Kacy Tellessen is exceptional in so many ways. He's served his country with honor, deploying twice to Iraq when called. He owns and operates a successful catering and food truck business with such dedication that it's been featured on TV's Diners Drive-ins and Dives.
Kacy has been published in The New York Times and the Zero-Dark-Thirty literary journal. And on top of recently releasing his highly-acclaimed war memoir, Freaks of a Feather: A Marine Grunt's Memoir (Latah Books), he's pursuing a Juris Doctor at Gonzaga University School of Law. All this while raising a family. What we're interested in most here at Veteran Artist Residencies is how Kacy came to write his war memoir and how the process helped him process the trauma of war.
"It Started As One Big, Long Suicide Note"
Kacy grew up in a small farming community in Washington state. Like many young men in small communities, he found adventure and entertainment in books. Homer's Iliad taught Kacy about honor and destiny, while at the same time beginning an interest in war literature.
Years immersed in stories of heroism and honor led Kacy to the recruiter's office at the age of eighteen, where he set out on his own odyssey as a United States Marine.
And he got to experience war, but probably more than he'd bargained for. While in Iraq, Kacy's company experienced an 80% casualty rate. This is a level of intimacy with terror and grief that few can begin to comprehend.
Kacy separated from the military after starting a family. But his experience with the war was far from over. Like countless other veterans, the sense of alienation and the hole left by losing such a tight knit community of brothers, led him to some dark places in his mind. He quickly reasoned that suicide was the only way out.
But before he could leave his family, they needed to know the reason and hear his story. So he began to write his suicide note, which is now published as Freaks of a Feather (which patrons of the Veteran Artist Residencies nonprofit can read an excerpt of below).
Writing Heals Veterans
Committing to telling his story gave Kacy a sense of purpose again. And this is a decision he says saved his life—and family. The process of writing helped Kacy "unload his pack" and let go of the burden of his memories, shame, and grief.
He found joy and catharsis in the writing process and soon entered into a creative writing program. After ten years of writing, edits, re-writing, and more edits, Kacy finally felt ready to share his story with his wife and a wider audience. And as this review from the military publication Task & Purpose states, "If there is such a thing as literary justice, you will eventually find Tellessen’s truth shelved alongside Sledge and Leckie and O’Brien."
An Excerpt From Freaks Of A Feather
Below is a passage from Freaks of a Feather where Kacy unloads some of the shame of war by retelling a rough interaction with locals. Sometimes the darkness of a place will creep into your bones until you no longer recognize who you've become.
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