Respect, Gratitude, and Closure: A Trip of Honor and Remembrance
Keywords:Veterans, Memorials, Pilgrimage, Mental Health
AbstractEach year, more than 200 World War II, Korea, and Vietnam Veterans participate in the VetsRoll program, a four day bus trip from southern Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. VetsRoll is one of several organizations that bring Veterans to war memorials in Washington, D.C. to assist them in dealing with the socioemotional consequences of their time in service and return home. These programs specifically focus on older Veterans who are at a high risk for developing and/or managing mental health problems as they age. Some of these Veterans have never had the respect, gratitude, and closure necessary to help them cope with their time in service. Data was collected through participant observation and semi-structured interviews on the VetsRoll trip in 2019 and after the trip. Data was analyzed through thematic analysis. Drawing upon the metaphor of a pilgrimage, this paper shifts the lens of analysis away from a myopic focus on memorials or peer support to how the journey itself affects Veterans, the meaning it produces for them, and the lasting impact it has after the trip.
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