Senior Beatrice Dang read from and signed copies of her newly-published book, Those Who Served: A Collection of Interviews with Military Veterans, at a community unveiling event in Katharine Brush Library on Wednesday, May 15.
Beatrice collected the personal stories of eight military service veterans living in her hometown of Bloomfield, Connecticut, as part of her Norton Fellowship, a summer community engagement program offered through Loomis Chaffee's Norton Family Center for the Common Good.
"This [book] is about everyday people have served this country in many different ways. [Their stories] don't necessarily need to be dramatic or newsworthy to be told," Beatrice wrote in her introduction. Through this project, she said, she's come to understand that military veterans' service is sometimes misunderstood and undervalued in our communities, and their needs are often underserved.
"It's so important to listen to others and to share their perspectives with others," Beatrice said during her presentation in Brush Library. Beatrice took on the book project as a way to connect with people living in her hometown who have different experiences from her own, she said, and to share their stories in an affirming way.
The veterans interviewed in Those Who Served come from different backgrounds and served in a variety of military branches and roles in World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War and in times of great political and social change in the United States.
Writing and journalism are among Beatrice's many and varied interests at Loomis. She served as editor-in-chief of The Log, and earned an award in the Katharine Brush Creative Writing Contest. She said she is inspired by storytelling of all kinds, including National Public Radio stories and first-person recollections of people's experiences.
"I especially like hearing stories of survival and of overcoming the odds," Beatrice said. She credits her father, Van Dang, a gifted storyteller who attended the book event, for instilling in her an appreciation for personal narratives. Beatrice has long enjoyed listening to her father tell stories about coming to America as a teenage refugee from Vietnam.
The most challenging part of creating the book, according to Beatrice, was finding people to interview, which she accomplished by asking people in the community, including members of her church, and by inquiring with the chief at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Bloomfield. Beatrice said she found telling the veterans' stories both humbling and rewarding.
"What I took away from the experience, both as a student and a person, I don't think can be replicated in a classroom," she said.
Proud veteran Mike Reilly, one of people profiled in the book, thanked Beatrice at the unveiling event in Brush Library. "Having many voices in one place is a great resource," he said.
The book was published with funds provided by the Norton Fellowship. Beatrice will donate proceeds of the book sales to the Wounded Warriors Project, a charitable organization that supports veterans injured in the military actions following September 11, 2001. A copy of Those Who Served will be given to the Bloomfield Public Library and to each of the eight profiled veterans. The book also is available in the Norton Family Center's "Best Shelf for the Common Good," and on the Loomis Chaffee alumni authors' shelf in Brush Library.
"Beatrice was able to apply the writing, interviewing, and editing skills she developed here in the classroom .... to give voice to people in her home community who often feel voiceless," wrote Eric LaForest, Keller Family director, and Molly Pond, associate director of the Norton Family Center.
Connect to the Norton Family Center for the Common Good webpage to learn more about the Norton Fellowship and other center initiatives.