By Melissa Harward
The history of humankind can seem like an endless litany of barbaric acts. Look around the world today and note the atrocities, the pain, and the tragic aftermath of violence. If there’s one truth in this reality, however, it is that in the debris of war there will be people helping other people.
On Thursday, our Rabbit Box storytellers brought us their stories of war, of compassion, of standing for what they believe in and rising above violence. Some were funny; others had us on the edge of tears.
In her first appearance as Master of Ceremonies, Heather Broadwater welcomed each storyteller to the Foundry stage with wit and aplomb. One storyteller, we learned, was her mother: the also-witty Elaine Westfall.
Reverend A.R. Killian kicked off the night with a tale set on a wintery night at a German airbase during the Korean War era. A revelation by his roommate, disliked by others on the base, makes the story all the more poignant.
As Heather explained when she introduced him, Javier Romero-Heesacker now has more public speaking experience than most of us, and he’s only 14. Javier’s story of joining the ROTC program at Clarke Central High School leaves us thinking about whether it’s necessary to strip away a person’s individuality to foster allegiance to one’s company.
Jennifer Bray thought joining the Army would be a great way to pay for her education. When she finds herself aiming a rifle at a local man in Somalia and waiting to be told whether to shoot or hold her fire, she reconsiders her choice to enlist.
After getting in the wrong line at a military recruitment event packed with thousands of others, Earnest Thompson learns that new recruits don’t necessarily receive a hero’s welcome.
Our crackerjack storyteller of the night was Joerg Mayer. Drafted into the German Army at the end of the Cold War, he — like Jennifer Bray — found himself carefully aiming when someone came too close to the base.
Former Chief Elected Officer of Athens-Clarke County Gwen O’Looney described her work for the Red Cross in Vietnam and the power of just listening to soldiers at war-ravaged outposts — and, later, talking talking talking to save her life.
There are always casualties in war, as Sean Polite reminded us in his sobering tale about serving in the Navy during the second Gulf War. But he also enjoyed setting out to see the sights, though he often stood out as a tall African-American based in Japan.
Elaine Westfall talks about her overseas exchange as a teenager with a soldier who responded in 1970 to the first of her letters addressed to “Any Soldier” in Vietnam.
Our final storyteller of the evening was John Mincemoyer, who served aboard a submarine in the Atlantic Ocean. Night after night at the sub’s helm in 1998 he helped others working alongside him pass the long hours in a surprising, touching way.
Rabbit Box will return on Wednesday nights starting January 13th with The Kindness of Strangers. Thank you to the Rabbit Box team for a wonderful year of stories — and an even bigger thanks to each of our storytellers who illuminated the stage with their memorable and meaningful stories.