Yusef Komunyakaa, the most-honored American poet who served in the Vietnam War, will be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in May. Komunyakka, a former U.S. Army journalist, and eight others will join the 250-person AAAL roster of architects, composers, artists, and writers.
This select group includes the cream of the American arts community, including literary lights Edward Albee, E.L. Doctorow. Don DeLillo, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Irving, John McPhee, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Ann Tyler, Gore Vidal, Tom Wolfe, and Garry Wills. As the Academy itself notes, being nominated and elected is considered the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in the United States.
By my reckoning, the Academy includes only one other writer who served in the military during the Vietnam War: Alan (Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All ) Gurganus, along with Robert (Dog Soldiers ) Stone, who did a stint in the Navy in the late fifties and early sixties. Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was elected into the Academy in 2005.