Authors savor Wadsworth's historic ambience - Milwaukee VA Medical Center
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Milwaukee VA Medical Center


Authors savor Wadsworth's historic ambience

Audience members listen to the presentation by authors at the Wadsworth Library

The Wadsworth Library provided the setting for “Storytelling: Vietnam Veterans in Literature.”

By Jim Hoehn
Monday, May 20, 2019

The elegant Wadsworth Library shared its class and culture, opening its historic doors for a literary event featuring two authors who have written books about the Vietnam War.

The library, built in 1891 and part of the National Soldiers' Home Historic District on the campus of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, hosted “Storytelling: Vietnam Veterans in Literature.”

“I had an excellent night. It was a very rich and rewarding experience,” said Melissa Weidner, a writer from Union Grove, Wisconsin. “I hope there’s more of them.”

“I’ve never been to the campus at all before, so just walking up to this building was such a treat,” she said. “Walking into this room was so amazing for the first time to see that. I would love the opportunity to come back a lot more.”

The event, sponsored by the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce, included presentations by authors Mark Concannon and Kirk Landers.

Three panel members take questions from the audience.

Authors Kirk Landers (left) and Mark Concannon (center), along with Vietnam Veteran John Koeppen answered questions from the audience following the book presentation.

Concannon, a longtime Milwaukee television journalist, is the author “Mettle and Honor, Wisconsin Stories from the Battlefield,” which contains the stories of more than 60 Wisconsin Veterans.

Concannon’s book stemmed from several “Mettle and Honor” episodes he produced that aired on Wisconsin Public Television. That series grew out of the Veteran’s Story Project at the War Memorial Center in Milwaukee, an effort to record the memories of service members from World War II through recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

John Koeppen, an Army Veteran who served in Vietnam and is included in Concannon’s book, was part of the discussion panel following the author presentations.

Landers, a Vietnam veteran from the Chicago area, read from and discussed his novel, “Alone on the Shield.” The story is about two people who were romantically involved during college and then went separate ways – she would marry a fellow anti-war activist and move to Canada, while he would fight in Vietnam.

While talking about his book, Landers alluded to the ultimate break-up line, “I hope you get drafted and you go to Vietnam and you get shot and you die there!”

Landers began his writing career in the Army, which led a career as a writer and editor and eventually as the publisher of several trade magazines. He enjoyed the ambiance and the history of the building, which still houses book collections but no longer is used as a lending library.

“I was blown away by this building, in fact, by the whole complex,” Landers said. “I’m just so impressed by the history behind it.” Exterior of Wadsworth Library

The historic nature of the Wadsworth Library lent itself to the event.

Dan Connery, Dane County Veterans Service director, traveled from Madison for the event.

“I thought it looked like an interesting event and I’m always wanting to learn new things, so I can kind of translate it into what I do every day,” Connery said. “I think it’s great.”

Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce brings together Veterans, businesses, and community leaders around business development, workforce development, and community support to help Wisconsin Veterans.

The organization sponsors numerous events and workshops throughout the year, but the May 14 event was its first at the Wadsworth Library.

“This was a really good event,” said Kris Moran, events and marketing director at Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce. “We would be willing to do more of these. I would be happy to find other authors who write about Veterans, or who are Veterans. Sometimes the writing itself is the catharsis, putting it down on paper. I’d love to find them. I know that they’re out. And, then giving them the stage, the opportunity to be in front of our audience, that would be great.”

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