El Paso veterans open up about military experiences through theater

The Telling Project hosts several performances this week

El Paso veterans open up about experience on stage

EL PASO, Texas - Suicide, rape and post-traumatic stress disorder are all difficult to talk about publicly.

But six survivors -- all veterans -- are sharing their stories and experiences with those issues before a live audience.

The Telling Project is a national performing arts nonprofit organization based out of Austin, Tex. It uses theater to deepen our understanding of the military and veterans' experience.

The Telling Project is in El Paso this week, working in conjunction with El Paso's PBS television station, KCOS, to bring six vets-turned-performers onstage to share their stories with El Pasoans as part of Telling El Paso.

"If I don't tell my story and these stories don't get heard, in essence, it's history being lost," Jeffrey Wells told ABC-7.

Wells signed up for the U.S. Army shortly after graduating from Andress High School in 1997. He was deployed to Iraq as part of the initial invasion in April of 2003.

But the story he'll be sharing with the audience focuses on what happened after he returned home to El Paso in 2004.

"A lot of the things that we discuss are graphic," Wells said. "Some of the things I discuss and talk about -- I've closed those chapters in my life and yet, I'm bringing them back up because it's important that other people hear it to make a difference."

Wells will focus on a dark time in his life. In 2006, he said he successfully committed suicide only to be revived during surgery.

"By the time I'm done telling this story, it puts a lot of things at rest for me. It's closure," Wells said. "So now I can finally have that weight lifted off my shoulders."

Wells hopes that sharing his burden will give those without military ties an understanding of veterans' struggles.

"They now can see some of the sacrifices that our service men and women have to go through to provide the simple freedoms for our nation," Wells said.

Wells managed to stay composed while talking about his performance, but got watery-eyed when he thanked the organizers for bringing The Telling Project to El Paso.

"Having that opportunity is very important and I just want to say thank you," Wells said, his voice thick with emotion.

Telling El Paso performances are free and open to the public.

They are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on the following dates and at the locations below:

- Wednesday, Chamizal National Memorial Theater, 800 S. San Marcial
- Saturday, May 21, Stayton Theater, 2495 Ricker Rd. at Fort Bliss
- Tuesday, May 24, Bel Air High School auditorium, 731 N. Yarbrough

There will also be several performances for students at area high schools.

Watch the report by Good Morning El Paso anchor Stephanie Valle on Good Morning El Paso Wednesday in the 6-6:30am half hour and during ABC-7 at 5 in the evening.

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