PHENIX CITY - Veterans at Fort Benning have the opportunity to participate in a literature project at Troy University.
Funded by and offered in partnership with the Alabama Humanities Foundation, "Story Swap: Literature and the Veteran Experience" is a weekly reading program that has helped reintroduce many veterans to literature and help them recognize that each person reads literary pieces based on his or her own experiences, making the individual veteran an expert on the story that he or she has read.
The Phenix City Campus is hosting soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Benning. Each week, participants read selected literary pieces – some of which are military based – and a novel is selected for each session, which runs for eight weeks.
"I believe the outreach has allowed Troy University to develop another way to say 'thank you' to our military veterans and to allow them to see that TROY cares about them, their service and their futures," said Dr. Paige Paquette, an assistant professor of English who heads up the program with her co-facilitator retired Army chaplain Col. Thomas MacGregor and program site coordinator Nathaniel Coakley, a veteran, TROY alumnus and president of the Fort Benning Wounded Warrior Association.
"It's been an honor and privilege to work with these Army veterans, men and women who have sacrificed more than we will ever know to protect our country and freedom. I believe that literary groups such as this one could provide veterans confidence in their reading of literature, possible future academic pursuits and even in the next chapter of their lives," she said.
The program is also bringing community support. Various local restaurants and individuals have donated dinner for the group, and several other restaurants are offering discounts because of the University's involvement with the veterans, and one author has visited with the group.
Jeff Struecker, the retired Army chaplain and major who was a focus of "Black Hawk Down" and now serves as lead pastor at the Columbus, Ga. Calvary Baptist Church, visited the veterans and discussed his goals for his award-winning literary series. A TROY alumnus, he sought input on the success in accomplishing his writing goals and reminded veterans that each has a story that should be told.