By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
10th Mountain Division
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – She sat comfortably on stage, reading aloud a tumble of lyrics to a crowd of listening service members.
Poetry flowed from her lips to their ears, as Staff Sgt. Reagan Gardley gave one last reading at the Camp Liberty's Morale, Welfare and Recreation center before she redeploys to her home in to Bremerton, Wash.
Gardley's deployment with the 345th Medical Detachment is almost complete and she credits her own writing in keeping her strong through this deployment.
"I have a hard time expressing how I feel verbally," Gardley said. "There have been times during this deployment where as a team leader I have (had) to come head to head with (fellow Soldiers). When I could not speak, I would write my thoughts out. Then I was able to speak."
After attending various MWR poetry nights, Gardley decided to organize an open mike event of her own to provide Soldiers a stage to express themselves.
"I noticed that the Soldiers really had something to say," Gardley said. "They were telling their stories. I wanted to provide a venue that was not only focused on poetry but on creativity."
As Soldiers took the stage one at a time, the room filled with fast paced rapping, strums of guitar, words from the heart and even notes from a trumpet.
Gardley finds it important for these Soldiers to find their own outlet.
"There is so much going on, situations that no one could possibly prepare their mind, soul, heart or body for," she said.
Most Soldiers, she admitted, will call home and try to talk the worries away with their loved ones. Family and friends try to understand but the distance makes it hard. The open mike stage allows Soldiers to share troubles with those who serve under the same sun and walk on the same sand as them.
"Folks just need someone to listen, to hear them," Gardley said. "Just to get it out and know that they are not holding it all in ... even if that person cannot help. It's like sharing a burden."
Gardley has been writing poetry since the fifth grade, but she first found her voice through writing short stories. The majority of her work narrates a story rather than focusing solely on an emotion.
"I have written and used a journal since I was in the fourth grade," Gardley said. "The pen is my therapy. If I have the urge to write, I will write on anything."
Gardley said when under stress or a heavy heart she usually finds her voice for writing.
"I have tried to write just on a whim, and my pen won't move," She added.
Gardley remains humble over her writing awards and publications, as she said one of her most rewarding poetic experiences had nothing to do with self recognition.
"The accomplishment that has been closest to my heart was being asked to read at a Soldier's funeral," Gardley said. "He was an inspiration to many of us and being able to give his family a minute to dwell on him, how wonderful he was, how he touched so many lives and how so many people loved him ... that was my best work."
This work, Soldier finds voice through poetry, by MSG Michel Sauret, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.