The week of Veterans Day, Warrior Writers, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that services Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans through creative processes, celebrated the national holiday through "Food for Thought" a dinner and art exhibition at Tyler School of Art at Temple University and a poetry reading at Penn Bookstore located on 36th and Walnut St. The organization partnered with the veterans affairs departments of these universities to present an alternative look at honoring veterans through cultural experiences.
Warrior Writers' Founding Director, Lovella Calica, expressed, "It's not everyday you hear from Veterans and there is usually a disconnect between veterans and non-veterans and we [Warrior Writers] work to eliminate that. Through writing, visual art, and other creative outlets we allow veterans to tell their story and gain a better understanding."
On Wednesday, November 9 at Tyler School of Art, Temple Gallery and Warrior Writers partnered to discuss the art of veterans who have served since 9/11. Each table discussed controversial, creative, and stark pieces that reflected veterans experiences overseas while delving into the subject of war, creative expression and its use for healing and processing in the lives of veterans.
On Veterans Day, the poetry reading at Penn Bookstore featured Vietnam veteran and renowned Philadelphia poet, Lamont Steptoe who shared poems "Ambush" that descriptively brought to light his experience as a twenty-year old at war and a heart-wrenching piece called "Ode and Lamentation" to his late brother who also served in Vietnam and a decorated war hero.
Two Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, Sean Casey and Chantelle Bateman, shared their experience in the ten year war through poetry. Casey, an officer in the army diagnosed with PTS (Post Traumatic Stress), noted that through Warrior Writers he expresses bottled up feelings he has and channels his energy into his written work. Since his participation in the organization over a year ago, he feels relief and can get back on track. He shared with "Numb" a poem about his transition back home from being deployed to Afghanistan twice in three years.
Bateman, a Marine and field Director of IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War), shared her own personal views in opposition to the United States at war through poems "Hate LOVE Park" and "PTSD." Both Casey and Bateman were avid writers before the war and Warrior Writers connects them to their passion amidst their service.
Warrior Writers is a Philadelphia based national nonprofit organization whose mission is to create a culture that articulates veterans' experiences, provide a creative community for artistic expression, and bear witness to the lived experiences of warriors. The organization hosts number of writing workshops, art exhibitions, and performances in various pockets for veterans who are artists, veterans who suffer from PTS, and veterans who have no other way to express themselves.