The Veterans Project allows veterans to share their stories about military life

Veteran Karen Pittenger of the U.S. Army tells her story to the panel and guests inside the Lyceum Theatre in Tempe on Nov. 13, 2014. Pittenger went into what it was like to be a woman in the Army. (Photo by Jonathan Williams) Veteran Karen Pittenger of the U.S. Army tells her story to the panel and guests inside the Lyceum Theatre in Tempe on Nov. 13, 2014. Pittenger went into what it was like to be a woman in the Army. (Photo by Jonathan Williams)

Four veterans sat in a row on the dim lit stage of Lyceum Theatre in Tempe on Thursday and shared their stories with dozens in a raw and unscripted opportunity to their stories heard.

The Veterans Project is an annual event hosted by the Institute for Humanities Research at ASU in cooperation with the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the Pat Tillman Veterans Center.

The veterans gathered on stage to discuss their experiences in the military and talked on topics that ranged from gender, deployment and detachment from their families.

Cpt. Steven Borden, director of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, said leaving his family was the hardest part while he was serving in the military.

“The world goes on while you're on deployment,” Borden said.

Karen Pittenger served as a nuclear biological chemical specialist in the U.S. Army and now a professor at the University. She spoke on what it was like to be a woman in the service.

“I think it takes a certain kind of woman,” Pittenger said. “I think its something you learn how to manage.”

Marcus Denetdale, who served in the United States Air Force for four years, is an ASU alumnus working in graduate programs. He said after joining the military it is difficult to transition from civilian to soldier.

“I don’t think you ever turn back to that civilian stature,” Denetdale said. “Life will never be the same.”

Seabrook Mendoza, who works in graduate education at the University, said he was at the show to support a friend working with the production.

“I’m glad to see so many people here,” Mendoza said. “I’m lucky to stumble upon this.”

The Veterans Project featured four guests that spoke about different aspects of military life. Each of them brought belongings to put on display. (Photo by Jonathan Williams) The Veterans Project featured four guests that spoke about different aspects of military life. Each of them brought belongings to put on display. (Photo by Jonathan Williams)

Mendoza said there are many veterans in the country that don’t necessarily get recognized, and it can be hard for some to assimilate back into society.

“I could feel how hard it might be to get back into the system,” Mendoza said. “Not only to do that, but to advocate for other than themselves.”

Erika Hughes, assistant professor in the School of Theatre and Film and co-director of the production, said it was a collective idea for the show and was developed over many different conversations.

“The event went well,” Hughes said. “They’re a great group.”

Hughes said none of the events are rehearsed, which would lose the spontaneity of the production.

“We want the opposite of that,”Hughes said.

Reach the reporter at jwilli62@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @JonWilliams_23

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