By DEREK ROBERTSON
July 26, 2018
“Until I joined the class, I talked about [that experience] two times, and each time I had full breakdowns about it,” Croghan told me afterward. “I hate to use the word ‘safe,’ but that’s what [the class] was. I felt comfortable discussing it with the group we had. … Until that point, I’d never done that before.”A millennial-run nonprofit is bridging a divide between the military and civilians by giving veterans a chance to tell their stories—and their jokes—in public.
For the better part of a decade, Christopher Croghan was at war.
He deployed to Iraq for the first time in 2007 at the height of the conflict. Returning home, he found it no more peaceful than the desert. Like many in his generation of post-9/11 veterans, Croghan found it almost impossible to speak candidly about what he had lived through—particularly with those closest to him. When faced with the choice between returning to the battlefield and processing at home the trauma he brought back, he repeatedly volunteered for redeployment, even as a soldier for hire after leaving the Marines.
“The only stuff my family knew about the war and me is that every once in a while we would have a celebration, and I would get way too drunk,” Croghan said. “And I’d say, ‘Well, you’ve never shot at a fucking kid, so shut the fuck up.’”
Croghan’s drinking led to a DUI. Both the judge and his therapist at the VA encouraged him to pursue writing, his personal outlet of choice. One day, however, a slightly adjacent program crossed the desk of Croghan’s therapist—the Armed Services Arts Partnership, a nonprofit that teaches creative- and performing-arts classes for veterans and military families. ASAP’s mission is to forge “a new path for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life, and for our communities to welcome them home.”
Which is how, on a warm evening in May, Croghan came to be standing on a stage at the Drafthouse Comedy Theater on Washington, D.C.’s K Street, just a few blocks north of the White House, preparing to deliver a monologue that he had spent the previous six weeks perfecting in a storytelling class with nine other men and women.
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