‘Homer can help you’: War veterans use ancient epics to cope

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The trials of Odysseus are really not that different from the struggles of those learning to readjust after wars of today, modern veterans are finding.

A small group of military veterans has been meeting weekly in a classroom at the University of Vermont to discuss “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” for college credit — and to give meaning to their own experiences, equating the close-order discipline of men who fought with spears, swords and shields to that of men and women who do battle these days with laser-guided munitions.

Homer isn’t just for student veterans. Discussion groups are also being offered at veterans centers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Maine Humanities Council has sponsored sessions for veterans incarcerated at Maine’s Kennebec County jail, as well as for other veterans.

For many in the UVM class, Homer’s 2,800-year-old verses seem all too familiar: the siege of Troy, the difficult quest of Odysseus to return home after 10 years at war, his anguish at watching friends die, and his problems readjusting to civilian life.

Stephanie Wobby, 26, a former Army medic originally from Sacramento, California, is a combat veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and is one of two women in the UVM course; she has been to traditional post-traumatic stress therapy sessions, but said, “This is far more effective for me.”

“It still resonates, coming home from war, even if it was however many years ago,” said Wobby, a junior majoring in chemistry. “It’s the same.”

In a recent class, Dan Wright, 26, an Afghanistan veteran and UVM junior, wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Down with my Demons” while the group discussed “The Iliad.”

“It was talking about being scared to die and, like, when you are on the field, don’t think about it,” said Wright, 26, of Halifax, Vermont. He said he was involved in near-daily firefights during a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan in 2012.

Enrollment in the class taught by John Franklin, an associate professor of classics, is limited to veterans; the current class includes veterans from wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. There are no papers or tests, and the grade is based entirely on class participation and an understanding of the material.

The people who work with the veterans at UVM felt it was a tragedy when they heard last week that a former Army rifleman expelled from a program to treat veterans with PTSD took three …read more

Source:: Wtop – Entertainment


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