Veterans share their stories of training, combat and coming home
Several local veterans of different generations and military branches shared their stories of war, adventure, camaraderie, loss and combat at Western’s second annual Stories Deployed: Veteran’s Chronicles.
Some of the veterans spoke about their experiences and loss of friends in combat, some spoke of the challenges of their training and others spoke about how some of their experiences shaped or haunted them
The event was hosted by the AS Veterans Outreach Center and drew a crowd of about 40 peopld on Friday, May 15, in Old Main Theater. Veterans who wanted to participate came together for a potluck once a week for five weeks before the event and worked to refine their stories for presentation, said Matthew Swisher, Marine Corps veteran and AS Veteran’s Outreach Center coordinator.
(Swisher 1:49) “A lot of people hear the narrative of the war but they never hear the individual’s story, and this was a chance to actually give them the opportunity to stand up and say, ‘this is how I contributed, this is how it affected me and this is how much I’ve grown since my time in service,’” he said.
Swisher not only organized the event, but shared his own story about the beginning of his career with the United States Marine Corps at boot camp. He told his story about going through boot camp and meeting one of his instructors again years later in an Officer Candidacy School, and he said he shared this to show people the process of what happens when people join the Corps.
(Swisher 3:55) “I have a lot of stories from my time in the service, but I wanted to share that one because it kind of shows people the mental process of your first day in boot camp and how uncertain you are on what is about to happen to you over the next thirteen weeks,” he said.
United States Army veteran Steve Allison shared his story of being deployed to a base in the Sinai desert as part of the Multinational Force and observers, a force of eleven different nations whose job was to patrol and maintain security between the border of Egypt and Israel from 1988 to 1989.
His story began with a routine patrol in the desert, but ended with a friend of his stepping on a land mine and how he still thinks about that day all these years later.
Allison said he tells his stories because he hopes they may be helpful to others and he explained how telling these stories helps keep the memories of the past alive and can be therapeutic.
“The more times you tell a story, the more devil’s details come out, and the more healing can be done,” he said.
United States Army veteran and Bellingham native Daniel Savage also shared his story of completing basic training right as the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center happened. This was only the second time he ever shared this story with anyone, the first time being when he was practicing for the event, he said.
He said that it was good to keep people’s memories alive by telling these stories.
“If I bottle these up, what was the point of friends going to Iraq?” he said. “It’s easy for people to clam up. I think it’s important that you find the voice to tell it.”
Swisher said the way people shared their stories during the event showed the stages of people’s experiences in the military, and it also showed how sharing these stories can be therapeutic.
(Swisher 5:03) “Being able to put it into segments helps you develop each chapter of your time in service and kind of close it out with the event that kind of changed you overall,” he said.
The Veteran’s Outreach Center has resources available to any veterans on campus. Any veterans who are interested in sharing their stories can contact Swisher.