For Dana Lynn and AnnaMarie Cantrell, veterans’ issues are a cause that hits close to home. The two co-founders of the Upstate literary firm Captive Ink Media are preparing to release a compilation titled “From Barracks to Box: The New Front Line of the American Veteran” that features first-person accounts from veterans who have experienced the challenges and triumphs of returning to civilian life. The collection, which will be available in time for Veterans Day, reflects the women’s desire to produce “something that could be inspirational and offer hope and a coping mechanism,” Lynn says.
“We wanted to use our business as something to give back. We encounter a lot of stories about the struggles that servicemen and women are having,” she adds.
Lynn and Cantrell both have several personal connections to the military. Lynn’s fiancé served in the Army, as did her father and grandfather. Her brother served for 20 years in the Air National Guard, and she also has a nephew in the Air Force. Cantrell’s husband served three tours in the Middle East and is enlisted in the S.C. Army National Guard. Both of her grandfathers and an uncle are also veterans.
For some veterans, making a smooth transition back into civilian life can be a formidable challenge.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, the unemployment rate for all veterans was 4.3 percent, while the rate for veterans who have “served on active duty at any time since September 2001” was slightly higher at 5.1 percent. “There is a learning curve of adjusting to the lingo and mentality in a new workplace,” Cantrell says. “Some military positions and training are not easily transferable to civilian jobs, which is disheartening.”
Veterans can also face psychological barriers when they return home. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans, between 11 to 30 percent of veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The department estimates that 11 to 20 percent of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD. And those with PTSD may also develop substance abuse disorders (SUDs) through drinking, smoking, or drug use; more than two out of 10 veterans with PTSD have an accompanying SUD.
Those factors can aggravate the risk for homelessness among veterans. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, veterans make up 11 percent of the country’s homeless population. The S.C. Point-In-Time (PIT) Count estimates that in 2016, veterans made up 12 percent of the state’s homeless population. In the Upstate, out of 1,817 homeless individuals, 141 (7.7 percent) were veterans.
Cantrell and Lynn aim for the stories in “From Barracks to Box” to not only draw more attention to these issues but also serve as an “uplifting collaboration.” “We’d like to raise awareness and broaden the conversation,” Cantrell adds. “It’ll not only be healing for veterans to read the book but also it will be healing for them to write about it.”
Stories can be submitted until the beginning of July. In terms of requirements, Cantrell and Lynn are not setting any “major parameters.” “We’re leaving it up the veterans,” Lynn says. “We want to welcome as many as we can.”
Submissions can be as short as 500 to 1,000 words or as long as 10,000. Ultimately, the stories will all be edited; some will be pared down if necessary. Any changes made will be sent back to the writer to ensure their account is still being represented accurately.
Ultimately, Lynn and Cantrell hope to include around 75 stories and keep the book at approximately 280 pages. All stories will be published anonymously.
In addition to being for sale through online retailers like Amazon, Cantrell and Lynn will distribute some copies of “From Barracks to Box” to state Veterans Affairs offices and area shelters.