In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus returns to Ithaca after ten years fighting at Troy and another ten years struggling to get home. He comes disguised as a beggar and has to suffer his house filled with glutinous suitors vying for the hand of his wife, Penelope. In Book 23, Odysseus finally removes his disguise after defeating the suitors and struggles to reunite with his wife after so long away. This scene is one of the most moving and poignant in ancient literature and can inspire questions about how Americans deal with the issues affecting the returning warrior today.
What happens when a person is trained to fight and kill in the name of his or her country, is exposed to often horrific scenes of destruction, has to deal with inhumane sights and sounds on a daily basis and then returns home to the civilian population? Do we expect veterans to lay their service aside as they enter civilian life, or will they be always changed by their experiences of war? How do we as a society “restore” our warriors, acknowledging and accepting their experiences while welcoming them home? What can civilians learn from the returning veteran about war, and does dialogue with veterans change the way we think about warfare? How can veterans from earlier wars help and advise the recent flood of new veterans returning home and how has battle changed over the years? Is it still fundamentally the same as when the mythological Odysseus sailed on Troy in the Greek Bronze Age?