Veteran’s Express Their Experiences Through Various Forms of Art
“True, honest conversations.” David Chrisinger, professor of veteran’s studies, suggested that these are a way to bridge the divide that lives between veterans and civilians. Chrisinger and Martin McClendon, theater department chair and associate professor of theater at Carthage, led the audience through a night of staged readings, documentaries, videos and dances that came from the perspective of veterans. Chrisinger and McClendon both have experience with veterans on a personal 0audience to their goal, which was to begin bridging the gap of misunderstanding that sets many veterans and civilians apart. All of the proceeds from the night’s event were donated to VOW [Veterans’ Opportunity to Work Act].
The first performance was a staged reading of We Didn’t Understand, written by Yvette Pino and performed by Carthage College drama students. Pino enlisted in the army following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The reading illustrated the lack of knowledge that the young soldiers had about the impact that war had on everyone, and not just the American side.
Another performance was a Documentary video entitled World War II Veteran Honored: An Interview with Carlos Chavez. Colleen Ochab interviewed the veteran who joined the 330th Regiment at the age of 21. In the video, Chavez divulged to the audience his experiences in combat. One of his most haunting lines described how seeing dead bodies took away a part of himself. He cried the first time, but after that, it was okay. At the end of his service, Chavez was honored for the offensive line of duty. Carlos left the younger veterans with advice: return to school, go back to your family and enjoy yourself. He was unable to join the audience, but several members of his family were.
Later in the evening, several Carthage students performed a staged reading of My Confessions from Vietnam, written by Professor Mark Miller. Miller had just graduated St. Thomas University when he was enlisted in the Vietnam War. He soon was given the nickname “Garbage” due to a basketball technique for which he was famous. In fact, his entire regiment became known as “Garbage.” The audience was informed that Mark closed the world out after he returned, deeply affected by his time in Vietnam. Eventually, he was convinced to write about his experiences. His three closing thoughts about his time in Vietnam were networking is critical, don’t be consumed by fear, and respect and remember the soldiers.
The sixth performance was a video Not Everyone Who Comes Home is Home, performed by the writer himself, Tyler Pozolinski, and assisted by the Wisconsin Public Television’s Veterans Coming Home Project. Tyler was unable to join the audience for the evening. In the video, the audience sees the fear that Tyler felt falling asleep, physically at home but always mentally in the battlefield. He was a Marine for five years, deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. When he returned to his home, he attended college. When younger students asked him why he was a 23 year old freshman, he lied and said that he had been a surf bum until recently. He lied because of the nightmares and embarrassment. He eventually went on to write a book. At the end of the video, Tyler finished his thoughts by stating, “I kind of like my dreams.”
Following the performances, the audience and the artists took part in a discussion. The goal of the evening, to bridge the gap between veterans and civilians, was exceeded, thanks to the students who performed and the Veteran’s who shared.