The Words of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans Make-up Moving Stage Play Presented in Syracuse Tuesday Night
Veterans Day is Thursday with parades, events and remembrances scheduled around the area. But a stage play Tuesday night, produced by Syracuse Stage and the National Veterans Resource Center, might tell a more authentic story of the experiences, loss and trauma of those who fought.
Michelle Brooks’ play War Words shares the personal stories of 17 veterans. Retired General David Patraeus, who commanded forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, says the audience will hear unique insights.
“It Captures the absurdity of war at times, the loss, serious casualties, the sacrifices not just those in the war zones, but those at home as well. It also conveys this interesting conclusion that, despite all the hardship, the loss, and the sacrifice, I’d do it all over again.”
Patraeus works with the Atlantic Council that backed the play. He notes veterans who fought in Afghanistan have been asking themselves, ‘was it worth it?’ after the pullout of troops earlier this year.
“The only way to describe it is to say we felt pretty low. This (Afghan) government, however imperfect and maddening and frustrating, had fallen to the Taliban. A number of individuals actually felt literally depressed. And of course, it brings about a lot of questions of, ‘was the sacrifice worth it?’ I believe it was; we provided 20 extraordinary years of opportunity for the vast majority of that population.”
One of those middle-east veterans’ stories in War Words is Matt Zeller, who has since attended grad school at Syracuse University. His experience includes the sorrow felt over leaving what he counts as some 185,000 Afghani interpreters and other assistants behind.
“For the vast majority of us who served, we left a piece of our souls over there. And in its place, we came home with piece of the Afghan people and (their) culture. They stood shoulder to shoulder, Shohna ba Shohna as they would say, with us for over 20 years. (US) Veterans are now suffering a propound moral injury and those are the worst kind because a moral injury is an injury of the soul and is untreatable.”
He adds the play suggests the U-S needs a new understanding of the impacts of going to war.
“The cost of conflict is now always going to include the protection of war-time allies. And the failure to do that is such a greater burden on the American people in the long run because of the degradation of our credibility globally, and because of the moral injury suffered by veterans.”
Both Zeller and Petraeus say War Words offers an intimate, engaging way to learn some of the realities of serving in the middle east wars … and the lasting impacts.
A staged reading of “War Words”, directed by Syracuse Stage’s Bob Hupp, takes place tonight in Syracuse and five other U-S cities. It starts at 7:00 p.m. in SU’s National Veterans Resource Center. Information atSyracuseStage.org.