Helping Veterans to Keep Marching On
The Veterans Writing Project, an ambitious, non-profit endeavor of Ron Capps to help veterans through the written word, took place at the Virginia Beach Regional Center March 29 and 30. Initially created to address the inadequacies of universities when dealing with the returning military, the project has expanded to help express war culture as a whole.
War culture references the way that military personnel must live in order to serve and protect, which includes the constant deconstruction and reconstruction of base societies, the separation of family for long periods of time, the familiarity with violence, death, destruction, stress and anxiety.
This is a very small and not often recognized culture within America, but war culture is very real part of this nation needing to be addressed. Association to any military position affects a person’s world view in a radical way, and the Veterans Writing Project aids in communicating this world view to the popular consciousness.
The Veterans Writing Project began with Capps going to Washington, D.C. to work with universities in dealing with war-touched people. As the founder and director of this project, Capps brings his engaging lectures to colleges all across America, concentrating on the more military communities.
Inspired by his 25 years of service and the difficulty to assimilate to civilian life, Capps took his passion for the literary arts, and decided that he would like to pass on his skill set and inspire confidence to write in order to help give the military community have a proper creative outlet.
Capps actively advocates for a safe environment and publishing outlet that does not judge the war culture perspective. Explaining the importance of this program, Capps said, “Charles Whittington was a former Iraq veteran that wrote a paper admitting he felt addicted to killing. Although his teacher gave him an A and encouraged him to publish his work in the college campus newspaper, the college has barred him from the campus in response to the publishing of his paper as a safety precaution.”
Capps established the Veterans Writing Project to provide veterans, their families, and their associates the skill set to proper communicate their stories, therapeutically relieve them from their experiences and reconcile their emotions. He does this by giving his workshop attendees the skill set, contacts to publish and opening the learning environment to open dialogue between him and the students thus inspiring the confidence needed to write their stories.
Within the workshop, Capps tries to maintain an atmosphere of equality, without judgment, by lecturing as if he is giving a one-on-one lesson. Walking into the audience and establishing eye contact with each person individually, Capps dissolves barriers and reaches his listeners.
Writing is a passion for Capps and he states that his project is his purpose. Some may consider this project an original and necessary step to address how much these veterans are worth to the American society.
Emphasizing the importance of the project, Capps said,“The value of the project is providing a place, a safe place for these veterans to tell their stories, they there are not shut down by our society and giving them a platform for a wider audience.”
As for safe publishing environment, Capps provides contacts to O-Dark-Thirty, a literary journal created for the Veterans Writing Project. O-Dark-Thirty publishes quarterly the stories (fictional or non-fictional) and poetry with little to no editing.
ODU’s Jose Roman supports this endeavor by help facilitate the project at the Virginia Beach Regional Center. He believes this project is very relevant as it address approximately a quarter of the student population in the Hampton Roads Area.
“With less than 1% of the US population at war, how does the public come to any understanding of what is happening? These veterans must tell their story for us to get a proper understanding of the importance and impact of the war culture, so that we as a nation can come to a more accurate knowledge and a deeper appreciation for these heroes,” Roman said.
Losing 90 World War II veterans daily, Capps and Roman believe that the U.S. should work to preserve their stories and archive their legacies. The Veterans Writing Project works toward this goal on a broader scale as well as addressing the therapeutic and communicational needs, and thus informing and shaping a more culturally aware nation.
By Kimberly Joy Ward