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The Uniform and its Stories

Call for Submissions

The military uniform is a symbol of the service, a tool for the wearer, the representation of the profession. The accouterments have meaning, some tell of the wearer’s valor, of sacrifice, of loss, conquest, accomplishment or rite of passage. Some parts are hard won, like the tab on the right shoulder. Some mark a history, like the overseas ribbon on the sleeve. The combat shirt, the bloused pants, belt exact upon the gig line…each part of the uniform has meaning. Each who has worn the uniform has a story. What is your story, with what aspect of your uniform as symbol or character that calls back to your service? What is the story behind the dog tags around your neck, or laced in your boot? The incident that resulted in the Purple Heart, or didn’t because you left theater a combat casualty and the unit forgot you? The tear in your camo pants, hand stitched? The boots you slung high across the wire, marking passage from Soldier to Veteran and the journey to arrive at that moment? What are your stories?

Service members, veterans, family or friends – what part of the uniform tells your story?

Submissions of nonfiction (750 – 5000 words) (1-3 pieces) or poetry (any form, up to 10 poems) wanted. Please include an author bio under 200 words.

Submit your work via Submittable –> here.  RTF, PDF, or Word document file please.

Payment: Two contributor copies.

No fee for submitting.

Deadline March 30, 2016.

The uniform item is like a window into experience, or the knob on the door that leads into or concludes the essay. Not so much what as why and the journey or passage the item reflects or invokes.

Some examples (and these may be used if they speak to you) might be a story about going through ranger training and the emotional journey it was coupled with the significance of the tab, how when a Soldier who has been deployed always checks the right shoulder of someone on the first meeting which leads into a story about deployment, a career spanning decades and the pair of boots first worn in basic training kept all those years so one could toss them upon the overhead wire – how seeing that tradition is a thread that ties the years and generations together and the journey of that career.

For example, I have an essay that talks about army brown boxer shorts during the first gulf war but the actual focus of the essay is that in 1990, men were issued underwear for deployment but women were not and how that inequality was addressed and the resulting use and implications while we were deployed (it meant the women sharing quarters could undress down to their boxers which we used as shorts, which mitigated privacy issues when male and female soldiers shared a GP MED tent).

Another example – a female soldier who is a leader and becomes pregnant and the switch from the standard uniform to the pregnancy uniform – the emotional roller coaster and conflicting feelings about roles and expectations for example.

The uniform item is the vehicle of the story.