Today’s guest is Andrew R. Jones, USMC. He’s an author, a poet, and advocate. Andrew and I met online some months ago, and I was impressed by his desire to help others – it is his own redemption, I suppose, and perhaps it started there, but what Andrew does has affected so many people in a positive way. I am honored to feature him here…
I always felt like I was alone. Even when I was around Marines who patrolled the same streets as I did, it always seemed like they had their lives together and I was struggling to just keep my mind together. I was tired of battling every day with these horrific memories and nightmares, so I came up with a genius plan. I decided I was going to take the thoughts from my head and I was going to transfer them to paper. If I couldn’t destroy the memories, I would simply relocate them.
So I sat in front of my Dell Laptop and I typed out the first three words of the first short story I ever wrote… “It was dark.” But that wasn’t a good enough description. So I went on… “No, it was darker than dark. It was darker than any darkness I had ever experienced.” It wasn’t much for creativity, but it seemed to get the point across. I continued to type almost as fast I could think (I could type rather fast thanks to all that time in AOL Chat rooms as a teenager) and after spiked heart rates, crocodile tears and cramped fingers, the story was finished.
The first person I decided to share it with was my girlfriend (now wife, Chelsea) because I had previously tried to talk to her about this particular event, but could never say things the way I wanted to say them because too much anger and sadness got in the way. But now it was on paper, and all she had to do was read while I sat and waited. Her first words were simply, “Wow.” She convinced me to share it with others, so I posted it in a Facebook Group that was created for my old unit to keep in touch. Immediately Marines began opening up. They remembered that particular day and they remembered how they felt that day and they shared how they still think about it all the time as well.
I was no longer alone. I no longer felt like the outcast or like something was specifically wrong with only me. So it was decided. I was going to turn to writing to help me process my memories and I was going to share it with everyone I could, so no other Veteran would ever have to think, “I’m all alone.” For the next year or so, poems and more short stories began flowing from my mind faster than that Pancake Rapper on Adderall (Assuming Mac Lethal doesn’t have ADHD). I took some Creative Writing classes and began submitting my work to journals, magazine and e-zines. My very first publication came from Outrageous Fortune Literary Magazine for my very first story “It Was Dark,” which I’ve later renamed “Al Gharraf.” This was my sign that I could really write quality stuff. This wasn’t just Chelsea or my family or some other Marines and friends telling me it was good, this was a national publication that had no idea who I was or what I was about. But they read my story along with hundreds of other submissions and they decided, “We want this one.”
A few more publications came my way and Chelsea talked me into putting a book together. “You can help so many people,” she would tell me. So in some more random events and connections I gathered some poems and stories from over a dozen other Veterans and their loved ones, put them with my own work and with the help of Triumph Press Publishing, Healing the Warrior Heart: A Glimpse into the Hearts of Combat Veterans and their Supporting Loved Ones was created. The book has since touched the lives of countless Veterans, family members and those just wanting to know more about the world we live in. But most importantly, the book helped me in my journey of healing. My heart and soul is on those pages for everyone to read and relate with.
I pray it ends up in the hands of those who need it most and that it continues to impact lives in a positive way for many years to come.
Andrew R. Jones
USMC Combat Veteran