The Arts: Writing With Compassion About the Scars of Combat
By Richard Berg, CSC, Associate
A few years ago I had the opportunity to interview nine active duty military men who were being treated for and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTS) following combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. These men undergoing treatment in Portland, OR included Army rangers, a colonel, majors, sergeants and specialists.
I let them know of my intent to write a story and develop a program to help family members and the wider public better understand their personal suffering and the painful impact of PTS on their relationships. To a man, they were remarkably open with me about their mental and emotional scars.
I gave these interviews a great deal of thought and research. Clearly, we are dealing with more than the wounds of war here. Wounds heal. Scars remain. Protecting their confidentiality, I created a single fictional story incorporating as thoroughly as possible elements from their stories and my research. The result was my published book in 2013 titled SCARS.
The book was well received and I was encouraged by a number of professionals to take this story to a wider audience. John Beaulieu (producer) and Roccie Hill (script writer) have teamed up with me to bring the SCARS story onto the stage and possibly the screen. Ms. Hill’s theatrical script truly brings the characters in my short novel to life in a remarkable way. The Lakewood Theater in Lake Oswego, OR is planning to premiere SCARS for the public with the talented Nancy McDonald directing. She commented: “SCARS is not just a play; it is theater as a powerful tool." Among others, Robert King in Los Angeles, producer and screenwriter for "The Good Wife" and a number of films, commented on the script: “This should be staged in every city in our country.”
We have a twofold purpose for SCARS: (1) to provide assistance to families, friends and therapists with information and recommendations about the management of PTS. This nonprofit program will be accomplished with a DVD of the play and an accompanying resource booklet. The therapy program was successfully tested recently with soldiers in therapy at the local PTS hospital where my initial interviews took place. It is for this endeavor – assisting the understanding and treatment of PTS – that we are seeking financial support. (2) The second goal is to produce the SCARS story on stage for the public, and possibly as a film.
Note: Father Richard Berg serves in a pastoral role at Mary's Woods, a retirement center founded by the Sisters of the Holy Names near Portland. He has served in academic roles including dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Portland, as well as ministering among frail and homeless people in the city's downtown district. In the photo: Actors conduct a table reading of the SCARS script (courtesy of Lakewood Theater).