have courage. take heart. bear witness.
"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms." — Muriel Rukeyser, poet (1913–1980)
The Soldiers* & Civilians Project is an ongoing audio documentary and online forum for inquiry, reflection, and dialogue regarding the complex nature of military service and the impact of war and other military actions on the personal lives of those most directly affected.
The men and women and children whose voices can be heard here have agreed to bear witness to what they have experienced in the hope that you, and others, will be willing to listen to them and consider what they have to say.
For those of us who have not experienced war—either as a member of armed forces or as a civilian—how much do we truly know about what it means to be in combat or to live where war is being waged?
Some would say that it's not possible for us to understand without experiencing these things. Others believe that much of what we think we know about war is based on fictional portrayals rather than on a clear understanding of what war actually does to individuals, to neighborhoods, to cultures, and to societies.
Through these conversations—including responses from listeners—The Soldiers & Civilians Project intends to contribute to a deeper understanding of the realities of military service, the gravely serious consequences that follow from a decision to engage in warfare, and the ways in which people work to prevent or stop armed conflict or to ameliorate its effects. The hope is that these conversations will foster further dialogue, encourage us to listen more closely to one another, and help guide us—as citizens of a self-governing society—toward wiser and more compassionate decisions.
At times, you might find it difficult to listen to aspects of some conversations. For segments that contain graphic descriptions of injury or death, we post an accompanying caution message. Some of these conversations have been difficult for the speakers, as well. As former Army Ranger Patrick Lowe said toward the end of our conversation:
"This has cost me. In the beginning, there were a couple of uncomfortable moments for me. And so I would hope that, in some way, I help someone. I have to believe there's a reason that I'm still here with this experience. And maybe that's the one person out there—one person's going to go, 'I don't want my boy to do that,' or 'I don't want to do that,' or 'We need to hold my government more accountable.' I can't hope for anything more than that."
However disquieting it may be, we hope that speakers and listeners alike will have courage, take heart, and bear witness.
All viewpoints are welcome. The project aims to represent a comprehensive range of experience and perspective.
Recordings by or about veterans can also be submitted to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, Washington, DC.
If you have questions, please don't hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Please note: The term soldiers is used in this project to refer to members of all branches of military service, although not all service members identify themselves as soldiers. No disrespect is intended by the use of this term. It was chosen because the word is generally understood to mean members of armed forces, and it conveys a sense of individuals, rather than a group (troops) or an institution (military).
In addition to her work with Soldiers & Civilians, Lizzie is Editor in the production department of StoryCorps. Previously, she was an editor in educational publishing and taught in various settings, primarily with students in middle school. Lizzie earned a BA from Williams College and an MFA in creative writing from the New School, in New York City. She is currently working on a book of profiles of American eccentrics.
Vanara was recently awarded a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, to pursue a graduate degree in film production. In addition to her work with Soldiers & Civilians, for the past three years she has worked at StoryCorps, first as Facilities and Archive Coordinator, then as Associate Producer. Vanara has also published and produced documentaries on the Cambodian refugee experience. Her film, bloodlines, was selected for the 2006 Portland Documentary and eXperimental Film Festival. She holds a BA from Scripps College and an EdM from Harvard University.
Inspiration to create The Soldiers & Civilians Project came from several sources, the most recent being Jackie's work with the national oral history project StoryCorps. As a facilitator, then as outreach coordinator for StoryCorps' September 11th Initiative, she conducted more than four hundred recording sessions. She edited excerpts from selected interviews, several of which were broadcast on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" and included on the StoryCorps web site.
Jackie's work with Soldiers & Civilians is also informed by her work in mediation, which she began in 1999, and by her practice of insight meditation.
Limited legal advice on certain intellectual property issues has been generously provided, pro bono, to The Soldiers & Civilians Project by Arent Fox LLC / Attorneys at Law.
Deborah Baldwin—writer; editor
Arthur Burns—attorney; social entrepreneur
Michael Garofalo—senior producer, StoryCorps
Gil James—educator; curriculum specialist
Regina Hackett—art critic
Paul O'Neil—attorney; finance officer
Robert Raphael—USMC 1964–1972
Matthew Wilkes—education and nonprofit consultant
Patricia J Williams—writer; law professor, MadLawProfessor