CINCINNATI -- To bridge the divide between military and civilian experiences, a veterans group is turning to storytelling.
The second Veterans Reflections from Tristate Veterans Community Alliance will be 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at the American Red Cross on Dana Avenue. Six veterans from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom, including Tuskeegee Airman Leslie Edwards, will share their stories at the free event.
More than 150 people attended the first Veterans Reflections storytelling session on Nov. 11, Veterans Day. Most of the attendees were civilians, and they heard from veterans who had served in World War II, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. Tristate Veterans Community Alliance plans to put on a similar event every quarter, and plans already are in the works for a storytelling session in May.
“We let veterans be heard, and we let civilians show their support,” said Community Outreach Manager Tyler Britton.
Cory Paul was one of the veterans who spoke at the November event. A member of the Ohio Army National Guard from 2010 to 2016, Paul served in Afghanistan for 11 months in 2013. Now, he is the regional director of services to the Armed Forces for the American Red Cross.
In that role, Paul shares pieces of his story with veterans all the time. But he said he rarely has a 10-minute chunk, as Veterans Reflections gave him, to really tell his whole story, to tell what it was like to be worried and nervous before deploying; to be in a foreign country on high-alert all the time; to come home and have to adjust to life outside a battle zone. The experience, especially the audience, so impressed him, Paul offered the veterans alliance space at the Red Cross offices for the February event.
“They were so engaged. You could hear a pin drop,” Paul said. “They were willing to ask you questions at the end. That audience was really something ... it was a safe space.”
And since sharing his story at Veterans Reflections, he and his wife, Jess, have talked more about his time in the service. He had never avoided the topic with her, but the storytelling session sparked new questions for her.
“She's said, 'I didn't hear that story. Tell me more about that,' ” Paul said.
The free storytelling events are sponsored by Kroger, Humana, CityLink Center, Madtree Brewing Co., ArtsWave and the University of Cincinnati Institute for Military Medicine. At the February event, a cash beer garden and light bites will be provided by Rhinegeist.
Attendees and the public are encouraged to ask questions during the event on social media using #cincyvets.
If you're a veteran interested in telling your story, contact Britton at email@example.com.