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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggies compile a collection of vet war stories

An A&M professor and a retired U.S. Army veteran have partnered to shed light on the experiences of combat veterans.  

Marian Eide, an associate professor of English at Texas A&M, and Ret. Col. Michael Gibler, a Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service Training specialist, have come together to gather narratives of United States soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The project, now three years in the making, is called “After Combat: Soldiers Return Home from the Millennial Wars.” Eide said the project aims to give Americans a new perspective on the daily conduct of these conflicts and their participants.

“For veterans returning from eight months of ordinary days in Fallujah or Kandahar, popular media representations can be alienating or dispiriting,” Eide said. “The purpose of this project, ‘After Combat,’ is to introduce readers to these wars from the perspective of their combatants. The book manuscript compiles stories of deployment as told by veterans.”

Eide and Gibler have spoken to 22 men and women from around the nation in anonymous narratives on their experiences in the wars, from the first invasions to collaborations with local armies. The duo intends to publish the narratives in a book format sometime in the next year.

“I’d say that for the most part, people who’ve deployed don’t see themselves as heroes, and so they don’t think that they have a story to tell,” Eide said. “And what we’ve done is to offer them an opportunity to talk about their deployment anonymously and that’s really the key — not just to getting the stories that have some difficult material in them, but also getting the ordinary person that doesn’t feel like a hero [to] share his or her story.”

Cory Denton, business management senior and retired U.S. Army infantryman, said the project has the potential to help the public understand what veterans go through and correct the skewed vision of veterans that Hollywood presents.  

“The disconnect between the public and veterans is larger than it has ever been before,” Denton said. “The public’s view of veterans is largely affected by how we have been portrayed in movies — damaged, suicidal, ready to explode into violence because of PTSD.”

Denton said it’s frustrating as a veteran to be stereotyped as angry and maniacal as a result of PTSD.

“Unless they have direct relations serving, most of the public has no idea of any of the difficulties service members face, from back-to-back deployments to backlogged benefits claims,” Denton said.

Steve Turner, finance junior and a veteran from the 75th Ranger Regiment, is hesitant to believe the narratives will be effective for readers who do not have first-hand experience or family members who served.

“I honestly don’t think that you can really bridge that gap unless you have actually gone and experienced it,”  Turner said. “I try to downplay that I was a veteran and just kind of blend in so that I don’t have to deal with it. But at the same time, it’s molded who I am.  At the end of the day, just be appreciative as a civilian; you don’t have to go around thanking us. You can be interested in what I did, you can be appreciative, but the first thing out of your mouth should not be, ‘Thank you for your service.’”

Echoing Turner, Alexander Coll, supply chain management senior and retired U.S. Army infantryman and sergeant, said veterans all make sacrifices — some more than others — because of the nature of the job at hand.

“We [veterans] are just normal people,” Coll said. “We’re just normal people that volunteered, and some of us did extraordinary things. A lot of these men that I served with, they’re normal people that did extraordinary things, that’s all. But at the end of the day I’m just a guy. I’m an American.”

Ultimately, Eide and Gibler hope to set up a website where veterans like Turner, Coll and Denton can discuss their experiences and where civilians have the chance to learn more about deployment. 

For Coll, the program represents a chance to broaden the perspective people have on combat veterans.

“I think it is very beneficial that people understand, because I think with misinformation there’s a danger of misrepresentation in a negative light,” Coll said. “And that’s certainly something I wouldn’t want to happen to people who have done so much for this country.”

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