In March 2010, writing professors Eileen Schell and Ivy Kleinbart founded a writing group inspired by Schell’s uncle’s service as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War. The premise was simple: create an opportunity for military veterans and those close to them to share true stories of life in and out of the military. This year the group, Syracuse Veterans’ Writing Group, is marking its 10th anniversary.
“In the past ten years, our writing group has shown great promise and benefit for both those who have worn our nation’s uniform, as well as the civilian community,” says Schell. “Too often, the public’s only understanding of life in the military is what is depicted on television and in movies. Organizations like the Veterans’ Writing Group give veterans a voice and a medium to share their experiences in a way that brings understanding to the audience and peace to the author.”
The program is one of many to pop up around the country in the last decade. An average of 10-15 writers per year meet monthly in the Syracuse University Writing Center. During the meetings Schell and Kleinbart work with members on their drafts and help put their war stories into print. The group also takes part in public dialogues and discussions with other schools and organizations. The 2020 group’s discussion were moved online amidst the ongoing COVID-19 global health pandemic yet group conversation remains strong.
“It is rare that a group can so seamlessly bring together students and those from the broader community, but that is exactly what the Syracuse Veterans’ Writing Group has accomplished over the past decade,” says J. Michael Haynie, Syracuse University vice chancellor and founder and executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. “The impact the group has had on our student veterans and those veterans and military families in our community is profound. We are extremely proud of the group and all its efforts.”