Literature, scholars and the media have tried for decades to depict the homecoming experience of soldiers who served overseas.
This weekend, a panel of Rhode Island veterans – including one Community College of Rhode Island student and one alumnus – will compare their own experiences to these depictions.
“Wars in the Middle East and Contemporary Narratives of Return,” will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, in the Bobby Hackett Theater at CCRI's Knight Campus in Warwick. Funded by a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, the symposium will feature scholars highlighting the homecoming of American soldiers described by history, literature and in the media. The panel of war veterans will contrast those narratives to their own personal experiences.
“We are trying to demonstrate how the humanities can produce a meaningful venue for discussions on homecoming experiences for veterans,” said Thomas Conroy, a Vietnam War veteran who co-organized the event with Robert Widell, professor of history at the University of Rhode Island.
The panel will feature Dennis Cosmo, a Rhode Island native and CCRI honors student who mastered Arabic at the prestigious Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, before serving in Baghdad as a U.S. Army Ranger.
The goal of the project is to encourage veterans, their families and the public to engage in open dialogue about the challenges veterans experience as they return to civilian society, and the humanities’ role in their return.
“I’m really interested in raising the bar for student veterans. It’s not just going to class and doing assignments. It’s networking and being involved,” Cosmo said. “It’s sort of that warrior ethos of being a soldier now being applied to being a student.”
2014 CCRI graduate Chad McFarlane, who served in Iraq and is a past president of the CCRI Student Veterans Organization, will join him. He is also an Alumni Association board member and chairman of the recently formed CCRI Alumni Diversity Group.
Sunday’s event is the last in a three-part symposium, “Memory v. Representation: Soldiers’ Homecoming in History, Literature and Testimony.”
“We intentionally chose CCRI to be the final location because it has the largest student veteran population in the state,” said Molly Hall, a doctoral student of literature at URI and the event’s assistant director.
The event will help audience members understand the unique experiences and needs of student veterans.
“For people who haven’t experienced war and coming home, the only exposure they have are the media and the humanities,” Cosmo said. “When you have someone talking about their actual experiences, they can compare it to what they’ve seen and tell if it’s blown out of proportion.”
Joining Cosmo and McFarlane are:
The event is free and open to the public. More information and registration can be found online.