Veterans find outlet in Towson library book group

Sherwood Libit didn’t realize the power of speaking to other veterans about his experience in the Vietnam War until decades later.

The Towson resident and retired pediatrician served as a Navy officer from 1973 to 1975, but it wasn’t until he began participating in the Veterans Book Group at the Towson branch of the Baltimore County Public Library that he found like-minded people who were interested in discussing their time in the military, he said.

“We get to relate [the books] to our lives in that time and now and how it’s changed us,” Libit said. “It not only makes you mature, it makes you think a lot about what’s going on around you.”

The third installment of Veterans Book Group, a small group meant to bring veterans of all ages together to discuss military-related literature, will return to the Towson branch of the Baltimore County Public Library Jan. 29.

The free program is coordinated statewide by Maryland Humanities and presented locally in partnership with the Baltimore, Harford and St. Mary’s County public libraries.

Maryland Humanities is a statewide, educational nonprofit organization that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities to inspire Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities, according to its website. The organization identified veterans as a target audience during the creation of its current strategic plan, said Andrea Lewis, the nonprofit’s Maryland Center for the Book program officer.

At book groups, veterans read varied pieces of literature, including memoirs, novels, poetry, short stories and essays, and discuss the readings at five monthly meetings.

“The readings are selected to provide a touch point for veterans to talk about war, conflict and their service,” Lewis said in Dec. 29 email.

Each group is led by a trained facilitator who chooses the reading material along with library and Maryland Humanities staff, Lewis said.

In anonymous survey responses, some veterans stated that their participation in the group was the first time they found themselves able to talk with others about their military experiences.

“While not intended to be therapeutic, we have had several participants tell us that their group has allowed them to talk about their service in ways they did not previously feel comfortable doing so,” Lewis said.

Though other clubs for veterans offer social outlets, Libit said he enjoys the intellectual discussion the group offers, along with the perspectives of veterans of all ages. Past participants have included younger veterans who served in Iraq and those who served in Vietnam or earlier wars, he said.

“I was interested in how other people felt during those years,” Libit said. “There are some people who had strong feelings of service and others who had strong opinions about what is and isn’t accomplished by wars.”

The group will meet at Baltimore County Public Library’s Towson Branch on select Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m., including Jan. 29, Feb. 26, March 26, April 30 and May 21.

The book that will be discussed at the opening Jan. 29 session is “A Rumor of War,” a memoir by Marine Corps veteran Philip Caputo about his service in the early years of the Vietnam War.

Dinner and reading materials are provided free of charge to participants, but registration is required. Interested veterans should call the Baltimore County Public Library’s Towson branch to register at 410-887-6166.

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