Letter to Veteran’s Association at Columbia University

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is David Backer and I work with the Philosophy Outreach Center
at Teacher’s College. The Outreach seeks to create and maintain philosophical activities in educational and cultural contexts. I write to ask your opinion and
advice about one such program I’ve been thinking about recently.

There has been a clear increase in the prevalence and severity of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in recent veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq. The demand for programs and services to help our veterans cope with PTSD has never been higher, but many veterans lack reliable access to counseling and resources for mental and psychological well-being. This can have awful consequences for their re-integration into the society they fought so bravely to protect.

I think philosophical discussion can serve as a kind of palliative for
psychological distress, a way of dealing with traumatic experiences in a rational
and communal way. Philosophy struggles with life’s deepest questions: the meaning of life, the inevitability of death, the existence of God, the nature of justice and morality. The rigor, respect, and community that a philosophical dialogue provides has helped me gain perspective on the greatest difficulties and has helped me find a way of living with painful realities in a productive and meaningful way.

I wonder if veterans would find any solace in philosophical discussion
of topics relevant to their experiences. Would sitting down and discussing the
philosophical questions inherent in war, violence, justice, and combat help to alleviate the psychological pressure they create in the mind of a soldier recently returned from battle?

Do you think such a program, called Philosophy for Veterans or
something similar, could be helpful? If so, would it be feasible to organize? Any feedback, guidance, or thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Having never fought in a war but having great respect for my country and the opportunities it affords me, I’d like to try and help those that have fought in the name of those opportunities.

Sincerely,
David Backer

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