SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s been two decades since the start of the Iraq War. To commemorate the day, Augustana University welcomed a writer and Army Veteran to campus.
During his seven years in the Army, Brian Turner spent time in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. He crafted a couple poetry collections based on his service overseas.
While deployed to Iraq in 2003-2004, Turner spent some of his time writing poems. Many of them were later published.
“The first book is sort of me in the war, and the second book is sort of the war that I brought home. Basically, the experiences that I had, and I wrote those into poetry. And then in 2014, I wrote a memoir that talks about some of that same material, but really is looking at my own family and this sort of generational inheritance of military service in my family,” Turner said.
Turner, who is from California, has a master’s degree studying English. While he was deployed, he says there were other soldiers interested in his poetry that would come to him for help while writing about their own experiences.
“Even in that one small platoon, there were a lot of people that I guess in a sense, it stretches out to this idea that sometimes we look at soldiers in uniform and we forget that the word beauty and the imagination exists within them too, just like it does within everybody,” Turner said.
Augustana Professor of English and Writer-in-Residence, Patrick Hicks, says he felt it was important to have Turner at Augie on this historic day.
“He is arguably one of the most important voices to come out of that particular conflict, at least as far as the American voice is concerned, and I just wanted to mark that day and kind of have a day where veterans of all wars could sort of join us here at Augustana,” Hicks said.
It’s a way for veterans like Turner to have their stories heard.
“The historians will be writing their chapters and trying to finish the book that says these wars are over, and they are in terms of the fighting, but as we know, with most conflict and trauma and experience that these things live on generationally, so will we attend to these responsibilities that we’ve started? And the more people that walk in, the more I feel confident that that is at least part of the process here in Sioux Falls,” Turner said.
In addition to his speech Monday, he also hosted a Q and A session and book signing.
Tuesday at Augie’s Center for Western Studies, Turner will be hosting a writing workshop for veterans to teach different ways they can tell their stories. That event starts at 2 p.m.