Veterans Day honors the experiences that set America’s service members apart from the civilian society they committed to serve. As America’s military deployments have grown more complex and constant in the 21st century, they’ve also become more remote from the everyday life of most Americans. No one understands that distance better than the veterans who have returned home.
Over the years, Sprout has supported efforts to amplify the voices of veterans seeking a way to relate their experience to the broader community. As we pause to observe Veterans Day, we’re looking back on a few projects to empower today’s veterans.
In Service, 2007
In Service, a project of Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Bricolage Theatre Company, was a multimedia performance and film project, combining live performance, projected video, and still images to recreate the first-hand experiences of men and women serving in the Iraq War as soldiers, government officials, and war correspondents. In a community theater setting at the downtown Harris Theatre, native Pittsburghers recounted their personal war narratives, telling the stories of how world events shape our city and its people, and how our world is changed, too, by people here at home. A photography exhibit at the Melwood Screening Room, featuring the work of local photographers reflecting on the war, complemented stories with striking imagery and creating a complete, powerful, emotional experience.
War Dialogues, 2011
War Dialogues, a project led by Iraq war veteran Joyce Wagner, facilitated a reconciliation process between veterans and refugees of current wars using creative expression to transcend language and cultural boundaries and the unnamed barriers that occur when attempting to express a traumatic experience. Veterans and refugees connected and met regularly in pairs to communicate about their experiences on different sides of the same war or wars using different types of creative expression. Artwork created through the process was exhibited to engage a larger local audience, reminding them that both veterans and war refugees are present in their communities.
Veterans’ Stories: Project 412, 2014
Veterans’ Stories: Project 412 is a series of interviews created and produced by a group of Pittsburgh-area active-duty military personnel and veterans in 2014. 90.5 WESA partnered with Leadership Pittsburgh’s Community Leadership Course for Veterans to shine a spotlight on area veterans from all branches of the military, who share personal memories and stories about their service in conflicts from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Listen to an archive of first-person narratives of local veterans, including Ron Worstell (pictured left), at WESA.fm. Worstell served as an infantryman for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1970. “I tell everybody that my time in Vietnam of one year at the age of 20 something was really five percent of my life at that time, but that experience is 75 percent of who I am today,” Worstell says.