Last year, I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with a friend of mine and her 96-year-old father, a World War II veteran whose plane was shot down over Paris in 1944, and who has an amazing story to tell – not just of his escape from the burning aircraft, but also of his adventures afterward. I won’t tell his story here, because it’s his story to tell. But I was honored that he shared his stories with me, because my friend told me he had never shared them with her until well into her adulthood.
Among veterans, this is not uncommon.
Episcopal priest and Army Reserve Chaplain David Peters says in his conversations with veterans, “I often hear from their family members that, ‘He just never talks about it.’ Stories connect people, and veterans’ families and friends want that connection, but veterans still don’t talk about it. Why?”
Peters, an Iraq War veteran himself, notes that the reason for each veteran is different. Maybe one feels the story is too disturbing to share with the people she loves the most. Maybe he’s unsure about whether he’ll be able to handle his own emotions while reliving the tale. But the deeper reason, Peters says, is that veterans feel like the stories they tell will fall upon ears that can never really hear them.
“We know any story we tell cannot capture what really happened over there,” he says.
Although telling their stories may be difficult, being able to find a way to tell them can be a powerful part of the healing process for veterans who have suffered the deep emotional and psychological wounds that arise in battle. Thankfully, there are several organizations and initiatives that help these soldiers find a way to get the stories inside them out into the world. Here are just a few of them:
“VVWP started as an outreach program for veterans returning from World War II. Today, it serves all veterans with therapeutic writing programs to heal their unseen emotional and moral wounds. Veterans write about personal experiences and innermost thoughts to help manage the effects of PTSD and to reduce the risk of suicide. They also write for creative expression. It also offers the opportunity for community in writing groups and to have their work published. The program continues its important work for those serving in the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Now, with the return of injured veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan and other recent conflicts, the project is more important than ever. The project’s therapeutic writing program is designed to acknowledge military veterans’ experiences and build self-esteem through creative expression and possible publication. The arts can provide a creative diversion from the reality of illness, while identifying a patient’s previously unexpressed emotional and spiritual needs. This can result in stress reduction and faster healing — and in some cases, a more peaceful death.”
“The War Horse’s writing seminars bring together world class journalists, authors, agents, and publishers with veterans and military family members for off-the-record Q&A. Our seminars are where the best writers of today pay it forward to the most promising writers of tomorrow.”
“The Witness to War Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) and was founded in 2001 by Atlanta-based entrepreneur Tom Beaty. The Foundation is dedicated to capturing the stories of individual combat veterans. It is about the ‘foxhole’ or ‘windshield’ view of combat as seen by the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who experienced it. It is about the fear, the emotions, the training, and the previously untapped wells of personal courage that enabled ordinary individuals to survive, and in some cases thrive, under extraordinary pressures and almost unimaginable danger. The Witness to War Foundation is dedicated to understanding, as much as possible, what it was like to ‘be there.'”
While My Last Soundtrack doesn’t share the unique mission of these organizations, we are driven by the importance of people being able to share their stories. As we are especially thankful to our nation’s veterans, we are offering all veterans the chance to tell their stories through our platform free throughout the month of November.
If you are a veteran or you love one, and you have a story to tell, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll make sure your story is told.