Sean Wheelwright in Iraq/CBS News
Sean Wheelwright in Iraq/CBS News

Ask any veteran.  Once you’ve been deployed in a war zone, you are changed forever. The folks back home often forget about a soldier’s past life, assuming that once it’s over, it’s over. While understandable, the need to assimilate back into normalcy often buries the emotions, pain and conflicts felt by many fighting men and women once they return.

Now recently returned vets have a chance to express how they feel. In six words.

Earlier this year, West Point graduates Shaun Wheelwright and Mike Nemeth started the Six Word War project, a living memoir expressing the collective experiences of service members deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, hundreds of soldiers and Marines have submitted photos and personal descriptions that vary from pithy to painful; angry and anguished; funny, sad, sanguine:

Medals don’t fill holes in souls.

Hey they’re shooting! No shit Sherlock.

Now I understand what dehumanized means.

never met, except when carrying casket.

Did what was asked. Wasn’t enough.

Did my best. We all did.

We can Zumba in the desert?!

Big boom. Silence. My friend died.

Mom, can’t chat now. Rockets incoming.

In Partnership with Six-Word Memoirs and SMITH Magazine, the essays and images will be included in the upcoming book, “Six Word War,” which will go into publication later this month.

Six words; lasting impact — made possible by the grit of American veterans.