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Testimonials from Participants

Robert Paley, Columbus, OH:
(Rob Paley is currently serving in Afghanistan.)
“The Veterans' Writing Workshop has been an unbelievably positive experience for me. As the son of a two-time war veteran who lived the last decade of his life in a V.A. hospital, I had a story to tell - but I didn't really know if anyone would want to hear it. When I met with the incredible mentors of the WGAE, I got my answer. They said, ‘Yes, we care’ about your experiences as the son of a 100% disabled veteran. And ‘Yes, we will help you tell your story and mentor you in the process.’ What incredible, caring people to want to give back to our veterans by giving so freely of their time and energy so that we can learn to use writing as a vehicle to express ourselves and perhaps put some of our difficult experiences into perspective. I am writing a screenplay that is a tribute to my father and men like him who have given so much to make our country what it is today, and now that I am a veteran who is currently serving in a combat theatre, I've found that writing has been a great outlet for me. Somehow, being here has brought me closer to my late father, and I can feel it in my writing. After a long day, I literally can't wait to get back to writing to see what will happen next! I am currently on page sixty of what I believe will be a 120 page screenplay in draft form ... Honestly, I cannot say enough positive things for the wonderful men and women of the WGAE who have volunteered their valuable time to hold the Veterans' Writing Workshops. It's people like them that make me proud to serve every day.”

Mac McGowen, Columbus, OH:
(Mac McGowen served in Co A 2/8th Calvary (Airborne), 1st Air Calvary Division 1965-66 and Co A 1/501st Infantry (Airborne), 101st Airborne Division, 1966-1968.)
“Before the WGAE came to Columbus, Ohio with their Veterans Writing Workshops, I was an amateur writer who had produced two unpublished novels, two poetry chapbooks and a host of other scribblings that were seen by virtually nobody, but still continued to accumulate because of my psyche's need to produce such material. It was useful for me to produce these artifacts, but it was unsatisfying in that no one was there to give them to; writing in obscurity with no feedback and no conductivity of affect or wisdom was like a series of incomplete forward passes.

What the WGAE workshops taught me was that I have talent as a writer and that I can communicate meaningful affect and valuable wisdom to others. This encouragement has emboldened me to complete a memoir of my first exposure to combat in the Vietnam War and to offer those experiences to returning veterans of all wars and to the people who love them and the society that must embrace them.

In my 60's now, in the shadow lands of my life, I have nothing to prove, no bones to make, no fortune to accumulate. What I have is the courage to speak truthfully and the ability to pass along insight. Had WGAE not come to town, I would have no doubt continued to write in my quiet Dickinsonian, albeit desultory way -- and without Dickinson's huge talent, of course. The WGAE mentors have convinced me that I have something valuable to say, the innate talent to say it effectively, and the responsibility to make a serious effort to get my work to people who can learn and grow from the encounter.”

Pete LuPiba, Columbus, OH:
(Pete LuPiba is a U.S. Navy War veteran, serving from 2004-2008. He is a 2006 veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.)
“When a sailor and soldier and marine goes off to a war zone, and participates in combat operations --- it changes them, as has been displayed through history and the media. But when they return to the same world they left before a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan -- when they return back home, back state-side, it is quite a different world to them. They will never be the same, even though they recognize their surroundings.

Some of us grow up 'over there' and some receive a different experience, and their global view on family and work, and friends and their hometown will be forever altered, sometimes positively, sometimes otherwise.”

Michael (Gunny) Smith, Columbus, OH:
(Michael Smith is retired from the United States Marine Corps, having served from 1978 – 1998.)
“Being a retired US Marine (78'-98') and aspiring writer, I was more than ready to attend. The entire program was stellar despite it's ‘pilot’ status. I was fortunate in that I found myself in the presence of two other Marines with stories to tell, and we managed to form a ‘Fire Team’ for both of the workshops. Marines do that; we congregate and dig in. For me personally I met and made a life long friend in Matthew Eck. I know the Marines welcomed him into our space with no trepidation, he is after all a veteran of Somalia & Haiti with the US Army. He has stood in our boots, he understood the stories welling up inside of us, and he thoughtfully and skillfully managed to coax some of them out by virtue of his patience and experience of combat. Being a published writer didn't hurt his chances with us either. What I took away from the Veteran’s Writing Workshop is a sense of that I mean through the mentoring of Eck, and the others, it gave me confidence in my writing ability. Before the workshops, I thought my writing was for my eyes only. Not anymore! I walked away realizing that fear is a reaction, courage is a decision. The best piece of advice I received was from Matt Eck...he simply told us ‘Read, read, read, and write, write and write’. What more does a writer need to do?”

Andrew Taylor, Columbus, OH:
“The writing workshop has been great for many reasons. Writing has always been a passion for me and I wrote a book about my time spent in Iraq. The writing workshop has definitely helped shape me into being a better writer. I loved working with writers of different styles and it compelled me to read what was written by the authors I worked with. I read What's Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges and The Farther Shore by Matthew Eck.

I think my most memorable quote was by Matthew Eck when he said to us ‘What does love smell like?’.... ‘Well I'll bet it doesn't smell like Mexican food.’ LOL. It was a funny quote. He was trying to get us to think of our senses when writing. What does our scene smell like, look like, feel like physically as well as emotionally. Things like this have done amazing things for my writing.”

Richard Isbell, Veteran’s Affairs & ADA Coordinator, City of Columbus Mayor’s Office:
“As a disabled veteran and a professional whose job it is to help vets and military, it was so good to see the veteran participants using this as a way to not only get the creative story out of their minds, but also to see the workshop’s cathartic healing start to work. Talking about what happened to you and how you feel about it can be painful. But, for some, writing about your traumatic experiences can be very helpful to recovery.”