On this Veterans’ Day, members of a Syracuse Writing Group will share their stories to help them come to terms with their military experiences. Sometimes it’s easier to write your feelings down on paper. Eileen Schell leads the writing group and says it creates connections for local veterans.
“You are creating a larger community that values the stories, the individual stories and experiences but also the collectivity that comes from a group of veterans sharing their stories, sitting in a circle--or in our case on Zoom now--talking through what they meant.”
For local Vietnam veteran Peter McShane, writing helps him articulate his feelings and memories from the war. McShane says he finds few differences between Vietnam and Iraq or Afghanistan wars. He is able to create bonds across generations.
“There is so much similar that it’s really easy to build a bond with an Iraqi war veteran or an Afghani war veteran. I have… I have dear friends that I have made in the writing group.”
McShane credits writing workshops at the Downtown Writers Center with helping him get his innermost thoughts on paper. He shares this example of his writing, as he recalls trying to put wartime articles and souvenirs away in a box to escape them.
“And the memories caught up with me. They came to me in nightmares. They came to me while I dined with my wife. They came to me while I drove in the passing lane on the interstate. They came to me while I walked in the forest. I wanted to know why, why I felt remorse, fear, anger. I wanted to know why the captain grandstanded and got us shot. Why I saved his life but couldn’t save others more worthy.”
(excerpt from his book Save a Life, Take a Life—Green Beret Medic in Vietnam and the Passage Home)
Schell says Veterans’ Day is more than just parades and flag-waving. She says it is the responsibility of civilians to listen to veterans’ stories and understand what it meant to serve.
“We encourage people to listen on Veterans’ Day, not just to sort of point to photos on Facebook of military veterans and their families. But do we really know what our relatives who served have to say? Have we listened to their stories? Did we write them down? Did we encourage them to write them down?”
The Finding True North Veterans Virtual Event will be Wednesday at 7 PM. The members of the Syracuse Veterans’ Writing Group will share stories of their military experiences, addressing how and why writing has mattered to their process of returning from war and coming to terms with their military experiences. Registration is available at syracuse.edu/events.