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Words of War and the Road Back

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On the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, land, sea and air power ceased and the Great War finally concluded. Whether you know it by the original name of Armistice Day, or as Remembrance Day, Poppy Day, or Veterans Day, as it is known in the United States, November 11th commemorates service in the Armed Forces. For a century, we have honored our nation’s veterans through joyous parades, ceremonies, and even with a simple handshake and “thank you.” At the Veterans History Project, we invite veterans to preserve their firsthand experiences through oral history recordings, correspondence, photographs, 2-D “flat” art & creative works, or manuscript materials. These materials enable future generations to hear directly from U.S. veterans; some of whom were forever changed as a result of their military service. Talking about these experience may be difficult – or unprecedented – even to veterans’ family members, friends, or battle buddies.

Black and white photo of street celebration with people, cars and flags
Celebrations on Wall Street with confetti, American flags, and crowds of people when Germany surrendered in 1918. Photo by W.L. Drummond, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress,

Writing may be the first cathartic step towards coping with their memories. Even before Homer’s Iliad, epics penned by young soldiers shared their innermost thoughts, evoking experiences to an audience of sympathetic comrades or curious civilians: celebrating victories, honoring the fallen, and capturing some of the most pivotal moments in their personal – and ultimately – our national history.

Graphic created for event featuring photo of American soldiers embracing next to ship.
Photograph shows American soldiers next to ship after their return to the United States after World War I. George Grantham Bain Collection,Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress,                           

On Saturday – November 10th, the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center, Veterans History Project, and Exhibits Office will present a symposium on the veterans’ “road back,” focusing on the use of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction as a means of coping with service experience.

We invite you to bring the veteran in your life or community to spend the day at the Library of Congress. Tours of Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I will be available in the morning and a mid-morning panel discussion, “Veterans and Literary Writing,” will explore how writing and literature can help veterans work through some of their service experiences. The panel will feature Lovella Calica, Founder of the Warrior Writers Project; Stefanie Takacs, Executive Director of the Touchstones Discussion Project; Mohammed Sheriff – Division Coordinator of the National Endowment for the Arts’s Literature & Arts Education Division; and will be moderated by Monica Mohindra – Head, Program Coordination and Communications Section of the Veterans History Project.

The afternoon will feature poetry and literature readings from Poets and veterans Bruce Weigl, Bill Jones and David Richmond with cowboy poet Vess Quinlan who will discuss their favorite World War I writers, share selections of their work, and participate in a discussion moderated by Anya Creightney, Programs Manager of the Poetry and Literature Center.

Concluding the symposium will be a screening of the 1937 American drama war film, The Road Back, directed by James Whale and based on the novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque.  The film is a sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front and follows German soldiers from the Armistice through their return home as they adjust to civilian life, learning that Germany and their personal lives have changed tremendously while they were gone.

The event is free and open to the public, but due to expected demand, tickets are recommended, and available on a first-come, first-served basis.   You can RSVP for your seat at or request ADA accommodations at least five business days in advance by contacting (202) 707-6362 or [email protected].

We look forward to seeing you there!

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