'Theater of War' compares historic and current reintegration challenges
October 21, 2009
By Parker Rome
FORT RILEY, Kan. - A lot has changed in the last 2,500 years. A lot hasn't.
Dramatic readings taken from plays written by Sophocles at least 2,500 years ago were performed Oct. 16 and 17 at Junction City's C.L. Hoover Opera House as part of the Theater of War presentation sponsored by Army Community Service.
Tales of Ajax and Philoctetes were read by four New York actors to show Soldiers and Families that a lot of the same issues today occurred back then.
"Those guys and gals went though the same problems," said Mark Musleh, information and referral program manager for ACS, who organized the event. "Spouses went though the same problems with their warriors returning home angered, full of grief and misunderstanding, and they couldn't adapt to the lifestyle anymore because of the types of environments they were in. They come back home, and there's a whole new normal that's being placed in front of them, and a lot of them couldn't deal with it.
"We saw some really severe acts of suicide and abandonment and anger issues tied in with that, and that's what we see today. We see suicides. We see the anger issues. We see the houses breaking up and Families splitting up. It crosses all boundaries. It's not just the infantry warrior or the armor warrior, but it's everybody that's affected by it."
The Friday night audience was invite-only, as it was focused on 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team and 300th Military Police Company Soldiers who just recently returned from Iraq. Maj. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general, gave a welcome speech and Col. Kevin Brown, garrison commander, shared a story of a sergeant he knew from Fort Drum, N.Y., who had a story very similar to Ajax on his return home from war.
Following the dramatic readings, a panel of health care providers, a chaplain and wounded warriors and their spouses discussed issues with the audience dealing with the stigma of not seeking help following traumatic events in their life.
"I think there was a phenomenal response," Musleh said. "I think people here took away a better understanding to facilitate the overall stigma that's usually attached to things like this, and, hopefully, open it up so Soldiers aren't afraid anymore to come forward. "
Col. Joe Martin, 2nd HBCT commander, shared his thoughts on stage following the readings and the panel.
"There's always someone, that after a period of shame or after an incident occurs, that says, 'I saw that coming,'" he said. "The biggest thing that we've got to continue to do is, we've got to look for the person that's about to go slay a bunch of pigs and cows (like Ajax). We've got to look for the person who is in pain. The pain we saw in the play was overt. I'll tell you that there's other pain that's out there too."