The hit Broadway musical-turned-film “The Wiz” is one of my all-time favorites. It is a retelling of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” with an African-American twist. I have vivid childhood memories of seeing R&B recording artist Stephanie Mills play Dorothy live on stage, then being blown away by Michael Jackson’s portrayal of Scarecrow in the film. This cast didn’t just follow the yellow brick road; they eased on down it. Ingenious! I think one of the best songs from “The Wiz” is the finale, “Home.” It begins:
When I think of home, I think of a place where there’s love overflowing. I wish I was home. I wish I was back there with the things I’ve been knowing…
Throughout the month of December, Veterans History Project (VHP) staff has been thinking of home, too, particularly as it relates to veterans. In a three-part “Folklife Today” guest blog series titled, “Making It Home,” VHP staff explored stories of military servicemen and women who found themselves stationed far away from loved ones and friends, the struggles that ensued trying to return and the joy–and sometimes disappointment–that they felt once finally reunited.
In “Making it Home: Missing Home,” VHP Liaison Specialist Christy Chason discussed nostalgia, or homesickness, as a very serious effect of war; it was once considered to be a deadly medical condition. Chason shared the stories of veterans Mark Ryan Black and Alexander Standish. Though serving in two different wars, both men used letter-writing as a means of coping with homesickness, a way to find some semblance of peace and normalcy in the midst of combat. Unfortunately, only one of the two was able to finally reunite with his family.
VHP Liaison Specialist Owen Rogers wrote about veterans’ often daunting task of physically trying to return to their loved ones and friends in “Making It Home: Journey Home.” One of the featured veterans, Samuel Lionel Boylston, had to wait his turn on a lengthy list of soldiers seeking to return stateside at the end of World War II. Once finally there, Boylston found a bit of solace in the taste of home he received courtesy of the steak and French fries he ate during the train ride home.
In “Making It Home: Welcome Home,” the last in this series, VHP Liaison Specialist Andrew Huber compared and contrasted how two veterans experienced reuniting with family after their tours of duty ended; one was met with the not-so-uncommon cold reality of returning from an unpopular war.
Share your thoughts of home in the comments section below or on any of the “Making It Home” blog posts, then share featured VHP images that resonated with you wherever you share compelling information–Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram or Pinterest–using the hashtag #VHPatHome.
As you reflect on wherever it is you call home this holiday season, take the advice that Dorothy provides at the end of that poignant song, which still sits near the top of my internal playlist after nearly 40 years.
We must look inside our hearts to find a world full of love–like yours, like mine, like home.