Most veterans have a story to tell, from boot camp or base life, from deployments to discharge. Sometimes, they just need tips on how to tell it.
Kristine Mietzner loves to help them. The former journalist, retired educator, and now a staff services manager in CalVet’s Veterans Homes division has spent more than a decade teaching adults to write. That includes conducting workshops for veterans at Sacramento County Library branches in South Sacramento and Rancho Cordova as a volunteer in her spare time.
With Volunteer Recognition Day (April 20) approaching, Mietzner is among those who dedicate their time to work with veterans. She does this as one way of honoring her World War II veteran father and Vietnam War-era brother even though she herself did not serve.
Mietzner taught the veterans sessions most recently in 2019. The following year, count those workshops among the many in-person events impacted by the COVD-19 pandemic.
“It was an honor and a privilege to meet many veterans and their friends and family when facilitating the writing workshops,” Mietzner said.
Her first veterans-centric one, in 2018, drew five women veterans to the South Sacramento branch. These veterans wanted to get their stories on paper to share with family, friends, and the generations to come.
“They had wonderful stories to tell, including their experiences of when they enlisted,” she said. “I like to say that writing is not therapy, but it can be therapeutic. There is also a lot of self-discovery in writing.”
Mietzner was joined during the eight-week sessions by another CalVet employee, the late Mary Droege, an Air Force veteran who assisted.
Subsequent sessions drew a mix of women and men.
Using organizational storytelling methods espoused by Joseph Campbell in his “The Hero’s Journey,” Mietzner begins her courses by encouraging the veterans to “find your voice, craft your voice, tell your story.” She also employs techniques she learned through programs at Stanford and Amherst universities.
Each writer produces a first draft they would then bring to the next session and read to the others in the group, she said.
“I train the attendees to give positive feedback about what is strong in the writing, what is memorable, what stays with us.” Mietzner said.
The goal is to help to tell their story better.
Now, with the pandemic restrictions lifted and in-person events again part of daily life, she hopes to resume the sessions and that others will be as excited as she is about the prospect.
“I’d help anyone who wants to facilitate a veterans writing group,” Mietzner said.
After all, that’s what volunteers do.
Please consider coming to the Veterans Home of California-Redding, that is before the heat sets in. If you need an invitation from the Home, I will strive to get that for you. Let me know in an email or reply to this comment. I am a veteran resident at our Redding Home. Thanks, Michael
Great article and it’s great to know we have volunteers like Kristine Meitzner who are passionate about helping veterans. I am a veteran myself and am currently employed as a Veterans Benefits Coach at the Kings County Library Veterans Resource Center. I am always looking for new innovative ways to help veterans share their stories, we are actively interviewing Veterans as part of the Veterans Oral History Project and I document their interview on a personal DVD and the veteran gets a copy, and a copy is sent to the Library of Congress as a part of the Veterans Oral History Project. It would be great if Kristine Meitzer could travel to the Central Valley and share her experience and knowledge with our veterans here in Kings County.