“Welcome to Helmand. The leg lottery.”
Helmand, Afghanistan was one of the bloodiest provinces of Operation Enduring Freedom. Improvised explosive devices were rampant, robbing young Marines of life and limb. In particular, the cities of Sangin and Marjah were viciously brutal. If you are unfamiliar with those battles, they highlight the very definition of American Grit. “Dreadful sights are guaranteed,” says Justin T. Eggen, the former Marine who spent time in both these hell holes. Justin saw the reality of war, and it changed his life forever.
“Stinging rain imprinting on your mind, never losing this piece of your life…”
Turning pain into art is a concept as old as war itself. Justin decided to use this method to help channel his own into something productive. After years of silent struggle, the former combat engineer turned to written word. As a result, he began forming poems and writing his thoughts in a comprehensive way. The raw take was relatable and began to gain popularity.
Justin’s 3rd book, The Art of Warrior Poetry, won the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation (MCHF) Gannon Award in 2019. His 4th book, The Sun Rises in Helmand, again won the MCHF Gannon Award in 2020. Justin will be sharing the stage later this year with General James Mattis, to revive the accolade. According to the MCHF website: “The Robert A. Gannon Award, named after the noted poet, is given for a volume of original verse by a Marine poet dealing with Marine Corps life.”
“Curating collections of memories to ease the pain. Beautiful it can be, overwhelming at times. For death has never lied.”
Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Reading this may send you back to Afghanistan. Furthermore, leaving you metaphorically feeling covered in that infamous moon dirt, in desperate need of a shower. The anticipation will leave you with spicy armpits, and narrowing eyes. Triggering emotions both good and bad, suffering builds the closet bounds; these words will send you back to memories of smiling faces all suffering together as a unit.
Certainly, a combination of nostalgia and realization awaits the combat Veterans who read this. However, Justin says these poems are for everyone to enjoy. “I want people who think war is for baby killers to read my poetry and think ‘well fuck, my mind is changed.'”
We highly recommend being in the right frame of mind entering this book, but it is well worth it. You can find Justin’s work by clicking here. Drop a comment and let us know what you think, especially if you served in the Helmand province…