Will Mackin is a 23-year veteran of the US Navy. He has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, first as a navigator aboard a carrier-based jet, then as a joint terminal attack controller attached to a SEAL team. His first book, Bring Out the Dog (Random House, 2018), won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection.
During his fellowship, Mackin is working on “Animals,” a collection of short stories based on his experiences as a special operations soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mackin’s writing has appeared in the Atlantic, GQ, the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, and Tin House. His short story “Kattekoppen” was included in The Best American Short Stories 2014 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), and his essay about being an extra on Breaking Bad, published in GQ, was nominated for an American Society of Magazine Editors Ellie Award. His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal (with valor), the Combat Action Ribbon, and five Strike/Flight Air Medals.
In this session, we discussed his experience and encounters with animals during missions to Iraq and Afghanistan. We discussed how animals might have impacted these missions as well as the humanitarian side of encountering animals in these environments.
We also had a discussion on the ethics of live tissue training. This discussion spanned the thoughts on the need for this training as well as potential alternatives. We also discussed how to ethically engage in this training with respect to the animal.
We ended our discussion by talking about Will’s use of art, writing and poetry to synthesize his war-time experience.
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