Sharing sorrow, progress through storytelling

Story and photos by
Staff Sgt. Nesha Humes Stanton
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Col. Donnette Boyd, right, wing chaplain for the 86th Airlift Wing, thanks six Kaiserslautern Military Community members for sharing their resilience stories during a Storytellers event on Ramstein Air Base, Nov. 16. Storytellers started at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in 2012 to support, aid, and promote understanding for Airmen enduring distressing events.

While meditation, exercise and adhering to your normal routine are common checklist items on how to cope with a traumatic event, another method to reconcile the process is storytelling.

A “Share Some Love” display board is showcased at the entrance of a Storytellers event on Ramstein Air Base, Nov. 16.

Six Kaiserslautern Military Community members embraced this method during a U.S. Air Force Storytellers event on Ramstein Air Base, Nov. 16.

On the dimly lit stage, a diverse panel of storytellers shared their triumphs of resilience covering heavy topics, including battling eating disorders, alcoholism, surviving sexual assault, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The best lessons I’ve ever learned in life have come from the worst experiences,” said one of the event’s participants, Maj. Matthew Kless, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa desk officer. “The perspective gained from experiencing hardship, or listening to that of another, is essential to both personal and organizational growth. Our culture needs authentic leaders who aren’t afraid to highlight the simple fact that we are all human, no matter what our age, rank, or background.”

In a U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health Journal, Laurel J. Kiser writes about the benefits of storytelling within a family.

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Reuben McClendon 86th Security Forces Squadron assistant noncommissioned officer in charge of training, shares his resilience story at a Storytellers event on Ramstein Air Base, Nov. 16. McClendon discussed how he recovered professionally and personally after a demotion.

Kiser wrote, “We are social beings. In trying to make sense of the good and the bad things that happen to us, we naturally share those experiences with those closest to us often through storying.”

Kiser said sharing a narrative becomes a new language of hope and discussing a stressful event aids healing.

“I have been going to therapy for about a year now, but it was never as gratifying as being on that stage,” said Senior Airman Imani Strong, 24th Intelligence Squadron geospatial analyst and an event participant. “Speaking at Storytellers has helped me cope with my challenges by knowing that someone was hearing my story and my struggles and can see a way out of what they might be going through.”

Airman 1st Class Sierra Adams, 603rd Air Operations Center information operations analyst also spoke at the event and said she had 10 people approach her after, thanking her.

“They related to my pain somehow,” Adams said.

Adams reiterated the importance of speaking up stating, “Your story can impact others. Someone, somewhere is going through something similar. That’s why I was so willing to share my story.”

Storytellers started at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in 2012. Since its launch, Airmen across the globe have connected with audiences to better heal, encourage, and support one another who may have experienced similar trials.

“Letting others know that they are not alone in their pain is a powerful gift,” Adams concluded. “I hope the attendees walked away knowing that they are not what has happened to them, but they are what they choose to become from it.”