November 10, 2014  — Categorized in:

Stories We Carry – Bridging the Gap Among Veterans and Civilians

veterans-dayThis Veterans Day and beyond, MHA-NYC encourages civilians and veterans to come together in community to share the burdens of war and create a safe space to discuss the ways in which war impacts us all.

When Josh left the Army in 2004, after four years in the service, he struggled with the transition process and found it difficult to adjust to civilian life. Marcelle, who spent 24 years serving the country, admits that she often times feels burdened when she has to narrow down her identity.

“I left [for the Armed Forces] as somebody who was looking for myself,” said Marcelle, US Air Force (ret.) 1989 – 2014. “The person that left did not come back. So to transition, and to call myself a civilian, is something that I’ve been working on.”

“When I got out of the Army, I didn’t know where to start,” said Josh, US Army, 2000 – 2004. “I didn’t know what questions to ask to navigate civilian life.”

Both Josh and Marcelle are Stories We Carry participants.

Stories We Carry brings veterans and civilians together to openly share stories, misperceptions, and experiences about military service and reintegration so that together we can foster greater community support, shared understanding, and emotional well-being. For veterans like Marcelle and Josh, it provides reintegration to a safe community and a process to share difficult and important issues about their military experience.

Stories We Carry played a significant role in my life, recovery process, and my ability to share my story and hear stories of my bothers and sisters and better understand how those stories affect my civilian counterparts,” said Josh.

There is a significant cultural divide that exists between the military and civilians. As a result, the mental health consequences of war manifest and, often times, veterans are forced to shoulder the weight of war alone. Stories We Carry, though, was created to eliminate this divide, encouraging civilians to connect with those who have served on their behalf and share war’s impact in their own lives and families.

“I believe there’s a responsibility for us to understand each other,” said Marcelle. “If less than 1% of the population in our nation served our country, then the other 99% of them should not be left out. The responsibility of the community is to understand war, not to fear war. I had never seen an opportunity to do this until Stories We Carry.”

By bringing together the 99% of us who haven’t served and the 1% who have served for open dialogue, listening, and creative communal activities, we can heal the wounds of war and learn lessons that will help us grow as individuals, communities, and as a nation.

“I think too many people emphasize that ‘you’re a veteran’ or ‘you’re a civilian.’ We’re one community,” Marcelle ends.

Watch Stories We Carry participants share how the mission of this program and their involvement has made a significant difference in their journey of reintegration.

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