Vet­er­ans book club fos­ters ca­ma­raderie

The Enquire-Gazette - - News - BOBBY JONES Staff Pho­to­jour­nal­ist

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On April 5 Jim Schel­berg, re­laxed his 6-foot­plus frame dur­ing a round ta­ble dis­cus­sion in the reg­u­lar meet­ing room of the Tow­son Branch Li­brary with half a dozen vet­er­ans, most of them his se­nior.

Schel­berg, an Iraq and Afghanistan Ma­rine vet­eran, served as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor, lead­ing the dis­cus­sion, teas­ing ex­cerpts re­gard­ing race from chap­ters within Ernest Hem­ing­way’s book en­ti­tled The Bat­tler and Moby Dick – the clas­sic by Her­man Melville dur­ing a monthly meet­ing of the Vet­er­ans Book Group. Orig­i­nat­ing from the Maine Hu­man­i­ties Coun­cil, the Mary­land Hu­man­i­ties Coun­cil and the Bal­ti­more Pub­lic Li­brary, the Vet­er­ans Book Group pro­gram con­ducts free read­ing and dis­cus­sion se­ries, lec­tures and po­etry read­ings – which fo­cus on dif­fer­ent sub­ject mat­ters.

Schel­berg most no­tably en­joys the in­ter­ac­tion with the vet­eran com­mu­nity. While cur­rently work­ing on his PhD in phi­los­o­phy at John Hop­kins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences he ex­plained that his Hu­man­i­ties ma­jor in par­tic­u­lar loans it­self well to his part-time job as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor.

“We try to hit themes that are pretty com­mon to the vet­eran or the mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence. How­ever we of­ten ap­proach those things from text that is not di­rectly con­nected to the mil­i­tary text,” Schel­ber said. “Even though they’re un­re­lated to mil­i­tary text they’re re­ally nice lenses to take a new look at our own ex­pe­ri­ences. And we ac­tu­ally get bet­ter dis­cus­sions out of the non-mil­i­tary text when civil­ians are en­gaged in our meet­ings. It al­lows the vet­er­ans to take a look at the same text with a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.”

Schel­berg ex­plained some­times in­di­vid­u­als have to dig for the par­al­lels be­tween the struc­tured mil­i­tary en­vi­ron­ment and ev­ery­day civil­ian life – say­ing that is part of be­ing an “ac­tive reader” and that ev­ery­one, whether mil­i­tary or not, adds to the group dis­cus­sions.

This isn’t first de­mo­graphic-spe­cific book group. Dur­ing the win­ter and sum­mer months, he spends time with in­mates dis­cussing sim­i­lar is­sues — what he calls his true love. But, he says he also en­joys his in­ter­ac­tion with dif­fer­ent mil­i­tary vet­er­ans.

“I don’t view th­ese ses­sions as any sort of ther­apy or cathar­tic ex­pe­ri­ence in re­la­tion to the vet­er­ans. I think that there is just some­thing valu­able in the prac­tice of read­ing and think­ing,” Schel­berg said. “I think the in­di­ca­tor is how much good dis­cus­sion you’re get­ting, the new in­sights shared through in­ter­ac­tion and the con­nec­tion of their own ex­pe­ri­ences is a strong in­di­ca­tor that a mean­ing­ful read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is tak­ing place.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on how to get in­volved con­cern­ing the Vet­eran Book Group visit: www.mdhc. org.

In ad­di­tion to the monthly book group, The Mary­land Hu­man­i­ties Coun­cil and The Mary­land Hu­man­i­ties Coun­cil are also spon­sor­ing a Vet­er­ans Writ­ing Work­shop at the Bal­ti­more County Pub­lic Li­brary, Cock­eysville Branch, to fur­ther their vet­eran ini­tia­tives. The writ­ing work­shops will take place June 4 and 18; July 2, 16 and 30; Aug. 13 and 27. All ses­sions will run from 1:30 p.m. — 4:30 p.m. Dario DiBattista, an Iraq War and Ma­rine com­bat vet­eran will lead this work­shop from the Vet­er­ans Writ­ing Project.

The se­ries of work­shops will show vet­er­ans the el­e­ments of the writ­ing craft, in­clud­ing nar­ra­tive struc­ture, char­ac­ter mo­ti­va­tion and craft­ing dia­log. Whether it’s fic­tion or non­fic­tion, po­etry or prose, in­di­vid­u­als will learn how to write to re­mem­ber and build com­mu­nity, while hon­ing a highly mar­ketable skill. The work­shops are open to vet­er­ans as well as ac­tive duty and re­serve mem­bers. All ser­vices – and eras – are wel­come. Reg­is­tra­tion re­quired and be­gins May 2. For more in­for­ma­tion call (410) 8877750.

BOBBY JONES

From left: Jim Schel­berg, Ma­rine vet­eran and the vet­er­ans’ book group fa­cil­i­ta­tor, out­lines ex­cerpts from The Bat­tler, an Ernest Hem­ing­way short book as Dave Van Wye, Army in­fantry vet­eran, cen­ter, and Dr. Woody Sher­wood Lipit, a 10-year naval vet­eran, dis­cuss the text dur­ing the most re­cent VBG ses­sion at the Tow­son Branch Li­brary April 5.

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