By TEDDYE SNELL
When Stacy Pratt met Joseph, the love of her life, they were 19, poets, fellow bandmates and English majors, hanging out in a small college town, playing music and enjoying life.
Today, they are married, and much of their courtship and married life has been dedicated to education and the military.
Pratt, Muscogee/Creek, gave a presentation during the 42nd annual Symposium on the American Indian Thursday at Northeastern State University, outlining “resiliency” and how it applies to those intimately involved in the Iraq and Afghan wars.
Pratt, assistant professor of English at State University of New York, Jefferson Community College in Watertown, is also a writer, musician and performer. She shared her story of love, loss and resilience through song and poetry.
“When we were both 19, I never dreamed I’d be married to a soldier in the Army,” said Pratt. “I’m going to play a song for you that I wrote when we decided we’d, ahem, like to be something more than friends.”
Pratt played her acoustic guitar, singing, “I’d rather hold you every single day in my heart than hold you in my arms one time. I’d rather miss you every single day than kiss you just one time.”
The second song she performed was written when the couple were engaged, and Joseph was stationed in Italy, attending jump school.
“I was there with him, and yes, he’s a paratrooper, which is exciting,” said Pratt. “We were stationed in Italy, which I highly recommend. But this was also right before [the] Iraq [war] began.”
Although they were together, Joseph spent most of his days in training, leaving Stacy to her own devices in a foreign country where she was slowly learning the language. The gist of the second tune was one of love and longing, fear of separation, but acceptance of the situation.
Once Joseph deployed to Iraq, Stacy returned to the U.S., and began graduate studies at the University of Southern Mississippi.
“Joseph was in Iraq and had been injured, and I had no idea how serious it was,” said Pratt.
“Back then, a tour really had no set length. Nowadays, they last a year. Anyway, once he came home, he said, ‘We have to get married right now; I almost died.’ And I said, ‘You almost died; we have to get married right now.’”
Pratt explained her whirlwind wedding planning, which lasted about four days.
“All of New Orleans and Southern Mississippi helped us get married, seriously,” said Pratt.
It’s just how the people are. After we got married, he went back to Iraq and I went back to school. Then he went to Italy again and I went with him. Then he redeployed and I went back to my doctorate. It’s really no way to get your doctorate. It took forever.”
Pratt then read a poem she wrote the day after the paratroopers “jumped” into Iraq. It reflected how she felt when scanning the news channels, watching footage in night-vision green, hoping to get a glimpse of her husband.
Another poem illustrated her frustration at being left alone. She wrote about how she used his razor, slept in his T-shirt, and was now wearing cotton panties – “the kind that come 15 to a package” – rather than seeking out silky underthings.
“As a military wife, people treat you really weird,” said Pratt.
“They don’t know what to do with you. I wasn’t single, but my husband wasn’t there. There are things ‘you don’t talk about.’ And I wrote a poem, ‘Inadequate Good-bye,’ about what I think would happen if I only had five minutes left with my husband.”
Pratt also explained Murphy’s Law of Deployment.
“Anything and everything in the house will break right after my husband leaves, and I have proof,” said Pratt.
Pratt also talked about the loss of a dear friend, a fellow soldier and her husband’s best friend.
“They are infantry, so it happens a lot,” said Pratt. “But Mike was very close. He and his wife would come for dinner. It was odd, because he was the total opposite of me. He was gregarious, crazy-loud and conservative. I’m a quiet little hippie girl.”
Pratt wrote several pieces about her feeling on the loss – one poignant, one angry, one sad.
Over the course of her dissertation, which included much of the work about the war, her graduate workshop explained she needed to write about something other than the war.
The poem she wrote included the phrase, “Of course, there must be something else,” but then went on to describe scenes of war, loss and longing in vivid detail.
After graduating, Pratt and her husband moved to a new home in New York.
“My band broke up, which is worse than breaking up with your boyfriend, so I couldn’t write,” she said. “And the war started and I couldn’t write, and a friend I had just made in New York found out she was literally riddled with cancer, and my husband had just redeployed. And I began to write again.”
Pratt’s next few pieces described her new loneliness, how she missed her husband – and one detailed the food and things she missed from the South.
One sentiment rang throughout Pratt’s poetry and songs: a dedication and adoration of her husband, and in some ways, the life they have carved out for each other.
In her final tune, “Paper Poppies,” she sang about how she’s ready for her husband to march in veterans’ parades, wear his American Legion pin, and sell “paper poppies outside Walmart.”
“Veterans take such good care of our current soldiers,” said Pratt.
“The Vietnam veterans have been so good to us; when they said ‘never again,’ they meant it, and we have good homecomings. We want to be veterans and veterans’ wives.”
In a parting note, Pratt talked about being a military wife.
“When we think about soldiers, we don’t always think about the wives,” said Pratt.
“Don’t feel sorry for us; we’re very much in love, and that’s nothing to feel sorry about.”