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Veterans learn to tell their stories of combat and military life

by Luanne Williams

Veterans will get much more than just a “thank you for your service” from Wingate University leading up to Veterans Day this year. Nearly a dozen events have been planned for next week, all of them open to the public and many featuring former Marine and award-winning military journalist Tracy Crow.

Tracy Crow

President and CEO of the MilSpeak Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the creative-arts endeavors of military service members and veterans and their families and caregivers, Crow will lead a writing workshop, How to View Your Life Through the Lens of a Storyteller, to help veterans craft their own military stories.

Crow penned her memoir, Eyes Right: Confessions from a Woman Marine; edited a collection of essays to produce Red, White, & True: Stories from Veterans and Families, WWII to Present; and co-authored It’s My Country Too: Women’s Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan with Jerri Bell. Earlier this year, she published a novella, Cooper’s Hawk: The Remembering, and shares her literary expertise in On Point: A Guide to Writing the Military Story.

She will lead two Lyceum events: It’s My Country Too on Nov. 6 and I am Teflon on Nov. 7, both at 7:30 p.m. in the Batte Center’s Plyler-Griffin Recital Hall.

Since personal writing can trigger disturbing flashbacks, counselors will be on hand for her writing workshop, set for Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. in Helms Forum inside the Dickson-Palmer Center. Free for students and $20 for guests, the session is not limited to veterans, instead offering a chance for anyone who has experienced trauma to process their ordeal through writing.

In addition to her military experience, Crow has a bachelor of arts in creative writing from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. She lives in central North Carolina. 

Randy Powell stands at a podium wearing his Brigadier General uniform.

Prior to Crow’s events, North Carolina National Guard Brigadier General Randy Powell will kick off the week with his talk, A Career in Service, in the Ethel K. Smith Library’s Room 111 on Nov. 5 at 5:30 p.m. Powell is the father of Wingate student Taylor Powell.

On Nov. 8, Bonnie Amos, the wife of General James Amos, former commandant of the United States Marine Corps, will speak at 7 p.m. in LaVerne Banquet Hall on Semper Fidelis: Service as a Marine Spouse.

A woman next to a flag.

A Florida native who as part of the nomadic Marine Corps lifestyle moved 30 times and raised two children who collectively attended two dozen different schools, Bonnie Amos has long been an advocate for military families. She visited Wingate in the spring of 2017, when General Amos gave a One Day, One Dog address and met with veteran students and alumni. Bill Crowder, a veteran and a member of the Class of 1968, established a scholarship for veterans in the couple’s honor.

Members of the Student Veterans Organization, which is joining the Friends of the Ethel K. Smith Library and the University’s Lyceum Program to sponsor the weeklong Profiles in Service: Soldiers, Scholars, Society, will stage a variety of lunch-time activities on the lawn in front of Starbucks, next to McGee Promenade.

Students will be able to compare their backpacks with one belonging to a veteran during Soldier to Student on Nov. 5.

A man in a plaid shirt sits at a laptop with patriotic cornhole boards behind him.

“I’m going to bring in my rucksack from overseas, weighted down, so when you think your backpack is really heavy, you should know that right now there is somebody else sweating it out with 10 to 15 times more weight on their back than your books and maybe gain an appreciation of that,” says Gordon Sprague, a graduate assistant who served nine years with the U.S. Marines, primarily in Iraq and Haiti, and helped found the Wingate SVO.

A 2018 Wingate graduate with a bachelor’s in human services, the Monroe resident hopes the events give traditional students and veterans opportunities to get to know each other better.

“We may be stand-offish because we’re a different generation or we’re a different mindset than most of the students, but we’re not unapproachable,” he says of veterans. “We want to break down those barriers.”

Participants will be invited to Sweat Like a Vet on Nov. 6, with a military-inspired physical fitness challenge. And a K9 demo is tentatively planned for Nov. 8.

The final event of Veteran’s Appreciation Week will be a screening of American Sniper in McGee Theatre on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m., followed by a panel discussion with SVO members.

All the events are free to Wingate students. And, with the exception of the $20 writing workshop, they are also free to the public. To learn more, check out the full Profiles in Service: Soldiers, Scholars, Society schedule.

Oct. 31, 2018