The Responsibility of Being Both a Reporter and an Army Veteran

Photo by  US Army, Flickr

Veteran status cuts both ways. Because I’m an army veteran, other vets often tell me things they wouldn’t tell those who haven’t served. It is a privilege to be given this confidence, and yet I’m filled with an overwhelming obligation to get their stories right. Although I’m a longtime reporter, writing about veterans has been the hardest subject for me to cover, because their stories are so nuanced, and reporters, most of whom have never served in the military and have no connection with the armed services, frequently get their stories wrong and paint them as one-dimensional lunatics. I wanted to get Capps’s story right and not come off as a voyeur. There was some precedent for my concern: a month before our interview, Capps had spoken about his struggle with PTSD at the National Endowment for the Arts, which sponsors his NICoE seminar, and after his talk he told me he was destroyed for the rest of the day.

—Veteran and freelance reporter Kristina Shevory profiling Army combat veteran and former Foreign Service officer Ron Capps in The Believer. Capps was haunted by PTSD after serving in Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Kosovo; writing brought him relief and helped him make sense of his experiences. He formed the Veterans Writing Project in 2011.

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