National Guard member writes to increase military-civilian connections

By Rachel Leingang, News21

Dan Nygard wrote his debut novel, "Rounds," after deploying to Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard.

Dan Nygard wrote his debut novel, “Rounds,” after deploying to Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard.

It’s easy for non-military citizens to ignore the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, author Dan Nygard said, drawing from his experience as a Minnesota National Guard member.

“You can go through your day and it doesn’t affect it one bit,” he said. “You don’t have to pay attention anymore. Nobody’s rationing anything.”

His service outside Fallujah, Iraq, from March 2006 to July 2007 inspired his first novel, “Rounds.” He sees it as a way to connect non-veterans with what the military undergoes.

“I do think there’s a gigantic divide between civilian and military,” Nygard said. “Even with yellow ribbons and clapping in the airports, I don’t think the military feels like they’re connected to civilians.”

“Rounds,” drawn from Nygard’s experiences from his deployment, starts as a first-person narrative, then moves into third-person accounts before the lead narrator, Ray, returns.

“It’s very circular,” Nygard said. “I don’t think war stories can have that Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 narrative; it just doesn’t happen that way.”

Nygard got a Masters of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Minnesota State University-Moorhead, using the G.I. Bill. He began writing before he was deployed, but the “wealth of experiences” he had in Iraq were great subject matter for a novel.

Writing about his deployment helped Nygard to process a lot of what he went through, he said, almost as a kind of therapy.

“There’s a healing that can go on when you put it on paper,” he said, “and not only for the person who’s writing. It helps the readers to understand and become closer to the vet doing the writing.”

That connection is what Nygard really hopes his novel – and other fiction and non-fiction by post-9/11 veterans – can achieve.

“People do have an interest,” he said. “People are good at heart. They do want to feel and understand what’s happened in the last 10 years.”

“Rounds” is available as an e-book through Amazon. Nygard is writing his next novel, which is set at home and more about the aftermath of war.