Final Reflections

Week of August 20

As the program meetings draw to a close we see the discussion flow into topics that are not easily discussed among friends, let alone a group of people unfamiliar with each other a mere nine weeks ago. In the first meeting of the last week, we discussed previously explored topics like PTSD, police and state violence, and the realities minorities in America face with more nuance.

As each project takes shape, the run of show continues to be a key factor in conveying the motifs in a cohesive manner. Steven prompts the group to reconsider how his interactive “Yellow Footprints” piece can be incorporated throughout each presentation. They brainstorm multiple ideas for the concept, making it more apparent that the group conversations have had an undeniable affect on the individual presentations. They continue discussing how each project theme can be tied into the other. For example, Gianna’s soldier memorial could follow Bart’s piece on the death of soldiers.

The tone shifts as they begin to explore the implications of untreated PTSD on former soldiers who take up post-military jobs like law enforcement. Having been a witness to the effects police brutality can have on communities, Glenn offers a different perspective. He echos sentiments expressed in his original song  that was played for the group in the weeks prior. Naturally, questions and opinions arise on the role of individuals to perpetrate and/or overcome systemic societal barriers. How can one live outside of the limits society places on women, individuals of color, LGBTQIA, and more? For some looking from the outside-in the answer might seem simple, but as the discussion progresses it’s apparent that definitions of privilege and individual responsibility differ. The civility of this potentially uncomfortable conversation is a testament to the mutual respect formed between the members throughout the previous weeks.

Fittingly, the last meeting of the week is video recorded and features final thoughts from each of the members present. As they list their final project inspirations on camera, the veterans share how the program, texts, and discussions helped them contextualize their military service in ways they hadn’t before. James likens the camaraderie of sports and the military to that of this class, saying it began an important step of self-reflection. After explaining his project, Terry emphasizes that the community found in the program was a pleasant surprise given his initial reservations. Darrin shares that this creative outlet helped the emotional process of relocating to Austin after hurricane Harvey. Glenn concurs with the healing aspect of art and creativity, especially when one might be carrying potential trauma and unresolved thoughts.

Week to week, the sense of community grew deeper as the texts and discussions led to heavy themes. For the veterans and from the outside looking in, this program has been the catalyst for newly discovered talents, interests, and emotional and mental assessment. With that in mind, the theatrical performances and presentations promise to be both engaging and enlightening.