US Army Sergeant John Roth faced a hard and turbulent life when he returned late in 2005 from a yearlong deployment in Northern Iraq. He suffered from internal brain trauma after an IED explosion. He could walk only with a cane. He suffered from nightmares and the use of powerful psychotropic drugs to control his PTSD. His brother was burned badly in a house fire. Then in April of 2007 his own house burned. Life was out of control. He found himself slipping away; thoughts of suicide and homicide came often.
One day in English class at Bellevue Community College near Seattle, John was introduced to Voices in Wartime, and he poured out his frustrations in a short essay. Later, he became an impassioned volunteer and eloquent spokesperson for Voices. "From the film and my involvement in the Education Project, I learned I could be a voice and witness," says John.
Today, John is a student at Cornish College in Seattle. "The News, bin Laden is Dead" is the first poem John's written in three years. He is trying to line up an internship to complete his graduation requirement at Cornish. He continues to be a supporter of Voices, very frequently going into schools to tell his story and to read his poetry.
John Roth is part of a new wave of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have for all of us a gift of wisdom won at great cost. His words resonate especially for young people who have a deep desire to act with compassion, and who want to understand the world by changing it.
The News, bin Laden is Dead
The news, Bin Laden is dead.
Part of me always wondered, does he exist?
He is memory, a moment's satisfaction
New dilemma scrolls across the ticker
As pointless as the 3,000 plus
A brisk morning in 2001.
One man's body for trade...
The Euphrates runs red
Iraq, Afghanistan, I bleed for you,
The well of the whole world runs dry.
The ghosts of my comrades wander in the wilderness.
At the center of the Universe
Perceived is the still decade
We transformed a desert into glass
I witness the orgies in the streets,
Champagne bottles litter the hallowed ground where at 18,
Transfixed to 21 screens of terror I witnessed...
Pixel-ed desperate took to the air, praying for flight.
Free men learn nothing.
There will be no justice.
Lost in the smoke of the second tower
A drunken celebration for the death of one man
Whom once we called "friend"