A couple weeks ago I had forgotten my bike helmet so I splurged and took an Uber ride home. I noticed that my driver had displayed his Iraq war vets hat. I told him about the play SNAFU I was adapting from the subject of British soldiers to American soldiers for our UIC production. He appeared to have his life together – certainly more than the homeless vet I often give a few bucks to as I pass Union Station. When I described the military vet characters in the play SNAFU to my former marine Uber driver, he said he recognized all the characters. I asked if he could describe those real life people. He said they were all him at different points in his life. He said that he ended up on the streets for a while. I asked him how he got from the streets to where he is now. He pulled over at my stop and we chatted for a while. He told me that every day was a struggle but that he was not a quitter and though he feels guilty he let many of his fellow soldiers down that did not make it home, and let family here at home down, he is still here today fighting.
There are many important stories about vets returning home. We could focus on the fact that many people of color, or lower income Americans fight our wars for us now. That is true but not the main focus of this play. We could focus on the fact that we are decimating resources returning vets desperately need to heal. But that is not the main focus of this play. We can focus on the unending obstacles returning vets have to traverse in civilian life in “Fort Living Room.” That story directly parallels the Odyssey myth that gave playwright Jennie Buckman inspiration. But that is not the main focus of this play. Ultimately this play sheds light on the quiet heros at home. The keepers of the home fires and what they must do, and the pressure they must feel, to help our warrior vets fully return, but also how we all must fight – civilian and vet – to survive ourselves.
It may be difficult for us as civilians to fully understand the challenges of a veteran, but it is our responsibility as citizens to do everything we can do to help returning soldiers fully come home in mind, body, and spirit. Thank you to Jennie Buckman for her dedicated research of military veterans and for allowing UIC to rally around what I hope you will find to be a deeply moving theatrical experience.
– David Kersnar, Director of SNAFU and Adjunct Lecturer in Theatre at University of Illinois at Chicago