26 powerful war stories told by veterans in six-word poems

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Marines make their way to the extraction point during Operation Northern Lion II in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013. (Cpl. Alejandro Pena/U.S. Marine Corps)

WASHINGTON – Possibly the shortest war stories ever, service members describe the complexities of modern warfare in six-word poems.

The submissions come together in “Six-Word War,” a memoir from a generation at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This project started as an idea for troops to find their truths and maybe find some help with their emotional recovery,” writes Shaun Wheelwright, a U.S. Army veteran and one of the editors of the “Six-Word War. “Interestingly enough, I cannot settle on my own six words,” writes Wheelwright, who deployed to Iraq from 2007-2009.

“My latest attempt: The hope of clarity from madness.” The stories are painful, profound, and at times humorous.

Below is a selection of 26 powerful poems from the “Six-Word War.”

We are still here, don’t forget. — Frank Lidester

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Light armored vehicle crewmen fill their LAV with bottled water during a logpack on July 11, 2009, in Iraq’s Ninewa province. (Sgt. Eric Schwartz/U.S. Marine Corps)

Kit up and load the birds. — Chris Baldwin

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Marines board a Ch-53 Sea Stallion helicopter at Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Nov. 24, 2011. (Sgt. Mallory VanderSchans/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

Wish the road would stop exploding. — Ramadi, 2005

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An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank patrols during an operation near the village of Saban, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2013. (Cpl. Trent A. Randolph/U.S. Marine Corps)

I’ll never be this cool again. — Jimm Spannagel

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Marines prepare to conduct a high altitude high opening jump from a CH-53 Super Stallion during category 3 sustainment training in Louisburg, North Carolina, June 6, 2015. (Cpl. Andre Dakis/U.S. Marine Corps)

War brightened a little by humanity. —  Anonymous

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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Patrick McCall receives a high-five from an Afghan boy during a security patrol in Sangin, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 6, 2012. (Lance Cpl. Jason Morrison/U.S. Marine Corps)

Water bottle showers and sand storms. — Deidre Salter

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Marines in the middle of a sand storm make their way back to their vehicles after dismounting and patrolling a nearby mountain ridge in Bakwa, Afghanistan, May 3, 2009. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Arabic? No. Everybody speaks automatic weapon. — F. Wellman

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Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jorge Medina provides security while escorting the deputy secretary of defense through the Nawa Bazaar in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2010. (Sgt. Mark Fayloga/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

I hate rockets in the morning. — Anonymous

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Marine Corps mortarmen practice sighting in their mortar systems before a live-fire shoot at Udairi Range in Kuwait Aug. 5, 2012. (Sgt. Richard Blumenstein/U.S Marine Corps)

Tan, lots and lots of tan. — Martin Hill

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1st Lt. Stephen T. Desmond clears a compound in Mohammadabad, Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 24, 2013. (Staff Sgt. Ezekiel Kitandwe/U.S. Marine Corps)

Baby coming. Please come home alive. — Anonymous

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Marines make their way to the extraction point during Operation Northern Lion II in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013. (Cpl. Alejandro Pena/U.S. Marine Corps)

We’ll be home by July, right? — Jeffrey Torres, Iraq 2003

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U.S. Marines pause to rest between their dismounted patrolling at Saber Strike 2012. (Sgt. Ray Lewis/U.S. Marine Corps)

Wonderful weather we’re having today, huh? — D. Gibson

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A UH-1 Huey lands at Forward Operating Base Shukvani before a sandstorm in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2013. (Lance Cpl. Sean Searfus/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Brotherhood made, found, and regrettably lost. — D. Graham

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A Marine says goodbye to 1st Lt. Scott J. Fleming during his memorial service at Patrol Base Jaker, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2010. (Sgt. Mark Fayloga/U.S. Marine Corps)

I still relive every single day. — Chris Williams

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Marines look out across the compound where they’ve been taking shelter for the last several days, in the city of Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan on Feb. 14, 2010. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Keep calm and call for artillery. — Jake Lundren

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Marines destroy an improvised explosive device cache found in an abandoned compound east of their newly established observation post in Southern Shorsurak, Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 20, 2010. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Great, I get to do two tours. — Sam Shattuck

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Marines exit a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 27, 2014. (Sgt. Dustin March/U.S. Marine Corps)

MEDEVAC swoops in. Another life saved.

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U.S. Army soldiers transport a trauma victim to a U.S. Army medical helicopter in Tarmiyah, Iraq, Sept. 30, 2007. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Summer Anderson/U.S. Navy photo)

Is that guy shooting at us? — Donnie Harrell

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A U.S. Army soldier keeps his weapon aimed while fellow soldiers confront a local man with a weapon approaching them from the vine groves in Western Muqdadiyah, Iraq, Dec. 12, 2007. (Spc. Shawn Cassatt/U.S. Army)

The stone age with assault rifles. — Mike H.

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U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan Araiza uses a mine detector to search for weapons caches on July 24, 2009 near Shah Wali Zarat in the Khowst province of Afghanistan. (Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith, U.S. Army/Department of Defense photo)

Mortars are fucking with my sleep. — Anonymous

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U.S. Marines with Black Sea Rotational Force 17.1 fire the 81-millimeter mortar during a night mortar range aboard Adazi Military Base, Latvia, April 22, 2017. (Cpl. Sean J. Berry/U.S. Marine Corps)

I can’t believe she shot me. — Chris Fierro

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A woman in a burka makes her way towards her home in Kabul, 02 March 2003. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Sir, your map is upside down. — Anonymous

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U.S. Army soldiers conduct an operation in Yusifiyah, Iraq, May 14, 2007. (Staff Sgt. Dennis Henry Jr./U.S. Air Force)

I’m doing the best I can. — Anonymous

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Marines wait on a C-130 Hercules prior to taking part in night jump training over Yokota Air Base, Japan, Nov. 21, 2013. (Osakabe Yasuo/U.S. Air Force photo)

New buddies. Tough farewells. Surreal return. — T. Tracy, LTC

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Families and friends welcomed home over 200 Marines and sailors to Marine Corps Base Hawaii from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom June 9, 2010. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Five names on a black bracelet. — Anonymous

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Dakota Meyer shows the black wristbands he wears on each arm honoring the three Marines and Navy corpsman who were killed in action in Ganjgal, Afghanistan, Sept. 8, 2009. (Sgt. Jimmy D. Shea/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

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