New Hampshire Humanities veterans project featured on The Exchange and voted #1 show in 2016

New Hampshire Humanities, in partnership with Dartmouth College and supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), launched an innovative program for veterans in the fall of 2016, From Troy to Baghdad: Dialogues on the Experience of War & Homecoming, a book discussion group for veterans and current service members. In November, New Hampshire Public Radio's The Exchange with Laura Knoy featured several of the veteran/facilitators from the program in what one caller referred to as the "best program ever." That sentiment was echoed as hundreds of listeners across the state voted the veterans interview the #1 Exchange program of the year. Listen to the program here.

From Troy to Baghdad: Dialogues on the Experience of War & Homecoming gives veterans and current service members the chance to examine their experiences through the lens of classic literature. The 14-week discussions are led by New Hampshire Humanities-trained facilitators, which include combat veterans. The program is free to all veterans and reading materials are provided free of charge.

Combining contemporary literature with the ancient tale of Odysseus’ epic 10-year journey home from the Trojan War, The Odyssey, the program aims to help veterans from all wars explore the challenges of homecoming, including themes of combat trauma, duty and honor, personal sacrifice, and readjustment. New Hampshire Humanities launched the Dialogues program in three other New Hampshire locations this fall: Manchester, Portsmouth and Littleton. 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. The Hanover group will start in January at the Howe Public Library and will be led by Stewart, along with Alan Oakman, Hospital Corpsman and Vietnam veteran; and Carey Russ, LCSW, Women Veterans Program Manager, White River Junction VA Medical Center.

“I’ve heard remarkable commentary about what it’s like to lead men, and also incredibly perceptive understandings of what’s lost in war,” Stewart says of past sessions. “And I’ve developed a greater appreciation for the difficulty of homecoming, especially when we read The Odyssey and discuss Odysseus’ 10-year journey home. A friend—a two tour of duty combat veteran and a clinical psychologist—said to me, ‘Homer offers veterans a map for coming home. The reading groups provide the opportunity to read the map.’”

Soldiers returning home from deployment often experience social and cultural barriers between veterans and civilians, creating a sense of isolation and separateness. Personal prospects for many returning vets are bleak. The forms of despair they may be facing take the shape of unemployment, divorce, addiction, homelessness, suicide, and undiagnosed or untreated PTS. It is estimated that at least 30% of today's returning vets suffer from PTSD, suggesting that over 2,000 NH families may need help. New Hampshire lacks a physical military base; yet, over 110,000 veterans (representing approximately 11% of the population) call the Granite State home.

“We are thrilled that the NEH recognizes the power of pairing ancient and contemporary literature as guides to unpack the experience of deployment and homecoming,” said Deborah Watrous, New Hampshire Humanities Executive Director. “And we are deeply honored to have the opportunity to offer this experience to those who have given so much for our nation.”

Click here for a video testimonial from Brendan O’Byrne, veteran and facilitator of the Manchester group. Click here for details on the Hanover program.

This program is free and open only to veterans and current service members, and pre-registration is required. Please register early as space is limited to 20 participants. Register here, or by contacting Dr. Kathy Smith at New Hampshire Humanities at (603) 224-4071 or kmathis@nhhumanities.org to RSVP or for more information. For more information about Dialogues on the Experience of War and Homecoming and other New Hampshire Humanities programs, please visit www.nhhumanities.org.