Calling all Alaska Veterans…Tell us your AK Vet Story

About AK Vets Stories

Anchorage Opera invites you to be a part of our special AK Vets Stories Project honoring our veterans’ community in Alaska. On Feb 10, 12, 16 & 18, 2017 we proudly present the Alaska premiere of Glory Denied by Tom Cipullo at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Based on the book of the same title by Tom Philpott, with a foreword by Senator John McCain, the show relates the poignant true story of America’s longest-held prisoner of war, the wrenching agonies faced by his family, and the larger story of a nation divided during the Vietnam era. We’re honored to produce this beautiful, socially relevant and important multi-media theater work to our community so that we may all gain a greater appreciation of the sacrifices made by those who serve in our armed forces.

As part of each performance we’re highlighting personal recollections and memories from veterans in our community, in order to put the theater experience into the perspective of our own social landscape in Alaska. Stories from our veterans, will be transcribed onto cards and placed on each of the theater seats, for attendees to read and reflect upon as part of the theater experience.

We invite all veterans (not just of the Vietnam war) and/or their loved ones to share a story, a memory, a feeling, a thought about their time in the service. There is no ‘approved’ format for these recollections; we want each veteran to feel free to express his or herself however they wish, and for each seat card to be as different as the person whose story it relates. A sentence or two, a paragraph, a page, a poem, a stream of thought narrative, an expression of feeling, a drawing, signed or anonymous…all submissions are welcomed. Glory Denied relates the story of one particular vet; with our AK Vet Stories Project we hope to connect with the men and women who served our nation, increase awareness of how their experiences impacted their lives, make an evening of theater more real, and bring it all a bit closer to home.

To get involved, make a submission or find out more call Judy Berry, Anchorage Opera Marketing & Development Director, or email

AK Vets Stories

George R. Darrow (TSgt, U.S. Air Force, Retired)
“…While I was at Da Nang I became the sponsor of two little sisters at a local orphanage and used visit them whenever I had the time.
From Da Nang I was sent to Binh Thuy Air Base in the Delta region to assist in installing some radio transmitters and receivers at a radar site. I returned stateside in June 1968 and remained there until 1971 when I returned to Binh Thuy for 10 months in order to maintain the radio transmitters and receivers that I had helped to install in 1968. While I was there I arranged for a pass to go to Da Nang to visit my girls.
On my return from Binh Thuy I was assigned at first to a radar site in Maine; then in 1973 I wound up here in Alaska. During all this time I continued supporting my girls, who I had come to love dearly. Then came the collapse of the South Vietnamese government in April, 1975. The orphanage in Da Nang that the girls had been living in was over-run by the North Vietnamese. I have had no word of them since then, but hope and believe that they are still alive. I still see their faces every day.”

Poems from ‘Meet Me in the Nam’ by Connie Yoshimura (wife of a Vietnam Vet)
Remembering Hanoi
Hanoi is where for the first and only time
I longed to be a mother so that I might bear

The pain of loss.  From the women
Who’s faces hung out of photographs like

Dying leaves on a tree, I learned humility.
Each had given their most prized possession –

A tin coffee pot, a worn shawl, the kitchen knife,
An unraveled bedspread in honor of their dead sons.

And Hanoi, the Paris of the east,
Hung them in a museum

As if they were a Van Gogh or Renoir
While back home America’s sons

Were met by war protestors—
The pick pockets of the soul.

The Walking Wounded
Who are you standing off in the corner,
your eyes furtively searching the ground
as if you’ve lost a piece of yourself?

Was it a punji stake that pierced
Your flesh or a Cong blade that took
A slice out of your calf?

Every night you come here, drink Jack Daniels,
Smoke camels and display your wound, purple and red
Like a taunt rubber band around your leg.

The men at the hotel bar turn their eyes away,
While the women stare at your wound as if the flesh
Was still hanging from the blade.

Even the mosquitoes don’t seem to bother you,
As if you’ve lost the scent of flesh,
And there is nothing left to steal.

The only way to hold on by Kyle Clayton
“From the back row of a lecture hall, I watch as a galaxy of laptop screens and smart phones lights up below me. I can see my fellow students in the rows below ignoring the professor as they sign on to Facebook and Twitter, troll headlines and play Angry Birds. Then I look at my tan backpack folded at my feet. The pack is dirty and faded, its straps already frayed. If I run my finger along its seams, I can still feel grains of sand from Iraq.

Not so long ago, this was my assault pack. I carried it across deserts, through mortar fire, into the war. Today, I tote it down hallways. A set of dog tags still lies tangled in an inside pocket. Those tags used to hang around my neck, ready to identify my body in case it became FUBAR. They’ve jangled in that pocket ever since I finished my deployment in Ramadi in 2006.

Returning to the U.S. was like entering a foreign country, except that the foreign country used to be home. After my discharge from the Army, I wound up back in Indiana, taking classes in Bloomington. Even though I was 23, I was a freshman. I was lonely and isolated. I felt dead. The only thing I connected with was my anger.

Today, seven years after I left Iraq, the rhythms of that life still echo inside me. The students who pass me on the sidewalk winding through Dunn Meadow are not my people. My people rode in Humvees and shot M-4 rifles and sweated under armor. They looked through the same bulletproof windows as I did. The undergrads who slump beside me in class were in elementary school when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began. I’m angry that they have never heard of IEDs, that some of them can’t point to Iraq on a map. I’m angry that soldiers are still fighting overseas while these students listen to their iPhones, enclosed in the background noise of their own lives. Most of all, I’m angry that I feel this way because it cuts me off from their world.

The rage goes so deep it scares me. Where do these worlds meet? I need to know. It’s the lack of meaning that shakes me the most.
And that’s when I retreat to the desert…”