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Nebraska Warrior Writers Project gives veterans and their families a voice, sense of togetherness

A partnership of Humanities Nebraska, the VA and the Nebraska Writing Project
Posted at 6:59 PM, Mar 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-21 19:59:44-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Military veterans, and family members of veterans, in Nebraska, get together every Saturday to put pen to paper.

“Writing just takes you to a whole different level,” Cindy Cronn, who co-facilitates sessions in Omaha, said.

It’s a level reached by dozens who take part in the Nebraska Warrior Writers Project.

“It has been designed for veterans, families of veterans, spouses of veterans; to help everyone tell their own story,” Andy Gueck said.

It all started in 2014. Humanities Nebraska partnered with the VA and the Nebraska Writing Project to open the first workshop in Lincoln.

Seven veterans attended that first session and three of them are still active members today.

“We just take a breath and say, ‘Ah. I’m here with my people.’ So, it’s awesome,” Sharon Robino-West, who is one of the original members, said.

The group’s sessions alternate between Omaha and Lincoln every Saturday. Some even join via Zoom.

“As a veteran, a 24-year-veteran, I wanted to be able to learn how to better express myself and write some of the stories that I encountered,” another original member, Mary Baker, said.

“I’m thinking about individual veterans right now and the reasons they showed up to this room to participate and some of the individual conversations I’ve had with them,” Jen Stastny said. “Even the ones who don’t talk much in the group, about how essential showing up here is for them.”

Stastny and Cronn have co-facilitated the sessions in Omaha since 2016.

The two have always enjoyed writing but have no military experience.

“The thing that I enjoyed the most I guess is just having a new community to work with,” Cronn said.

A community they have grown a better understanding of and can now call their own.

“Because they are such great writers, I feel like I understand the best that an outsider can, some of the events they experienced,” Stastny said.

“They do feel like family,” Cronn added. “We’re watching a couple of them age significantly, and I just want to be a part of that and see them as often as I can.”

Participants are not forced to write about their military experiences. They are given the opportunity to write about whatever they would like.

Everyone then shares what they’ve been working on in groups and give each other feedback.

“Every week I think there’s something I take home that’s different, and new, and fresh, and exciting,” Baker said.

Each session also features a guest speaker who is a published writer and will give tips and lead a writing exercise.

All together providing an opportunity for veterans and their families to grow as writers, but also the chance to open up and give them a sense of togetherness.

“We have a safe place to reach out to each other. That's probably the most important thing of the group — a non-critical, constructive place to write,” Gueck said.

“We all have stories,” Baker said. “We all have something to say, and those stories need to be shared.”

Many of their stories are now shared outside of their safe space.

"From Warriors to Warrior Writers – Journey to Healing" was released in 2020. A book compiled with essays, poetry, short stories, fiction, and non-fiction.

“Some poetry that’s just absolutely breathtaking,” Cronn added.

Every word – written together.

“This publication meant so much to our writers to see their own writing in professional print, and to see it side-by-side with their fellow writers,” Stastny said.

“When I started this, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t think of myself as a writer at all,” Gueck said. “Now I’m a published writer and a published poet.”

Several members have had multiple pieces published since. The group is hoping their numbers, and stories, will continue to grow.

“Join us. Because we will welcome you and give you a place to tell your story.”

‘From Warriors to Warrior Writers – Journey to Healing’ is available for purchase on Amazon.

If you are interested in joining or attending Nebraska Warrior Writers Project session, click here.

There you can find the dates, times and locations for upcoming sessions, along with contact info if you have any questions.

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