Elizabethton High School teachers start writing workshops for veterans

ELIZABETHTON, TN (WJHL)- For teachers, the end of the school year means a much-needed break. But three teachers at Elizabethton High School are dedicating their summer to launching a writing workshop for veterans.

“I don’t consider my sacrifice here great. Their sacrifice- leaving their family for months at a time and coming back wounded mentally and physically, this is a very small sacrifice on my part,” Elizabethton High School teacher Daniel Proffitt said.
“What’s something that I can offer them because of what they’ve offered me,” Elizabethton High School teacher Dustin Hensley said.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 30 percent of Vietnam veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder,  20 percent of Iraq veterans have PTSD, and 12 percent of Desert Storm veterans.

After hearing these statistics, the Elizabethton High School English teachers said they were moved to find a way to use their skills to help veterans.

They say they wanted to give back to the men and women who have given us so much and also set an example for their students.

“It’s very important as teachers that we be role models outside of the classroom as well so we want to create good citizens in our students and we have to model that ourselves,” Hensley said.

At the workshop they will teach any veteran who wants to learn different types of writing, from poetry to short stories.

“It helps you to deal with things that maybe you just can’t say,” Proffitt said.

“It’s very therapeutic to tell your story,” veteran David Shields said. He spent 22 years in the Air Force, including time in the Gulf War.

“Thoughts of being separated from loved ones, what’s going to happen to me while I’m here, you know what’s the outcome of this going to be,” Shields said.

He said it’s through writing he’s been able to look back, and keep moving forward. “Being able to, in retrospect, process that has been a very therapeutic thing for me,” Shields said.

He owns Warrior’s Canvas in Johnson City, a place that helps veterans learn to express themselves through different forms of art.

He said this writing workshop is a great idea and encourages veterans to try out the writing process.

“Don’t say ‘I’m not a writer’ and rule yourself out because you have a story to tell we all have stories to tell,” Shields said.

The teachers said eventually they hope to give the veterans the option to compile their stories in to a published book with the proceeds going back to veterans.

The writing workshop meets every other Monday at 6 p.m. at the Elizabethan Public Library. The next meeting is Monday, June 26th. It is free and you don’t have to register before you go.

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