women veterans' rhetorics

Suzanne Rancourt’s article Women Veterans and Multi Modal Post-Traumatic Growth (2016, Jan.)

The seminar had one required reading: Suzanne Rancourt’s article “Women Veterans and Multi Modal Post-Traumatic Growth: Making the Tree Whole Again” featured in the January 2016 issue of Combat Stress (pp. 72 – 85). 

You can access the full issue online, which will allow you to hear Rancourt’s songs “The Sacred Light” and “The Wind.”

Experts from the article for discussion appear below.

Access Rancourt’s personal website to experience more of her multi modal works.

Quotes from Rancourt’s article for discussion:

“What we cannot speak, we sing.”

“Assess, adapt, and overcome has led me … only to discover I needed to ask others for help. Granted, my willingness to learn continues to help me understand my trauma and its effects on my body….Being open to new information is the key to moving forward in positive growth” (72-73).

Community as integral to healing: she notes the communities she belongs to that have offered her connection, support, and strategies for what she calls resiliency.

“Singing is a way to put into sound the emotions and memories that are unspeakable. One may not even know what the emotions are, from where they come, or to what they are ultimately attached … . Singing or reading our stories aloud can soothe the limbic’s ‘unsafe’ response toggles. From the inside out, quite literally, my singing soothed the vagus nerve and its numerous connections. I was unaware of the physiological effects of my self-soothing until recently.. ” (p. 73).

“tempo of guitar is incredibly slow. I began to realize that trauma events and memories get slowed down too” (74).

“In the act of art making, did I know have to first disassemble, deconstruct, my current beliefs, experiences and self to then reassemble myself through the metaphor of making this basket? Is this not another way for my limbic self to come back together?” (pp. 75-76).

“How do military women restructure the various roles and identities required of us within our military culture and the civilian culture? And when those roles are at odds with one another, what then? And what happens when the mental health professional has a cultural perspective that is buried within a rigid clinical distance and a limited repertoire of interventions which do not allow the practitioner to view a client’s narrative from any other perspective than the practitioner’s own?” (76)

“The telling of one’s military experiences are done through a variety of modalities, including song, stories, dance, drumming, and drama. Over time, without hurry, and with ample community support, we weave the various roles of self into a new structure, a new identity out of trauma (be it the effects of war, military sexual trauma, and/or physical injury), which has given us the gift of new form, new perspectives, and wisdom. In a process similar to harvesting, we select the parts of our experiences necessary for integration of our whole self that includes our military service. Does your current cultural membership honor this process and wisdom gained from answering the call to protect and defend?” (p. 76)

“These are all aspects that I include when I speak of the military women’s many selves. I am … . Perhaps, as women, our many roles allow us to multitask and require us to innately be aware of all that is happening around us and within our environment. What happens to the military woman whose many roles have been tampered by military training, and then assaulted with military trauma?” (p. 76)

“’The change occurs in the process of the art making.’ Experiencing the art making and all the emotions that resonate in the moment is integral to being whole and being authentic. Given responsible guidance and a safe environment, could this multisensory expressive arts therapeutic experience, be capable of transposing hypervigilence into positive, healing artistic expressions that emerge from within?” (80).

“For me, resiliency is being able to see the options…. . For me, balance and centeredness mean proficiency. As a human being I am not in perfect balance. No one is; so what do I need to do to bring balance back into my life? What strategies, tools, assessments, adaptations, are necessary to correct my human tiltedness?” (p. 80).

“hypervilience cultivated over time can be soothed into strengths.” Channeled into rhetorical acts. (81).

“Little by little, our memories of trauma and emotions attached to the traumatic event can emerge through the arts into a conscious narrative. This narrative allows us to examine the trauma, to consider how our beliefs about the trauma and our self can dictate our perception of self and the world and how this contributes to holding us back from full reintegration into self, family, and for veterans, into civilian culture” (82).



Featured post

Seminar Handout

View the complete handout online  (click for URL) 

Poem by Jennifer Pacanowski

Strength in Vulnerability

By Jennifer Pacanowski


I have blue hair

I wear dresses

People ask me if I am a veterans’ girlfriend or wife

         because I advocate

And care so much about veterans’ issues and rights


I am a female combat veteran with PTSD.

But now, in an interesting twist of events

I am a step mom

Of a nine-year-old girl named Juliana

And a seven-year-old boy name Jaxon


I have a service dog named Boo

And a rescue dog named Moxie, also with a touch of

         the PTSD


I have days when my pain overflows onto the kitchen

floor while

I’m making lunch for the kids

The dogs gather at my feet to comfort me, to brace

        my fall


We tell the children I cry because

“My heart hurts from the war.”


Sometimes I sit alone and rick softly in the yellow


My stomach aches

My back screams

Boo lays his head in my lap

Moxie wiggles her tail, unsure


Juliana walks up the stairs

She recognizes the look

She walks over to me and brushes my bangs away from

         my face

And says,

“Everything is going to be okay.”

And I believe her


Jaxon says I am 65% man

Because of the way I drive like his Dad

Because of the way I talk (curse) like his Dad

However, I am not


One night I woke from a nightmare

Especially horrible since I had not had one in so long

As if time had added to the potency of the flashback

Jaxon was sleeping with us

I got up with a jolt and went into the living room

To breathe, to write, to calm

I could hear Jaxon whisper to his daddy,

“Doesn’t Jenny know dreams aren’t real.”


I cried harder

Unfortunately, my nightmares are real


Juliana says,

“Jenny acts like a big kid.”


I laugh a lot since I met the kids

And swim in the pool watching over them


And some moments,

I’m just me

Not my PTSD

I’m just me that loves my dogs unconditionally


I’m just Jenny

The stepmom with the blue hair and tattoos that laughs

         a lot


In L. Calica’s (Ed.) (2014). 4th. Warrior Writers, pp 249–251. Barre, VT: L. Brown & Son’s Publishing.

Poetry by Bobbi Dykema Katsanis

Listening for Poems

By Bobbi Dykema Katsanis


For everything that can be named, can speak:

the dead can speak, and animals,

heron, wisteria, and bell,

rock wall and ivy,

temple and the grave.

Love speaks, and so does mystery,

the redwood falling in the solitary forest

cries out, the bullet-wound

whispers in blood, the concertina wire

atop the fence swaggers and threatens.


Angels speak, and daylilies, and pears.

The serpent makes suggestions,

camels call, the desert vastness beckons.


The ice of winter tells its somber story,

everything with wings speaks up, sings out, ensorcels [sic]

poetry is everywhere, like smooth stones on a beach.

In L. Bowden & S. Cain’s. (Eds.). (2008). Powder: Writings by Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq, p. 112. Tucson, AZ: Kore Press.

Lynda Van Devanter. (1983). Prose

I wanted to tell someone I loved–my parents, a friend, a relative, anyone–about the rocket attacks and all the nights I slept under my bunk; about the weeks we had more casualties than we could handle and how hard we worked even when we knew it was hopeless; about the tiny children with their arms and legs blown off; about the terrible oppression of the monsoon and the nights we knew we would die. Vietnam was the worst time of my life, yet it was also, in many ways, the most important and most intense. For years, I tried to talk about it. Nobody listened.

       Who would have wanted to listen? Mine were not nice, neat stories. There was love, but no cute little love stories; heroes, but no grand, heroic war stories; winners, but you had to look hard to tell them from the losers. On the battlefields, there were no knights in shinning armor rescuing damsels in distress. The stories, even the funny ones, were all dirty. They were rotten and they stank. The moments, good and bad, were permeated with the stench of death and napalm.

       And when that year was over, when the “Freedom Bird” took me back to “the world,” I learned that my war was just beginning.


Van Devanter, Lynda with Christopher Morgan. (1983). Home before morning: The true story of an army nurse in Vietnam, p. 13. New York, NY: Beaufort Books.

*shout out to Allison Johnson for urging me to finally read this book! 🙂 

Van Devanter left us in 2002

Echoes in November. Poem by By Nicole Goodwin

When Veterans Day came around

I used to tremble at the thought of it

I did this for eight years, eight years

Silently lamenting what I had been labeled

What I had been attached to.

Because no one knows the pain,

The torment, the agony

Of having seen war first hand

And till this day none of it makes sense.

It’s like an open wound being stabbed by life

Daily, with no remorse.

Over and over again.

I wish I could explain it better, maybe then

There would be no wars.

No chaos to frighten the world at large

It would merely be a fairy tale

One that’s grim,

Used to scare little children

Once they have gotten “out of line.”


In L. Calica’s (Ed.). (2011). After Action Review: Warrior Writers, p. 109. Barre, VT: L. Brown & Son’s Publishing.








Prose by Donna Jackson (1993)

Jackson, Donna. (1993). Honorable discharge: Memoirs of an army dyke, pp.194–196. San Francisco, CA: CS The Christie & Stefin Company, Publishers.


            This “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” compromise changes nothing. It is a violation of the civil rights of all gays. What is the point of being able to serve without being asked about our sexuality, if we can’t freely speak of our lives.

       I wanted and was willing to go to war if my country asked that of me; but I didn’t want to die in a war and have to die silently in the closet. Hushed by the discrimination and ignorance of others. President Clinton’s compromise is compromising our lives.

       Face it most flamboyant queens would never want to join the military, nor would necessarily be accepted to join the military. Not everyone wants to be a solider. Many people join for different reasons . . . we don’t go in to be queer.

       For me the military was some of the best times and some of the worst times, and I wouldn’t change a thing about my past. In fact, if I had to do it all over again, I would. Only this time, I would come out louder and prouder. I, too, would never discourage anyone from joining the service, whether they were straight or gay, as that may be their only choice in life, like it was mine.

       This book of mine is something I’ve always wanted to do, and is but a closing chapter on a major part of my life. My youth, unfortunately, is still lost somewhere in the past, but my future is brightly in front of me. I look forward to this and all the challenges that it may bring. I hope that the future brings prosperity and freedom from oppression and discrimination. Let’s face it, the only joy in life comes from being yourself. No one has the right to take that away from you.

Tanya Schardt. Untitled.

Tanya Schardt, U.S. Army, Iraq


Pencil Drawing

8’’ x 10’’

Artist’s personal collection


Hear Schardt discuss her watercolor piece “Chaos” via YouTube 

Robynn Murray

Left to Right or Background to Foreground 

In doctrination

Mixed Media

12’’ x 17 ½’’ x 4’’

In doctrination detail



Mixed Media

12 ¼’’ x 18’’ x 4 ¼’’




Mixed Media

11 ¼’’ x 17 ½’’ x 4’’

National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago, IL.


See the work online 


Erica Slone. Uncovering My Crime Scene.

Erica Slone, U.S. Air Force, Iraq

Uncovering My Crime Scene

Mixed media


National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago, IL.

Also included in the the 4th Warrior Writers anthology, Lovella Calica (Ed.). 2014



View the work and another piece online 

Blog at

Up ↑