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Vets 4 Vets creates Veterans Book Project at UWGB

Hilary Presti, Life Writer
November 14, 2012
Filed under Life, Top Stories

The Cofrin Library gained an additional selection of books purchased by the Vets 4 Vets organization at UW-Green Bay.  These books are not standard research tools, but books following soldiers’ journeys.  They’re part of the Veterans Book Project.

The Veterans Book Project is a library of books that contain projects, written and visual, by dozens of people affected by the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  These books help to rearticulate and refashion memories that “live on veteran’s hard drives and in their heads,” according to the Veterans Book Project website.

Phillip Schladweiler, a veteran and UW-Eau Claire student, was one veteran approached about publishing one of his works into a book for the project.

Schladweiler was on active duty for eight years, and was deployed twice.

During his time in active duty, he worked as a liaison in Baghdad, Iraq and also utilized his Military Occupational Specialty of calling in artillery on enemy positions in Ramadi, Iraq.

Schladweiler was injured during an attack in February 2006.

“Two other soldiers and I came under fire from northeast, north and northwest, essentially directing all of our attention to our front,” Schladweiler said.  “Then, the enemy used a shaved down railroad cart, which they had attached three artillery rounds to and a pressure plate system, to collide with our improvised bunker.”

He does not remember many of the details except 20 minutes before the attack and then waking up at the Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington D.C. a few days later.

“These were the stories that were shared with me from the soldiers who we were tasked to watch and who came to our rescue, even under extremely heavy fire,” Schladweiler said.  “These are not just stories to us.  These actions were not scripted for the latest movie or TV drama.  This is our life.”

This story is similar to others found in the Veterans Book Project.  Schladweiler believes sharing these stories is beneficial to veterans.

“It allows the soldiers to reconnect with their own turmoil over events or their entire experience in a way that doesn’t cast judgment, but merely offers a window to view from,” Schladweiler said.  “For once, we are watching our stories, not again participating in them.”

These stories are not only written for veterans, but also for the public.

“I believe this project allows people from outside our experiences to join us on the front lines,” Schladweiler said.

Schladweiler feels that the messages veterans are able to convey in the books are complex, and as an artist himself, he understands just how difficult it could be for the veterans.

“On one end we have all this emotional attachment to our experiences, but on the other end, we have the civilian population who may not have ever had an experience like this,” Schladweiler said.  “We have to detach ourselves from that emotion in order to make it accessible to someone who’s never carried the emotion of war.  It’s a very hard thing to accomplish, but I think this project is on the right track and I hope that I will be able to work with them in the future.”

Abby Glynn, UWGB public administration major, agrees that this project is positive and a good addition to the Cofrin Library.

“Anything that gives others the chance to learn and have a better understanding about the experiences of others is a great project,” Glynn said. “I feel like you can never know too much.”

She also thinks the Veterans Book Project can provide veterans some kind of closure to past experiences.

Glynn does not think veterans are the only ones who can benefit from these books on campus though.

“This project can help people become closer with others by simply knowing more about different human experiences,” Glynn said.

Elaina Koltz, the advisor for UWGB Vets 4 Vets, said the organization has been doing fundraising in order to purchase some of the books for the library since it was not in the budget.  The books were recently purchased and displayed in the Lawton Gallery and at the Chancellor’s Veteran Reception.

Not only has the Vets 4 Vets organization fundraised to purchase these books, but they also create care packages for people in active duty.

“We gather names and addresses from students and the community,” Koltz said.  “There are a lot going out this spring.”

Some of the items included in the packages are protein bars, calendars, coffee, Kleenex and body wash.  Students and community members can donate items to these packages or a financial contribution for the cost of postage.  To donate, contact Elaina Koltz at koltze@uwgb.edu.