BY LISA VIALL, VICE PRESIDENT, FRIENDS OF THE BARRINGTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
Inspired to honor her father’s military service in the Korean War, Barrington Public Library (BPL) librarian Jane Granatino, alongside award-winning local author Kathryn Kulpa, started a local Veterans Writing Group in 2019. Part of the larger Veterans Writing Project (veteranswriting.org), based in Washington, D.C., the local group quickly attracted the attention of the local news media and was featured on a Channel 6 nightly broadcast.
Funded by the Friends of the Library, the idea is that every veteran has a story to tell—and those stories are worthy of being written down. The Veterans Writing Group is open to all veterans, and participants may share their work or keep their writing private.
When the COVID-19 crisis hit in 2020, it dramatically and immediately changed the landscape of BPL programming; Granatino also retired in 2020. The program went on hiatus but was restarted by Community Engagement librarian Siobhan Egan in 2022 and is now run solely by Kupa. “I am the daughter of a veteran (in fact, recent research on Ancestry shows I have ancestors who served in every war going back to before the American Revolution), but the main reason I’ve stayed involved with the group is because all the writers have such a wealth of experience and different fascinating stories to tell.”
The participants have changed slightly since they started meeting again in person. Currently, all members are veterans, many of whom served during the Vietnam era. Many of the veterans also had family members who served. Some of the participants include:
• Joe, who discovered his uncle’s service records and learned that he served as a medic during the Battle of the Bulge. His uncle was also present at the liberation of the Dachau concentration camps. This led him to research more about him at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
• Mitch, who recently compiled and edited a book taken from his father’s World War II diaries from when he served on the U.S.S. Sculpin in the South Pacific. • Wayne, a Vietnam veteran who recently won a prize in a writing contest and had a story published.
• Mary, a nurse who served in Japan during the Vietnam War.
Kulpa said the group is also generous and “welcoming to new members.” Moreover, they are dedicated to staying with the program. While some have not come back since things opened up again, they stay in touch with Kulpa through her mailing list. “It’s hard finding a meeting time that works for everyone,” she added.
For those veterans who participate, this program is giving them a safe environment to express themselves. There is a definite need in this community for the Veterans Writing Group to continue.
If you would like to register for the Veterans Writing Group, please register at (401) 247-1920, ext. 2, or go to barringtonlibrary.libcal.com/event/9475085. Special thanks to Kathryn Kulpa for her assistance with this article.