The experience of war alters a person's way of being in the world. Even those who come through battles physically unscathed are changed within themselves. What begins as a simple choice, a sudden impulse or the need to answer a call becomes an adventure that changes a person forever. Afterwards, nothing in the world or in oneself will ever be quite the same again. Those who survive the gravities of war carry a darker knowledge of the world and of the human heart.
This important program began when Vietnam era veterans participating in discussions at a Mosaic mentoring event considered how they might help soldiers returning from current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Broader discussions with Vietnam veterans revealed an intense desire and need to offer painfully gathered knowledge about how those returning from war might find their "civil feet" again and rejoin their communities as valuable, functioning members.
The retreats bring together veterans of foreign wars, their family members, and local communities in an attempt to heal the distance between the warriors and those they protect. In providing a safe and supportive time and place for veterans to share stories and consider significant events and results of their war experiences, the retreat also helps to bridge the gaps between war and peace, trauma and renewal, pain and understanding. The point isn't simply recounting "war stories" as much as finding meaningful and healing ways to carry the dramas and traumas of combat. We will focus on creating a "community of veterans" that goes deeper than political opinions and gives voice to frequently unspoken aspects of war and its aftermath. Through sharing, discussion, writing, and embodied practices, key feelings and memories are explored and placed into healing contexts.
These unique and timely events create immediate opportunities for Vietnam era veterans to become knowing mentors to those returning from the current conflicts. This kind of soldier-to-soldier and soul to soul mentoring serves to hold and to heal both older veterans and those newly returned from battle. In the retreat phase, veterans returning from the current wars work with veterans of previous wars as well as specialists who treat battle trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). Spouses and family members of vets also participate and receive help dealing with "secondary PTSD" issues. The deeply moving and revelatory personal stories are woven into mythical tales that help make sense of otherwise bewildering and tragic experiences.
The next step involves an artful presentation to the community of the stories, feelings, and sufferings of those returning from the battlefields. The stage presentation leads to a public memorial service for those who have died in the wars where the veterans and Mosaic staff are joined by community leaders, and religious and spiritual representatives. Using ideas from traditional initiation practices Mosaic will create a "community of veterans" and encourage an artful expression of their need for welcome and understanding. Healing only happens where and when the burdens of war can be shared by the greater community. A public gathering allows citizens to become compassionate witnesses to the stories of war and the necessity of supporting a conscious and genuine return. Beginning with war's aftermath of tragedy and loss, the language of poetry, theater, and art will be used in workshops and presentations that lead to a public ceremony of welcoming and healing.
Michael Meade’s mythic work with veterans was recently featured in an article on Yahoo News. The article also has a powerful video of one of Mosaic’s Voices of Veterans events, along with interview with vets who attended one of the Voices of Veterans retreats. To read the article, click here.
Available in our online store, this collection of original, immediate poems by veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam, and their families addresses the shocks experienced in battle and the emotional and physical repercussions that follow war. Voices of Vets expresses compelling feelings and thoughts about the horrors of war, the reasons for going, and the anguish and difficulty involved in trying to find a way home again.
Includes Michael Meade's essay, War, the Underworld, and Initiation.
Voices of Vets represents one of many efforts to welcome veterans back from the tragedies and calamities of war. This process involves an intentional and emotional return to the most traumatic events in order to give full expression. An intense process of shaping stories and writing poetry that can contain the elements of trauma can speed the healing process. Further healing happens where and when the burdens of war can be shared with the greater community.
A public gathering allows citizens to become compassionate witnesses to the stories of war and the necessity of supporting a conscious and genuine return. When the "community of veterans" shares their experiences with a welcoming public, the healing process deepens. At the same time, family and community members create a heartfelt welcome that helps shape genuine pathways of return.
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