To Honor and Comfort Veterans, New Classes Explore Ancient Epics
At the University of Vermont, there is a new discussion-based class made up entirely of military veterans. Its focus? "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," the ancient historian Homer's epic stories of war.
The course is the brainchild of Roberta Stewart, a UVM classics professor, who was inspired to launch it after reading several blog posts back in 2003, by U.S. service members fighting in Iraq. In those blog posts, Stewart was struck by the soldiers' descriptions of combat and life post-combat. They felt familiar to her. She realized that what she recognized were themes found in Homer's famous epics. So she reached out to one of the veterans.
"I said to him, 'Homer can help you. Homer knows,'" the professor recalls.
While Stewart never ended up talking with that particular person, she did pursue her idea, writing to a local Department for Veterans Affairs hospital with the concept. Eventually, she got the green light, and the UVM veterans-only class was born.
"It still resonates," says Stephanie Wobby, a 26-year old former Army medic who is enrolled in the class, "coming home from war, even if it was however many years ago. It's the same."
Given the success of the course, based on students' reactions, plans are in motion to expand the offering to other universities and even to still-serving service members on overseas assignments. Veterans centers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts are hosting discussion groups, as are certain jails where incarcerated veterans can participate.
Our veterans deserve only the best, and we hope this program continues to provide them with comfort and honor their service.