By BRIAN HAWKINS
Many people have read stories or seen television news coverage about the impact of combat experiences on soldiers, but actually hearing about them firsthand and understanding that impact is something totally different.
Helping people understand what military men and women go through in war is what five Mississippi State students hope to accomplish during three programs of “Telling: Starkville, Miss.” this weekend.
Staged as part of the national Telling Project, the free public programs will be held at 6 p.m. today and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Bettersworth Auditorium at Lee Hall on campus.
Marcus Boykin, Michael Campbell, Lewis Howard, Chris Keane and Lamarris Williams will share their stories serving the nation in Iraq and Afghanistan with audiences.
“You cannot predict how trauma affects an individual. I’ve seen special ops guys go from being perfectly fine to having serious problems,” said Campbell, an Army veteran who served combat deployments in Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003. “You don’t know how something will affect you until it happens.”
Campbell should know. He lost a close friend, Sgt. Trevor Blumberg, in an IED (improvised explosive device) attack in Iraq.
Just a few weeks earlier, the two had been working to start an education program for their company at Fort Bragg, N.C., to help soldiers address personal and family issues as a result of combat and deployment.
“I have been 50 to 60 feet from a Humvee that hit an IED, and it bloodied my nose and fattened my lips,” said Campbell, a founding member and the national president of the Student Veterans of America. “That’s how hard you get hit by the concussion from the blast.”
Those types of situations have been encountered by countless members of the armed forces in recent years, and getting those stories told is a huge part of what the Telling Project performances are about.
The performances at Lee Hall this weekend will be the 20th set across the nation in three years for the Telling Project, which was established in 2008.
Those veterans participating have gone through extensive interview, performance training and rehearsal to tell the stories of their lives to the community members in the audience.
The performance, Campbell says, deal with military members’ perceptions prior to service, in basic training, in preparing for deployment, during combat and after they return home.
“This covers the full gamut of service from the perspectives of those who have not deployed to those who have and have come home,” Campbell said.
Howard will be sharing his perspective as a Mississippi National Guardsman preparing for deployment.
Howard’s Guard unit — the 111th Aviation in Meridian — is currently training a flight platoon to head to Afghanistan and a maintenance platoon to head to Iraq, both in August of 2011.
Howard will be deploying with one of those two platoons when they head overseas next summer.
Sharing his experiences about how his pending deployment is affecting his life and relationships is just one means of understanding the Telling Project seeks to create in its audiences, Howard said.
“I hope the community really enjoys it and learns something from it,” Howard said.
The experience may prove quite moving for the audience, Howard said.
“We had a few people watching it the other day. My girlfriend said there were a few tears,” he said.