Veterans Writing Project: Nation's Heroes Write of Pain, Personal Triumphs

Sunday, 27 May 2012 09:38 AM

By John Bachman

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As Americans honor the nation's fallen heroes this weekend with parades and private memorials,  one group of veterans are gathering near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. to bear witness by reading their own harrowing stories of sacrifice, triumph and tragedy on battlefields stretching from Vietnam to Afghanistan.

The goal of the Veterans Writing Project, says founder and director Ron Capps,  is “to get military people and the families of military people to tell their stories.”

“We think there are a lot of stories to be told,” Capps told Newsmax TV during an exclusive interview.

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“I use writing to help me get control of my mind and my memory. I was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder in Afghanistan. I had a couple of very bad traumatic episodes. I was medevac’d out of Darfur on my final overseas assignment.

“By injecting writing, or the creation of art or music or any other creative art form, you are more fully engaging your brain so you are more or less creating a buffer between you and your memory,” Capps explained.

He says he has a sign hanging in his attic that reads: “Either you control the memory or the memory controls you.”

Since founding the VWP, Capps has received critical acclaim and numerous awards for his essays. He works as regular contributor to Time Magazine and to Foreign Policy.

The other part of Capps’s mission includes recruiting other veterans like Katie Hoit and Cpt. Steve Scuba, to share their stories and join the VWP’s expanding series of free seminars and workshops across the nation.

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Hoit, a former Army photojournalist, Iraq veteran, and blogger who uses the pen name G.I. Kate, said writing and the VWP have helped her accomplish what many sessions with therapists could not.

“This was just like a natural transition into a therapeutic way to express myself, my time overseas and what it was like to reintegrate into society.

“I definitely think the writing process was easier than talking to someone like my mom, or my therapist, my boyfriend, my girl friends – you don’t think anyone can kind of relate to the experience. And I personally didn’t feel comfortable talking to my friends right away,” Hoit, told Newsmax.

“When civilians read my writing, I just want them to see the humanistic side of war and not necessarily the politics involved,” Hoit said.

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Scuba, an Army Captain who deployed to Iraq in 2007 during the surge, served 15 months in Baghdad and Northern Iraq. He was wounded during an attack that left shrapnel in his body – an experience that forced the combat nurse into a hospital bed as a patient.

“That was a very surreal experience. For me, seeing war from both sides of the stretcher… was something that was very unexpected.

“When I went over to Iraq, I expected to treat other service men and woman. And here I was on a litter, and of all things, being treated by my colleagues at the emergency room that I worked at in Mosul,” Scuba said.

Since returning from Iraq, Scuba has worked at the Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center helping injured soldiers find their way back into their lives at home.

Scuba said writing has been vital in his own recovery, but it also helps him work with other wounded veterans who face the challenges of rehabilitation.

“It really makes me make sense of the experiences that we went through over there. [Whether] it’s something as traumatic as being injured or even the mundane. There was a lot of downtime over there as well.”

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When asked what he wants civilians to take away from his writing, Scuba said he hopes people realize ‘the real war… is going to start when the battles cease. And we focus our efforts on treating these men and women overseas, whether they have actual physical injuries that we can see or silent injuries that we can’t see.”

For more information about how you can help the Veteran’s Writing Project -- Click Here Now.


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