shel Silverstein and Clark Ashton Smith.
"Silverstein is connected to my childhood, therefore forever painted in gold," Rose said. "Smith was a sorcerer. One of the great unsung maestros of American literature. What he did with words was not poetry. Smith weaved incantations."
Kipling is in Rose's top three because "he saw so many angles of the human experience … war and manhood." He also admires Kipling's "optimistic take on life."
Rose also cited the poetry of former Army Ranger Leo Jenkins as an influence.
"Not only is the guy one hell of a poet, his energy to revitalize the very warrior-poet social convention deserves credit all of its own," Rose said. "Leo recently put out an anthology 'In Love ... &War: The Anthology of Poet Warriors,' poems from over three dozen military vets and all proceeds go to a veteran charity."
While he is no longer writing poetry, Rose has turned his pen to speculative fiction and is working on his sequel to "Mulgara: The Necromancer's Will" called "Amden Bog."
Rose stresses that veterans are more than the sum of their military experiences and wants people to realize that writing and storytelling, in general, are a way to reflect back the human experience as a whole. It's clear through his writing that the "broken war vet" stereotype is exactly that, a stereotype.
"Poetry has been a rewarding exercise," he said. "I would encourage others to follow suit, but from the success of Leo's anthology, I don't think vets need much prompting."
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