Stories open minds, change the way people think, win hearts and connect us all. Our differences fade when we share a story, a laugh, or a tear.
Many of our War In Pieces storytellers have shared with us that in finding their voice and sharing their stories, they’ve discovered a sense of peace, pride, healing and hopefulness through it all.
Ryan Flavelle served in Afghanistan with the PPCLI in 2008. He makes a powerful case for the importance of telling your story in a letter addressed to our Executive Director, Melanie Timmons. Below is an excerpt from that letter:
I just spent the last three years of my life researching and writing six soldiers’ stories of the Great War. The stories were all Patricia’s, the Regiment I was attached to for my brief and inglorious stint on the front line. I tried to sketch the experiences of six soldiers whose legend survived the war in one form or another, and speak about how they spoke about killing, or didn’t. They describe hard days, fun days, troubling days; days that stick with you.
Many, many disappeared from memory after the war, and the long toll that peace took on them. Many stories survived, and many a battle was refought amongst the men who were there, but seldom do their stories make it into the historical record. Some disappeared entirely, and others were mangled beyond recognition.
The truth is an impossible standard to set in storytelling. Who’s to say about all those things one heard about, but didn’t see with one’s own eyes? The shootings, and the poor choices? No matter the path one chooses, death lay somewhere along it – the death of a friend, the death of an enemy, the death of an innocent, and on and on. “And so it goes,” as Vonnegut says of the dead. War is like looking at a gigantic moving landscape photo through a straw in Chris Kyle’s memorable phrase.
Draycot, a “legendary” Patricia’s who survived the war said simply that much has yet to be written, but “it must be written by one who was there.” That’s the imperative that history gives us, war’s survivors. Make sense of it, openly if possible. We’re all going to die anyway. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Tell your stories before they become the plot of a Hollywood movie that garbles the facts past recognition.
The past is gone and done, but those who still live in it, and who lived through it have an obligation to it. And they may just have an obligation to speak it to a wider public before it is gone forever.
Dr. Ryan Flavelle, CD, PhD (June 2018)