How We Started

Leilani SquireBlog0 Comments

In 2005, I started writing about the wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq. I needed to somehow make sense of what I was seeing on the news and media about the war. As I continued writing I decided I wanted to help soldiers and veterans write their stories so, in May 2010, I introduced a creative writing workshop at the West Los Angeles Veteran Hospital in the Domiciliary. That was in late May.

Soon after I started facilitating the veteran’s writing workshop, my friend and fellow poet Lee Mingh Sloca, asked me to help with an upcoming event in November he called “Returning Soldier”. Lee was also writing poetry about the war (poets do that) and he wanted to have an evening where military personnel spoke. He had booked November 7th at Beyond Baroque in Venice, California, a literary mecca for local poets and writers. He chose that day to commemorate Veterans Day. Since I was working with veterans and wanted to help my friend, I accepted Lee’s offer. It sounded perfect.

Lee died on June 19th, suddenly and unexpectedly. His heart was too big, the coroner said.

Lee was a child in Vietnam during the Vietnam War and came to the United States with his family in the 1980s. He was my best friend. He was kind and gentle, an advocate for high-risk children and not afraid to ruffle feathers with his words. After reflection, I decided to carry on Lee’s evening with returning soldiers at Beyond Baroque.

“Returning Soldier” was renamed to “Returning Soldiers Speak: An Evening of Poetry and Prose.” I wanted the event to be about veterans writing and telling their stories to the community in a meaningful way. The evening is and always will be held in Lee’s honor.

Lee gave me a gift. I hope he’s proud of what his idea has become.

-Leilani Squire, September 4 2015

Share this Post

About the Author
Leilani Squire

Leilani Squire

Leilani Squire is the Founder and Director of Returning Soldiers Speak. She was born at Tripler Army Hospital in Honolulu while her father, Grant R. Squire, was deployed on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Okinawa during the Korean War. She is a writer, creativity coach, and since 2010, has been working with veterans and their families to help them tell their stories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *