"INEVITABLY, everyone in the military has experienced some sort of trauma," says Ryan Stroud. "In military life, all the rules of society are turned upside down."
It's a world that's hierarchical, structured, demanding, and sometimes violent—and for three years, Stroud has been encouraging PSU student veterans to talk about it in a storytelling night called #FUBAR.
"I think the veteran experience is particularly unique," says Stroud, who's a veteran himself, "in that you have to find humor, but you find humor in very dark places." That darkness and humor is right there in the title's acronym: "Fucked up beyond all recognition" is military slang that can refer to malfunctioning equipment, grisly casualties, or soldiers who have been disabled or psychologically scarred by their experiences.
Storytelling nights are all over the place as of late, from the nationally known Moth to local offerings like Back Fence PDX. Unlike those, #FUBAR seeks to tackle a specific social issue. "The goal there was to give people at the university a way to understand veteran experiences," says Stroud, "and to give veterans the opportunity to voice their identity and experience."
Stroud also notes that veteran experiences often intersect with issues of disability and mental health, and he's seeking more women to tell their stories. "I think the hardest part of this project has been getting female veterans [to participate]," says Stroud, who says that the military remains hostile to women. "Oftentimes their experiences have been so traumatic that they don't want to have anything to do with other veterans, but this year we do have a female veteran telling a story."
Stroud has run other storytelling nights, and says that recruiting veterans to share their experiences is often very different from organizing those other events. "Recruiting participants is always an interesting process, especially when focusing on a specific social issue or specific identity group... We're asking people to talk about some very personal things, but we find humor, we find entertainment value in it. But it tends to be pretty personal, and the subject matter that we're talking about is pretty intense—like, you know, war."
PSU's Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom, 1825 SW Broadway, Thurs May 5, 7 pm, free