"This star is part of a U.S. flag which flew proudly over El Paso, Texas. Keep this star and let it guide you home to the arms of a grateful nation." (David A. Reyes/Borderzine.com)

Veterans of an old war honor today’s soldiers

EL PASO – Each of the 50 stars on a retired American flag is cut out into a rectangle and slid into a small plastic bag, accompanied by a message on a card and is given to soldiers being deployed to war zones by veterans who fought in the Vietnam War. The message, which the soldier keeps, reads,  “This star is part of a U.S. flag which flew proudly over El Paso, Texas. Keep this star and let it guide you home to the arms of a grateful nation.” “The most rewarding is giving them our appreciation for their service,” says veteran Miguel Fernandez, a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Wieland C. Norris Chapter 844. These pieces of the flag are given to soldiers headed overseas by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 844.

U.S. Poet Laureate, Philip Levine, at a recent visit to the University of Texas at El Paso. (David A. Reyes/Borderzine.com)

U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine – A lifetime of giving a thundering voice to the voiceless

EL PASO – Poet Laureate Philip Levine, still as fit and funny at age 85 as he was as a young man working the night shift at a car factory, shared his special brand of earthy, poignant and insightful poetry – and a sizable measure of good humored repartee ­– with over 1000 fans at UTEP recently. The poet of the working class, who was born in Detroit to poor Russian Jewish immigrant parents, began writing professionally in the early 1950’s and has been giving “a voice to the voiceless” ever since. His message and poetry resonated with his El Paso audience in a city that is predominately Hispanic and working class. Asked by Sociologist Gina Nuñez what he thinks of the billions spent by the U.S. government erecting walls along the 2000-mile border, Levine responded: “The worst walls are the ones we can’t see because we are erecting interior walls. You say they’re dividing families.

“This whole area I thought was just kind of mysterious for me. I liked the culture. I liked the desert. I found it fascinating,” said Welsh. (David A. Reyes/Borderzine.com)

Lawrence Welsh – Digging for verse in the deserts of the Southwest

EL PASO – The watercolor on the wall in Lawrence Welsh’s office gleams with warm sun spilling across the panorama, as if light lived inside every leaf, every strand of grass, every inch of wood and tin. The Associate Professor of English at El Paso Community College said it reminds him of his own deep “digging” for art, poetry and history in the desert lands of the Southwest. In his new collection of poems written from 1994 to 2009, Begging for Vultures, Welsh sweeps readers through voices and landscapes of the Southwest. His personal excavation began in Los Angeles where he was raised, and where he began uncovering his love for words and music, co-founding the punk rock band, The Alcoholics in the late 1970’s, then writing and editing on newspapers, and writing fiction and poetry. Now, he teaches at the community college.