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Ancient "Theater of War" Helping Modern-Day Soldiers

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The scene is set at Walter Reed in Northwest DC.
Stephanie Kaye
The scene is set at Walter Reed in Northwest DC.

Theater is being used as a tool to help veterans deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other war-related challenges. The program, "Theater of War," brings Sophocles to institutions like Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Actors begin with a series of readings from two of the ancient Greek's plays, "Philoctetes" and "Ajax."

"Those of us who care for the house of Telemon will soon wail, for our fierce hero sits shell-shocked in his tent!" You may have caught Tamara Toonie in Law & Order SVU. Here, she plays the wife of the embattled soldier, Ajax. "Glazed over...gazing into oblivion. He has the 'thousand-yard stare.'"

The auditorium is full of soldiers, psychologists and social workers. Sheri Hall is on a panel that helps kick-start a discussion. She's the wife of an Army major who served two back-to-back tours in Iraq. "As he came in the door of the hangar, I could tell something wasn't right. He had that 'thousand-yard stare.' In April of 2008 when he hit the wall and broke down it was very hard for me to figure out how I was going to pick him up."

That's where Colonel Chuck Engel comes in. He heads up Walter Reed's Deployment Health Clinical Center. Engel says the plays help open the door to soldiers and their families who need help. "You have to continue to give people the opportunity to raise their hand and say, 'I need some kind of assistance.'" "Theater of War" will be making the rounds to other military installations, under a two year contract with the US Department of Defense.

Stephanie Kaye reports...


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