Once a week, a handful of military veterans gather at the Seattle Vet Center to practice the art of writing and the process of healing. Some write fiction. Others reveal themselves in memoir.
“We help people find tools to tell their own stories,” says Warren Etheredge, who teaches and leads the sessions. “I’ve been a teacher at every grade level for 30 years, and this is easily the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.”
Etheredge, a nationally known film critic, curator, and founder of The Warren Report, is one of eight writers who work with dozens of veterans in The Red Badge Project, a nonprofit group that helps wounded warriors “rebuild their individual sense of purpose and unique individuality” through the creative process of storytelling.
The group was created six years ago by Tom Skerritt, the actor, director, and Air Force veteran; and Evan Bailey, a former US Army captain. Red Badge groups now meet in Vet Centers around the Pacific Northwest, from Spokane to Walla Walla, Everett, and Federal Way.
7 Veterans, 7 Stories
To mark Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, this year Leafly is partnering with the Red Badge Project to bring some of those stories to life. Etheredge recently asked writers in his group to create a story that touched in some way on cannabis—a common topic of conversation among those managing PTSD.
“For the younger vets, it’s easier to talk about cannabis,” Etheredge recently told Leafly. “But for some older folks, from the Vietnam generation, it’s still something that’s not talked about a lot. Those who use it, swear by it. For some writers, their reaction was: ‘Oh please, let me spread the word.’”
While the rest of society is breaking down taboos around cannabis, it’s still a difficult topic in the military. A number of Red Badge writers, in fact, felt the need to use authorial pseudonyms because of the risk to their careers or VA benefits.