This talk shares stories of the men and women who signed up to serve during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and incorporates experiences and insights from famous writers and philosophers about war and its aftermath. Drawing from hundreds of hours spent with veterans, author and professor Jeb Wyman discusses the profound moral and emotional impact the experience of war has had on them, and how war forever changes those who return from it. Whether it was fought on horseback in the Civil War or in Humvees in Baghdad, veterans face grave challenges after war—haunted by memory, burdened by guilt, searching for meaning, and trying to re-join a society they believe cannot understand the reality of war. Wyman also discusses how studying war through the lens of the humanities may help both veterans and civilians heal the wounds of war.
Jeb Wyman has been a faculty member for over twenty years at Seattle Central College, and has been reading the stories by his student veterans since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has interviewed over seventy veterans for a collection of first-person accounts, What They Signed Up For: True Stories by Ordinary Soldiers, which records not only their experiences of war, but why our veterans chose military service and how coming home from war remains the greatest challenge for many of them. He is the academic director of the Clemente Course for Veterans at Antioch University, a new program for veterans who study history, philosophy, art, and literature to gain insight into their experiences, prepare them to pursue further higher education, and build community with other veterans.