America’s respect and admiration for our veterans was rekindled as a result of 9/11. We suffered a common attack on our homeland and we understand the fight that we send our service members to face. The bond we feel with our veterans is as strong today as it was following WWII.
Because of this, there are many veteran experiences projects across the country. Each intends to help veterans tell their unique stories. Some are therapeutic. Some give historical value to each individual’s experience. And some offer real training in the profession of writing. We take a look at three such programs here.
Wright State’s Veterans Voices
The first is Wright State’s Veterans Voices. It’s a collaboration between WYSO and Wright State University’s Veteran and Military Center (VMC). It began as part of Veterans Coming Home and now receives funding from Ohio Humanities.
Student veterans at Wright State University produce stories featuring Miami Valley veterans. The stories cover a variety of conflicts and branches of service. The veterans describe their experiences of re-entry into civilian life in their own voices.
Spend time on Veteran Voices and you’ll meet Lieutenant Bobby Walker, a behavioral scientist in the United States Air Force. Walker was being involuntarily separated from the Air Force due to Force Shaping, and started a Fronana business with the future in mind.
You’ll also visit with Air Force veteran Jennifer Queen with her dogs P-Nut, Carmen and Annie. Author Allison Loy writes, “Approximately 300,000 Post-9/11 veterans are identified as having post-traumatic stress disorder in this country but it’s estimated that only 1 in 3 asks for help.” Queen suffers nightmares and other problems due to combat trauma. Her story story shows how dogs help veterans cope with PTSD.
These interviews are stored in The Library of Congress and Wright State University’s archives.
“For reasons not quite defined, in our culture it’s very easy for veterans to disappear, for their voices not to be heard.”
Ampers and the Minnesota Humanities Center
Another Veterans Voices project is co-sponsored by Ampers and the Minnesota Humanities Center. Veterans share their perspectives on their lives, military service and reintegration into civilian life. Topics include the decision to join the military, sexual assault and leaving the military.
You’ll meet Army Veteran Brock Hunter, who thinks the media have sanitized war coverage. Hunter says this is why the general population does not understand what veterans have gone through, nor what they have to offer.
Meet veteran Ryan Schmidt. He talks about veteran experiences like the challenges of being a trained soldier and a loving father and husband. This, while also missing the camaraderie of fellow service members.
Ampers also sponsors a project called Veterans’ Voices of World War II. This series offers gritty veteran experiences from Minnesota veterans who served in that conflict.
The interviews are short and to the point. Definitely worth your time.
Veterans Writing Scripts
The Veterans Writing Project pairs military vets with experienced film and television writers. These writers are members of the Writers Guild of America, and experienced at writing for television and movies.
The programs mentors veterans as they develop their storytelling chops. They learn to write scripts professionally. They start with a weekend seminar, then develop their skills in a series of meetings with writers held throughout the next year.
This program is not therapeutic. It’s a job training program for veterans who want to write for TV shows and movies.
Katie Buckland of the Writers Guild Foundation says, “They can work on any project that they want. We have writers who are working on action movies, writers who are writing comedy series, and writers who are working on family dramas. In each group just about every genre is covered.”
She continues, “I get calls regularly from showrunners saying ‘who’s in the veteran’s pipeline? I’d like to hire a vet to write on my show.”
The opportunity is for veterans who want to be storytellers. They use their veteran experiences to add realism and authenticity to the stories and scripts that they write. With real opportunities waiting for talented authors, this course has already helped some veterans land good jobs.
Projects like Veterans Voices are important to our veterans and our culture. When veterans help other veterans to tell their stories, there’s a kinship and bond that develops. The stories are more authentic than those shared with most civilians. Why? Because the interviewees are at ease with their veteran interviewers.
And the veterans behind the projects learn real skills – writing, interviewing, journalism, storytelling – that help them in their civilian careers.
Featured Image Courtesy: Observer Culture