Dialogues on the Experience of War: New Hampshire Humanities brings veterans together to examine shared experiences through the lens of literature

Since 9/11, two and a half million U.S. soldiers have served in the military, and more than 110,000 of those veterans call the Granite State home. When soldiers return home from deployment, experiential, social, and cultural barriers between veterans and civilians create a sense of isolation and separateness. Personal prospects for many returning vets are bleak, and despair may take the form of unemployment, divorce, addiction, homelessness, suicide, and undiagnosed or untreated PTSD.

The power of storytelling and dialogue is becoming recognized as a way to help veterans address both the experience of war and the social and cultural barriers that prevent returning soldiers from fully integrating into society.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a $79,590 grant to New Hampshire Humanities for Dialogues on the Experience of War: Facilitated Book Discussions for Veterans. The project is a collaboration with Dartmouth College and Dartmouth Undergraduate Veterans Affairs.

The project will offer New Hampshire veterans a chance to discuss and examine their experiences through the lens of classic literature. Beginning this fall, veterans will gather for fourteen weekly discussions led by New Hampshire Humanities-trained facilitator teams in four New Hampshire communities: Manchester, Littleton, Portsmouth, and the Upper Valley. The challenges of homecoming will be explored through the reading of Homer’s The Odyssey and discussing Odysseus’ 10-year journey home, allowing veterans to process their experiences of war. The model was developed by Roberta Stewart, Professor of Classical Studies at Dartmouth College, who has been conducting discussions for veterans in the Upper Valley for several years. Each facilitator team consists of a literary scholar, a health care provider from the veteran-serving community, and a veteran.

NEH created the Dialogues on the Experience of War program as a part of its current initiative, Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War, which supports the study and discussion of important humanities sources about war. The humanities sources can be drawn from history, philosophy, literature, and film—and are supplemented by the stories of those who have served. The discussions are intended to promote serious exploration of important questions about the nature of duty, heroism, suffering, loyalty, and patriotism.