May 20, 2022

Art & Lifestyle:

Karlin Leads Book Group for Veterans

Vietnam vet

A book discussion series for veterans is being led by Vietnam vet Wayne Karlin. The Veterans Book Group meets virtually via Zoom from 10 am to noon on the first Saturday of the month.

Registration required; space is limited. For more information, contact Kimberlé Fields at 301-863-8188 or [email protected].

The discussion is tailored for veterans and their families.

“We are privileged that is led by Vietnam veteran, author, and College of Southern Maryland professor Wayne Karlin. Service members of all eras, their spouses, and adult children are welcome,” according to the St. Mary’s County Library website.

This year the group will read and discuss four nonfiction books: a former infantryman exploring how to be a parent; a former Navy pilot struggling with the tug between pride and guilt about his service; a journalist discussing in detail the erosion of honor in an elite force; and a former nurse’s very personal memoir of loss and trauma from World War I.

Each book is written in a very different style but connected by themes of war, courage, honor, and trauma.

The group is coordinated statewide by Maryland Humanities and is presented locally in partnership with St. Mary’s County Library. It is supported in part by Lockheed Martin, David Bruce Smith, and the Wawa Foundation.

March 5 and April 2: “War and the Arc of Human Experience” by Glenn Petersen
(Part One – beginnings: pre-war and combat experiences)

Mr. Karlin’s note: This book is related to “Dad’s Maybe Book” by Tim O’Brien in the way the author explores many of the same issues as O’Brien. Issues such as the aftereffects of war, courage, atonement, responses to trauma, divorce, and parenting. Petersen examines them in analytical style; very different from O’Brien. Because of this we will consider the book over two sessions.

Glenn Petersen flew 70 combat missions in Vietnam when he was only 19. He’d sought out the weighty responsibilities and hazardous work. Anthropologists write about the military and war from the perspective of researchers. What makes this a fully original contribution is that Petersen writes from the dual perspectives of an insider and a researcher. In this book, he looks at the war from an anthropological perspective because that’s how Petersen’s made his living in the subsequent years: it’s how he sees the world.

Petersen was long oblivious to what had happened to him in Vietnam and he fears that young people who’ve been fighting the US military’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq might be similarly unaware. Skills that allowed him to survive in combat seemed to transfer well to life after war. The same skills led Petersen to a successful academic career. Then surreptitiously the danger, stress, and trauma he’d hidden away broke through, and the war came spilling out.

May 7: “Alpha: Eddie Gallagher and the War for the Soul of the Navy SEALs” by David Philipps

June 4: “Testament of Youth” by Vera Brittain

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