Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

January 29, 2013

War vet brings special art to Vonnegut library

By Wade Coggeshall
CNHI

INDIANAPOLIS — Malachi Muncy has one word to describe his service in Iraq as a member of the Army National Guard.

"Frightening."

His dad being a U.S. Army vet, Muncy grew up on bases. Yet he wasn't following in his father's footsteps when he joined the military.

"I think I really just needed a place to stay," Muncy said during a recent phone interview. "I had a lot of problems in my life I was trying to get away from."

Going to Iraq, however, wasn't the solution.

Muncy was a truck driver for his National Guard unit. Just 18 years old at the time, many of the convoys often came under attack.

"Our trucks didn't have any armor," Muncy said. He can't say if he had a lot of close calls.

"One is a lot. I had a few. One is enough."

Sleep deprivation and coming under fire began taking a toll. Muncy's behavior became erratic. He punched a truck window and was accused of pointing a loaded weapon at a fellow soldier. Eventually he was put on sleeping pills. He didn't particularly like them, but started abusing them in hopes of keeping on an even keel.

"Anytime I wasn't driving, I started popping them," Muncy said. "I wasn't necessarily trying to sleep, just dull my senses."

And yet after serving in Iraq from 2004 to '05, he went back in '06 and served another two years. Muncy says it's because his drug use got worse when he returned to the states, and he started getting into trouble with the law. Returning to Iraq, he thought, would be a geographical cure.

"The logic to me at the time was if I went back I could find myself where I had lost myself," he said.

Instead, Muncy says he returned to an entire unit with a drug problem and a mission he didn't believe in, especially having a lousy detail like being a truck driver in an aviation brigade.

He had been to one AA meeting in his life. The only step he remembered was keeping an inventory of yourself. So Muncy started writing a journal. He had plenty to keep track of. Not just in Iraq, but back home too. His father had died while Muncy was serving overseas. His wife had tried to kill herself. His daughter was born while he was in Iraq. And his mother had been institutionalized.

"I had a lot of pieces of my life moving around," Muncy said.

After his second stint in Iraq, Muncy enrolled at Texas State University and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism. He went to work for a newspaper, which led to an interest in photography and then printmaking. He bought his own paper studio and holds workshops there.

One of his special projects is printing art on "combat paper," which is created from military uniforms.

"I have a lot of people who've donated their uniforms," Muncy said.

He hopes to make a cover from combat paper for a book he's writing based on his war journals. Muncy sent some of his art to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in November. He'll be there from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 1 as part of the Indianapolis Downtown Artists & Dealers Association's First Friday Art Tour.

"I've never been there. I'm really excited," said Muncy, who also manages the Under the Hood Cafe at the GI Outreach Center outside of Fort Hood in Texas.

The Vonnegut library is at 340 N. Senate Ave., Indianapolis. Admission is free. For more information, visit the website at VonnegutLibrary.org.

wade.coggeshall@flyergroup.com