Purple Heart recipient helps fellow veterans heal through creative writing in Oklahoma pilot program

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Jason Poudrier, a decorated Iraqi War vet, works with Bill O'Pecko, Air Force veteran, as he leads creative writing classes that are part of the Oklahoma Arts Council's pilot arts program at the Norman Veterans Center on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
Jason Poudrier, a decorated Iraqi War vet, works with Bill O'Pecko, Air Force veteran, as he leads creative writing classes that are part of the Oklahoma Arts Council's pilot arts program at the Norman Veterans Center on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
Jason Poudrier, a decorated Iraqi War vet, works with Bill O’Pecko, Air Force veteran, as he leads creative writing classes that are part of the Oklahoma Arts Council’s pilot arts program at the Norman Veterans Center on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

NORMAN – Bill O’Pecko titled his story “Just Another Occurrence on the Sahara,” but what was ordinary during in the North African campaign of World War II now would be considered anything but commonplace.

Standing in front of about 30 veterans, volunteers and staffers at the Norman Veterans Center, instructor Jason Poudrier read O’Pecko’s story of witnessing a French Foreign Legion firing squad executing five spies outside a two-block town, the name of which O’Pecko has since forgotten.

“After the squad had shot the prisoners, the commander went up to each victim with his pistol and fired one round behind the left ear of each victim. Then, they continued to do that to 10 more people. My friends and I decided to leave. We didn’t want to see anymore. We went back to our headquarters,” Poudrier read.

“Poetry doesn’t have to be pretty, just powerful,” he added at the end. “And that’s one of those poems.”

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