Veterans share their stories and struggles at “Telling: Pensacola”

Iqueena Hollis

Staff Writer

The UWF Military and Veterans Resource Center partnered with “Telling: Pensacola” to bring awareness of the real-life struggles veterans face on and off the battlefield.

This event was free to the public and put on by the Florida Humanities Council. The first showing was 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts and brought out dozens of civilian and veteran supporters.

The second showing was 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Pensacola Little Theater.

According to Lisa Powers, program director of the Telling Project, the goal of the project is to bring to light what is most often swept under the rug.

“We want to bring awareness to these issues because they affect the people that protect and serve our country,” Powers said. “We are telling.”

Six veterans from different branches of the armed forces were chosen by a committee to tell their stories, and over the course of three weeks, prepared to expose the demons that once, and sometimes still do, haunt them. The event also featured a talk back segment at the end of the performance where the audience could ask the directors and vets questions.

Timothy Jones, a two-year Navy vet and student at UWF, was sexually assaulted by a fellow serviceman, and as a result of being outcast and ignored, was discharged and led a life filled with alcohol and drug abuse and homelessness over a period of 10 years.

“I share this story so freely because it’s not my story,” said Jones. “It’s the world’s story, and everyone needs to hear it.”

Tabitha Nichols, an eight-year Army National Guard vet, suffered from PTSD after being injured and bedridden in a rocket-propelled grenade attack and outcast because she was no longer a “good solider.”

Patrick McCrary, a six-year vet of the Marine Corps, served in the Vietnam War and also suffered from alcoholism.

Scott Satterwhite is a nine-year vet of the Navy and Marines and currently teaches English at UWF.

“Reality hits home when you’re 18 years old and writing your will,” Satterwhite said.

Debra Russell served 13 years in the Navy and suffered from sexual trauma as well as health issues. She was discharged after injuring both knees and a shoulder during a routine morning run and told that her injuries would be too difficult to heal. Russell also attempted suicide but rethought her actions after she pulled the trigger and the gun didn’t go off.

Elliott James Smith served two years in the Army as a machine gunner and was discharged after losing his right leg while trying to help a fellow serviceman guide a large truck.

“We’ve been rehearsing together for three weeks now, and you can tell that we have gained a special bond with each other because we have so much in common,” Satterwhite said. “Everyone on this stage has tried to kill themselves at one point either passively or actively.”

Support groups such as the Pensacola Vet Center and Team RWB were in attendance at the event, handing out helpful information for civilians and vets who experience PTSD and develop abusive relationships as a result of service.

For more information on the Telling Project and how to get involved in helping veterans, please visit the Florida Humanities website. There is also a public television documentary titled “Veterans: The Telling Project” that aired on Nov. 5 on PBS that tells the stories of six military vets.