Aiding Community Reintegration
Everyone writes one. At least, everyone who fights in a war does. Some of us seal it in an envelope and tape it on the door of our wall locker so our buddies can easily find it. When the First Sergeant, the senior enlisted man in the company, packs a dead soldier’s shit, he makes sure to weed out all the porn and anything else that the wives or parents might not want to see. The folks back home receive a sanitized version of a man’s wartime possessions. They also receive the death letter.
–except from “Death Letter,” by David W. Peters, published in 0-Dark-Thirty (Fall 2012)
As evidenced by yesterday’s posts by Rebecca Vaudreuil and Melissa Walker, it is nearly impossible to talk about the role of the arts in promoting healing and wellness for military personnel on an individual level without beginning to tackle the question of what happens to those individuals once they are discharged and return to civilian life. In the second day of the salon, we will explore the ways that the arts are aiding service members reintegrating into their home communities. We’ll focus on two programs that are helping to bridge the gap in understanding between service members and their families and communities and, even contributing to employment and workforce development. The first post, by Drew Cameron will explore his experience initiating the Combat Paper Project while Executive Director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts (MCA) Jonathan Schratwieser’s post will consider how recent efforts have not only benefitted veterans and the community, but also enriched MCA’s core arts and arts advocacy work.
Throughout the day, we’ll also give you a deeper look into the creative power of those trained and given a platform for expression through the Veterans Writing Project (VWP) by interspersing posts with excerpts from essays and poems like David’s piece above. Founded and directed by Ron Capps, VWP provides no-cost writing seminars and workshops for veterans, active and reserve service members, and military family members. Embodying the theme for the day, VWP has three main goals: to provide a platform for healing; to foster understanding between the less than 1% of the American population who have served and the more than 99% that have not; and to produce great literature. VWP has a sister site, O-Dark-Thirty and a literary journal under the same name.
There is so much potential in this space. To explore further examples of how the arts help build resilience and foster understanding between service members and their families and communities, take a look at Animating Democracy’s newest trend paper, Art in Service: Supporting the Military Community and Changing the Public Narrative, by Maranatha Bivens.