Editorial: Warrior Writers demonstrate healing power of words

  • Veteran Eric Wasileski speaks during a poetry reading event of the Warrior Writers at the Greenfield Public Library in April. File Photo

  • Veteran Eric Wasileski speaks during a poetry reading event of the Warrior Writers at the Greenfield Public Library in April. File Photo

Published: 7/9/2018 6:38:11 PM

Perhaps because a newspaper is a way to help people and make the world a better place through language and communication, we have a special appreciation and affinity for a local veterans group that is energized by the power of words.

Eric Wasileski, 46, of Shelburne, a veteran of Mideast military action who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, has learned of the therapeutic power of words. Since his military days, he has been working through his feelings about the experience through poetry. He has written two collections of poems and has introduced that path to healing to fellow vets through a Greenfield chapter of Warrior Writers, a veteran-focused arts group that uses writing as therapy.

Wasileski, who joined the military after graduating from Greenfield High School in 1991, became involved with Warrior Writers soon after he wrote his first poem, “Live Free (or die),” which contrasts President Bush’s 2003 declaration of victory in the Iraq War to the crumbling of New Hampshire’s iconic Old Man of the Mountain.

Since then, he has seen the power of words first hand, and uses writing to understand the world around him.

Writing, especially in the context of helping people overcome post traumatic stress disorder, is a powerful therapy tool.

“Things that are unrealized within the self, when they get put down (on paper), the piece of us that has been avoiding and trying to move away from it, when it’s written down, we have an opportunity to engage with it in a different way,” Wasileski says.

On Dec. 16, 1998, nine days before Christmas, after “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” played over scratchy speakers on the Navy destroyer USS Stout in the Persian Gulf, its crew fired tomahawk missiles of Operation Desert Fox toward Iraq, killing Republican Guard soldiers and some civilians.

In that moment, Wasileski suffered a “moral injury,” and has been grappling to understand the spiritual implications of war ever since, he says.

“The trauma that I experienced was knowing that I was an agent of death, and knowing that what I was doing was morally questionable, and I did it anyway,” Wasileski remembered.

At Warrior Writer sessions, he and others share poems at the Greenfield Public Library. At one session, another veteran, Ted Cromack of Shelburne, shared a poem that looked forward to a day without war.

“When the big guns are finally silent, and jets no longer roar ...” it begins.

Wasileski noted that reading a work aloud is just as important as writing.

“When another veteran brother or sister reads a piece … Moving it from the subconscious to the foreconscious is huge. That’s the power of it. And not only for yourself, but for others.”

Through his work with Warrior Writers, Wasileski looks forward to a peaceful day when veteran suicide from PTSD is no longer a problem. Veteran writers can help bring about that day through their writing, he believes.

“If people knew how awful (war) was, they wouldn’t be looking at it as a solution — because it’s not a solution. It creates more problems than it solves,” Wasileski said.

There’s a message there for all of us, veterans and nonveteran citizens alike.

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