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Monday, May 17, 2021

Western veterans tell the untold stories

By Colton Redtfedlt

There are many stories from the battlefield that are left untold.

On Wednesday, May 2, nine veterans from Western and the greater community gathered to share some of those stories.

About 60 people filed into the Wilson Library Reading Room for Western’s fifth annual Veterans Deployed: The Veteran Chronicles. The event put on by the Associated Students Veterans Outreach Center aimed to bring civilians and veterans closer together by sharing the combat stories that often go unheard.

About sixty people attended the event. Attendees came from Western and the community at large. // Photo by Colton Redtfedlt

Against the backdrop of the flags of various military branches, all the speakers had different stories. One talked about his battle with mental illness, another talked about going home after the Vietnam War and another about the misogyny that she faced.

“I think it’s a good way to build community and share stories with each other,” Russell Thompson, the Associated Students veterans community coordinator, said. “It gives people an outlet to process their own experiences and gives students on campus a chance to hear a part of life they might not have experienced before.”

Junior Keith Harman was one of the speakers. He served in the Army and completed three tours to Afghanistan.

“I think it’s important to share stories,” Harman said. “Society is a little more excluded from our military than it used to be. Sharing those perspectives is a great way to connect and bridge a little bit of that gap.”

Community member Thomas Renteria was another speaker. He spoke about his battle with mental illnesses which he acquired while serving in Iraq. He talked about how his mental illnesses affected his life and how he overcame his “demons.”

“You hear different stuff and see things on television but to hear it directly from us is powerful on both fronts, [for] the vet and for the community,” Renteria said.

Audience members were veterans and college students. Some were young and some were old.

Community member and Vietnam veteran Richard Loser was in the audience. He said he feels events like this ensures history isn’t forgotten.

“Most people don’t pick up a [history] book unless a professor tells them to,” Loser said.

The public can gain a lot from the speakers’ stories, Loser said.

“Most veterans have been in a war,” Loser said. “People have been in war with something else in their life. Trauma in their life. There are similar feelings like losing a family member. [The stories] can show you that it can be better and it can be worse.”

Junior Sady Hannah attended the event.

“I went to college to get a safe desk job appreciating that there were people doing harder work for us and keeping us safe,” Hannah said before the event. “It’s nice to hear their stories when they come home safely.”

The final speaker told the story of a service member who was killed by a bomb. The story was told from the angle of the member’s rifle.

Hannah said the story brought her to tears.

“It was very informative of the good and the bad that comes from your personal life and professional life, the recovery when you get back and the community it brings to you,” Hannah said.

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