“Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.” Benjamin Franklin once spoke these words, and they are definitely words to live by.
A good story can propel you into a sea of inspiration and emotion. Without a doubt veterans, and those who are active duty, have some memorable stories to tell.
Ron Capps, having a quarter of a century of experience with the Army (including the Army Reserve and time served in Afghanistan), is also an accomplished writer. He has had his work featured, among many places, in The New York Times and Time Magazine’s Battleland blog. He has also been praised by The Washington Post and has been a consultant for other note-worthy publications.
Using writing as an outlet to document his experiences, especially in his memoir “Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years,” Ron knows the importance of the written word. This is why he decided to do something to help others who knew what he went through.
“I left government service at the end of 2008 and started a graduate writing program,” Ron tells us at VA Home Loans Centers. “Not long after, when I finished school, I wanted to give away what I had learned as a working writer and [while] in graduate school – to give other veterans the skills and confidence to tell their own stories.”
In 2011, Ron envisioned the Veterans Writing Project, writing the curriculum and founding the project. “We have no employees,” he states. “I pay my staff of instructors and editors a very small stipend per class or per issue of our journal. Everyone has another job.”
The leadership role Ron plays, as well as his passion for the project, keeps it going. “I teach a lot of the workshops,” Ron says. “I am the publisher of the journal, which means I get the glamorous job of paying the bills, placing print orders, and stuffing envelopes. The editorial staff does all the real work.”
“What motivates me is that I want to help bridge the understanding gap between the military and civilian societies in America today,” we learn from Ron. “I want all of America, and really anyone around the world who is interested, to know what the military experience is all about.”
Ron comes from a family very accustomed to the military. He has two grandfathers who served in World War I, all his uncles served in World War II, and his father served in Korea and Vietnam. “I think we have a responsibility as Americans to understand what our tax money is spent on,” Ron says. “What our citizens’ lives are given for, what is the net effect of those expenditures and deaths overseas.”
It is never a small feat to Ron how much of a positive effect his project has on fellow veterans. “In one of our workshops, a veteran who had never really been able to or felt safe enough to speak about his experiences in combat briefly opened up to the group,” Ron shares with us. “His wife was in the room and she said something like, ‘I’ve been married to him for 30 years and I’ve never heard anything about his time in Vietnam.’”
Even though he vocalizes that finding funding for the program and administrative challenges when running a non-profit can be challenging, he wants to be sure as many people who have served our country know about the project as possible. “We exist,” Ron states passionately. “We provide this service free of charge to the participants … we are a group of veterans who continue to serve in this way.”
It can’t be understated how much influence Ron and his team has had on fellow service members. However, it is Ron’s answer to who inspires him that left a mark on us.
“There is no one single person who I can point to,” he tells us. “Dr. Billy Taylor, the great jazz musician and teacher, once told me, ‘Don’t believe in the great man theory. No one person can make that much difference. Anything big takes more.’ I agree with him.”
You can learn how to help out with, or participate, in the Veterans Writing Project by visiting http://veteranswriting.org/ and their sister site http://o-dark-thirty.org/. Like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/VeteransWritingProject?ref=hl and on Twitter https://twitter.com/VeteransWriting.