By Douglas Taurel
In a world where the news of war is commonplace on our TV screens and cellphones, we often see war like some video game someone else is playing. Something that is interesting but far removed from our daily lives, unless you are a veteran or the family member of a veteran.
And as the 15th anniversary of 9/11 comes near, the beginning of 15 years of sustained war and multiple deployments in the Middle East borne by less than 1% of the population, we now have an entire generation of military families that know nothing but war.
I wrote my solo show The American Soldier, because I wanted to give back in some way. To give a deeper understanding and appreciation for what veterans and their family members have gone through and are going through now. To show the bravery and challenges our veterans and their families face on a daily basis as they return home from combat and struggle with PTSD.
The American Soldier is a solo show based on actual letters written by veterans and their family members from the American Revolution all the way through current day Afghanistan. The show is not a judgement on war but simply “tries” to show the real affects of war. The names of the wars change but how wars affects our men in battle and families doesn’t.
I was inspired to focus on this issue and use my talents as a actor after learning about the alarming rate of veteran suicides from PTSD and the increasing amount of veterans who are living on the streets. Twenty two veterans buckle from the stress of war and kill themselves each day, that is one veteran for every 65 minutes. And around 77% of veterans returning home have experienced a period of unemployment since returning to civilian life and 27% experience unemployment for than a year
What started out as a personal project as an actor to say thank you, has turned into a show that continues to receive overwhelming reactions from audience members, critics and more importantly, veterans. It has performed Off Broadway, toured across the country and abroad. The American Soldier has earned strong reviews here in New York, earned 4 stars at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was nominated for a United Kingdom Amnesty International Award for theatre excellence.
This show has become a very humbling project about honoring veterans and their families. I have been enriched 20 fold as a person and artist and I am incredibly grateful for the lessons I have gained from all the veteran’s letters.
I believe we have a duty to tell and hear their stories.
I’ll be performing The American Soldier, directed by Padraic Lillis, at Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken, New Jersey, the weekend of September 11th. September 9th & 10th at 8pm and September 11th at 5pm.
Follow Douglas on Twitter: @DouglasTaurel