Community Stories: Soldiers Home & Away

For fourteen years, America has been mired in war, war being waged by less than one percent of the population. The relatively small number of active military service members has widened a cultural gulf between the military and civilian sectors.

New Hampshire Humanities has awarded the Friends of the Plaistow Public Library a Community Project Grant to present Community Stories: Soldiers Home & Away. This collaboration involving nine southern New Hampshire libraries and Timberlane Regional School District is the inaugural project of what organizers envision as an annual community read. The goal is to bring communities together through a common reading experience and expand awareness and understanding of topics that touch the lives of community members.

This year Community Stories will focus on veterans and is inspired by Tim O’Brien’s novel The Things They Carried, a fictionalized account of O’Brien’s experience serving in the Vietnam War. The Soldiers Home & Away programs will address the experience of war from military and civilian perspectives, and aim to open lines of communication, illustrate the experience of veterans and active duty personnel, and foster understanding of the men and women returning home from deployment. A variety of veterans, scholars, artists, authors, and other experts will be participating presenters. The nine partner libraries include Atkinson, Chester, Danville, Hampstead, Hudson, Newton, Salem, Sandown, and Plaistow. Each library has multiple copies of The Things They Carried to lend.

An astounding array of humanities and other programs, from book/film discussions and lectures to a motorcycle rally and a meet-and-greet with local veterans, will take place between Sept. 16 and Nov. 12. All programs are free and open to the public; however, some may require pre-registration and the number of attendees may be limited. Details about Community Stories: Soldiers Home & Away, a full schedule of events, and other details are available at For more information, please contact project director Brianna Sullivan at (603) 382-6011.

This project complements New Hampshire Humanities’ ongoing special initiative Dialogues on the Experience of War

Just a few of the upcoming Community Stories events this month:

Opening Reception & Keynote Presentation
Saturday, September 17
6:00 PM Reception
7:00 PM Presentation
Timberlane Performing Arts Center, Plaistow
Sergeant Wayne Nelson, veteran advisor to the project, and art historian Dr. Kurt Sundstrom display on screen and discuss 35 iconic photographs that brought the Vietnam War to the kitchen table of every American household.

Vietnam Past & Present
Thursday, September 22, 7:00 PM
Hampstead Public Library
Saint Anselm College history professor Dr. Matthew Masur gives a talk about new historical insights on the Vietnam War, plus information about contemporary Vietnam and current U.S.-Vietnamese relations.

Community Story: Sgt. Tom McGall, 101st Airborne Screaming Eagle
Thursday, September 29, 6:30 PM
Kimball Library, Atkinson
Sergeant Tom McGall served in the 101st Airborne Division, known as the Screaming Eagles, in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the 101st Airborne Division fought in several major campaigns and battles including the fight for Hamburger Hill in May 1969. Earlier in the month, the 1987 film Hamburger Hill will be shown at the library.

Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him
Saturday, October 1, 6:30 PM
Timberlane Performing Arts Center, Plaistow
Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan served multiple tours in Iraq and was seriously injured. Upon his return, he faced immense challenges related to his physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder, to the point that it isolated him from family and friends and led him into a downward spiral of alcohol abuse. Then he met Tuesday, a trained service dog. Luis will speak about his journey from marginalized veteran to successful author, speaker and veterans’ advocate, all with Tuesday by his side.

Staging War: Veterans’ Voices in Post-9/11 Theatre
Tuesday, October 4, 6:30 PM
Plaistow Public Library
Theater historian and veterans’ advocate Dr. Leslie Pasternack places today’s theater of war into historical context about war and homecoming and introduces audiences to recent dramatic productions, allowing audience members to participate with short readings from the various literary works.

For details about these and other Community Stories events, please visit