For as long as there have been wars, there have been warriors who survive — and yet become as much casualties of battle as those who died.
In fact, some think that the Greek playwright Sophocles was writing, in military dramas like Ajax and Philoctetes, about what today we call post-traumatic stress disorder — and that his plays were performed by veterans, for veterans, in part to help them heal.
Now Sophocles is finding a military audience once again. The venue? A Marriott hotel ballroom, where 300 uniformed men and women sit watching, box lunches on their laps.
Onstage, a soldier's wife weeps over the carnage caused by her husband — the crazed combat veteran Ajax, who in a rage has slaughtered dozens of farm animals, believing them to be his superior officers.
The cast, including John Adams star Paul Giamatti as Odysseus, Marine-turned-actor Adam Driver as the Chorus, and the husband-and-wife Broadway veterans Bill Camp and Elizabeth Marvel as Ajax and Tecmessa, is performing at something called the Warrior Resilience Conference.
It's a three-day gathering designed to help military personnel — from enlisted men and women to generals — deal with war's emotional toll.
Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, who runs the Pentagon division behind the conference, says that despite the graphic horrors depicted in Sophocles' tragedies, today's warriors can find comfort in them.
The plays can reassure a soldier, she says, "that I am not alone, that I am not going crazy, that I am joined by the ages of warriors and their loved ones who've gone before me, and who have done what most in society have no idea our warriors do."
The original page is definitely worth a visit, with an audio version of the story as well as two video excerpts from productions of Ajax and Philoctetes respectively ...