Amy Meier Presents: VeteransWrite

AMY MEIER, along with veterans NICK BUTTERFIELD and JEFFREY LEONARD will present “VeteransWrite” from 2:00 p.m. – 2:50 our San José Poetry Festival 2016: Breaking Borders on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at History San José.

Serving in the United States Armed Forces is a very personal experience. To those of you who have visited the Poetry Center San Jose (PCSJ) website innumerable times to check out the calendar of events, this presentation, is no surprise. You know that this writing group meets monthly at Markham House in History Park, and is offered to veterans of any age, any military experience, and to the family members of veterans. All levels of writing—  from beginner to experienced—are welcome. Out of this writing, has arisen voices to translate personal experiences of war, or trauma and travail that hang like curtains in their everyday life. One breath can reveal in an instant, a nightmare, or a simple act of kindness, or retribution.

Vet text

AMY MEIER is a retired counselor and small business owner. Amy was the attendee count specialist for the 2015 San Jose Poetry Festival. Also in 2015 she created and launched the “VeteransWrite” group including developing contacts for publicity and acting as co-facilitator.

Amy’s had a life-long interest in poetry and her work has been included in the 2011 anthology REMEMBERING: Poems Read at Willow Glen Books and 2009 Family Album Santa Clara County. She has been the featured reader at Stone Griffin Gallery Art and the Spoken Word, and TEN10 Gallery. Her poem “American Dream” received Honorable Mention in the 2015 Los Gatos Poetry Contest. In 2015 she created and launched the “VeteransWrite” group to encourage veterans and family members to put their life experiences into writing.

-Amy Meier

More fishermen than fish
at the percolator pond,
at first I think I see hard times,
fishing for dinner.
Looking more closely at the
fifty or so men strung
shoulder to shoulder
along the wall above the pond
while families picnic and play
on the meadow behind,
I see men standing close
enough to shatter the 2.5 foot
comfort zone Americans prefer,
as if that distance could protect us.
If anything can, it would be standing
shoulder to shoulder with
our neighbors close enough to
touch and to be touched.


NICK BUTTERFIELD served for 10 years in USN-R as a Hospital Corpsman. He was activated during Operation Desert Storm, and has worked in Family Practice as a Nurse Practitioner in a FQHC Community Clinic and with the Health Care for the Homeless Project for last 17 years.


Nick has been writing poetry since he was 13 years old and has participated in the Willow Glen Poetry Project and other local venues since 1996. His poems have been in four of the anthologies of Willow Glen poetry, and his poem PTSD in the 2014 issue of Cæsura.



He said the scars on his face were from Acne when young
and the missing tooth in front was from an old basketball injury.
My mom, she said he was sad about all the friends he lost during
the war. That’s what we all knew from what he said and what she said
and nothing about the smell of diesel fuel and burning flesh he smelled-
on a once calm Sunday morning—somewhere in paradise.


JEFFREY LEONARD served in the U.S. Army between 1966-1968. Drafted out of San Jose State, he trained as a 11C40, leaving the service as an E-5. He is a 12th generation descendant of men who have served in every major conflict dating back to pre-Revolutionary America. A survivor of the Vietnam Era, he is drawn to the stories of the returning soldiers and how their lives unfold after they remove the uniform.

Jeffrey         Quote of arms

Writing—especially poetry—is a powerful tool that Jeffrey uses to express conflicting, mysterious, dark, and difficult thoughts and emotions. He has spent the last 30 years as an Elementary Educator.

What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes
— Jeffrey Leonard

Marlantes observes the Marine Corps taught
how to kill
but didn’t teach
how to deal with killing.
He had come upon
the terrible responsibility and guilt
for the wounds and death of his men.
He describes the moral quagmire
warriors face from the sacrificial fire
called war.

I know there was little or no
treatment for the returning Vietnam vets.
Combat was a “soul-battering” experience.”
There was no “spiritual combat prophylactic,”
No training for men to prepare
for the possible horrible consequences.
“Warriors will always
have to deal with
guilt and mourning.”

Doug Kowalishen came home from Nam,
a dark shadow followed this former Army man.
Conversation, any interaction,
seemed awkwardly strained.
I kept my distance
so did old friends.
Eventually he fell in love and married.
Moved to the Southbay for work.
Heard there was a child.
Took a handgun and killed himself
October of 1974.
Now a name
on the Wall of Angels
Suicide Memorial
Below Ben Kovar
Above Michael Krajewski.

Emilio Gallegos served in the United Sates Marine Corps, Operation Iraqi Freedom,is a Purple Heart recipient, single father of two (Emilio Isaiah (19) and Seryna Renee (15), a student, and creative writer. Wounded by an IED on September 5, 2008, Emilio found his love again for the arts through writing therapy at the Palo Alto VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center. In May, 2016 Emilio will graduate with a BA in English, concentration in creative writing. He is continuing his schooling to earn an MA in Social Work. Emilio also works extensively with a men’s ministry group, and directs a youth ministry group, leading and teaching high school and middle school students. Emilio’s children are his inspiration to become a man of substance and value.

CASEY FITZSIMMONS has written many poems based in her experience as an Army brat. She has a master’s degree in Fine Arts from San Jose State University.

DALE BARNETT grew up in San Jose CA in the family home in Cambrian Park, has lived in Morgan Hill since 2009 and has been married for 27 years. He served in the USAF from 1971 – 1976. Dale has been writing since 2009 and feels verse is a way to reach a goal of healing.

DOUG NELSON is 69 years old and retired. He served as a soldier in Viet Nam. His 40 year public service career included technical writing and veterans’ counseling. He is a Photographer and a Poet.


Veterans Day





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