Revealing the reality of war. LSUS professor receives NEH grant to study what people think about war compared to veterans’ experiences

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – For the first time in Louisiana a certain type of research project is being funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Education Program Award.

The prestigious grant was just awarded to an LSU Shreveport professor who is also an Iraq war veteran.

It’s about reality versus perception. The upcoming research project will encompass one year as a public humanities study that looks to get to the heart of how war is perceived in America.

“There’s the war that men and women fight in uniform and then there is the war that is commemorated on the home front. I’m interested in understanding that tension and helping citizens of Shreveport understand that tension,” said Dr. Evan Reibsome, assistant professor American Literature LSUS.

Dr. Reibsome said his military background inspired his research project titled “From Horror to Heroism: The Evolution of War Remembrance.” He joined the military in 2000 and was deployed to Iraq in 2004 where he said his perception changed.

“It was not what I imagined it was going to be. I think that is a common experience a lot of military service members go through. But when I returned home a lot of civilians still supported the version of war that I no longer believed in. I was interested in that discrepancy,” Reibsome said.

The project will compare and contrast how those who’ve served view war, versus how those at home view war. Collecting data will come from discussions between the two groups who will view popular culture portrayals of war in comparison to the accounts told by real combatants.

He will train LSUS student veterans to conduct and organize interviews in northwest Louisiana. Reibsome said there are thousands of veterans in the region who can share their stories and engage in conversations with the public. The research team will focus on both the War on Terror and the Civil War. The competing knowledge about both wars may reveal “misbeliefs surrounding the nature of war, misbeliefs that continue to haunt US military veterans today.”

The research team students will also travel to Gettysburg for a special topics course in which he said makes for a great example of a war with two different narratives.

“Three days, massive numbers, tens of thousands of causalities. People were horrified with what they saw. And now it’s a place where families can get away for the weekend and see the battlefield. It’s pleasant and that’s kind of a weird situation,” Reibsome said.

His research looks to explain the disconnect between real situations of both wars and how it is perceived through television and digital platforms to Americans unfamiliar with the battlefront.

“Unfortunately I think the collective effect of all those narratives that are celebratory might be misguiding for some people. In the military, war is a very difficult experience and it is not something we should be eager about,” Reibsome said.

The research project is slated to begin in the spring of 2021. The COVID-19 crisis has delayed some of the project’s planning. Public meetings will be held in Shreveport in the future to bring together people and military service members to engage in a civic discourse concerning the sensitive topic of war. If you’re interested in joining the discussion you can email Dr. Reibsome.

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