MSIM/nh Library Series a success!

I want to report that ACT ONE’s Make Sure It’s Me/nh Library Series concluded successfully this week in Hampton! In March and April, our library teams visited Portsmouth, Stratham, Manchester, Nashua and Hampton presenting information about Traumatic Brain Injury in the military, illustrated by scenes from Kate Wenner’s play Make Sure It’s Me.The turnout for these library events wasn’t huge, averaging between 20 and 35 participants. But, in every case, we felt that the people we addressed were positively affected by our presentation and that it was well worth doing. (Below, LTC Steph Riley, Leslie Pasternack, and Conan Marchi [SGT US Army, ret.] at the Nashua Library.)

Each library audience was different and received the information in diverse ways. In Stratham and Manchester, the presence of OEF/OIF and Vietnam vets led to deeply involved discussion. In the other venues, more civilians were present with questions, and if we had veterans with us they did not self-identify. Many of the attendees turned out to be health care providers of some sort, which was great. In Nashua, which was the least vocally responsive group, several silent audience members asked to take stacks of TBI Fact Sheets with them–clearly, a need was being served! Also present in Nashua was the mother of a veteran she suspects has a TBI, but whom she can’t get to the doctor’s office quite yet. She asked for guidance on which resources could help her as a family member trying to cope, so we helped her narrow down our list of resources even further so she had a clear sense of direction.

At every presentation, I felt proud and quite relieved to be able to emphasize our two key messages:

  1. Combat veterans may be injured and not know it.
  2. Many people in New Hampshire are available to help right now.

Again and again, I was able to cite examples of actions taken by the New Hampshire Commission on PTSD and TBI and the Military-Civilian TBI Collaborative, as well as the other organizations I’ve gotten to know from tagging along for the past year. Several times I discussed the work of Jo Moncher, the NH Department of Health and Human Services Bureau Chief for Community Based Military Programs, a role that is unique to New Hampshire. I spoke often of the NH National Guard’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. William Reddel’s commitment to partnering with the community to support the state’s citizen soldiers. I was able to speak a bit about initiatives to combat homelessness, and about outreach to the health care community, and about State Trooper Seth Gahr’s tremendous, multi-faceted work educating law enforcement. I spoke of BIANH and the Krempels Center as resources for anyone with brain injury, no matter the cause.

Along the way, we caught the attention of WOKQ news reporter Sam Adams, who brought us into the studio for a radio interview, which he says has garnered more response than any other he’s filed in 7 years! Hopefully that will be re-run before our show opens in June. (Below, Jenny Freeman and Leslie Pasternack in Stratham.)

I could never have been so effective in guiding our MSIM library teams to this success without all the access, information, and involvement of the many individuals and organizations who work day in and day out in service of NH veterans. These folks have welcomed me to their meetings, patiently educated me on military culture, and helped me to understand the medical and social issues around TBI. A couple of months back, Jo Moncher asked me what I would be doing next to serve New Hampshire’s vets. (No pressure, right?)

Well, we’ve learned a lot about the library presentations. We have ideas for improving them. And (dramatic pause), there is interest in helping ACT ONE to fund future MSIM/nh events. Our efforts to expand the program are actually spearheaded by playwright Kate Wenner, who is really impressed with our local, community-based approach. She wants to pursue significant financial support to do more presentations in varied venues, but always with the local focus we’ve used thus far.

So! A proposal is taking shape. Somehow, even if our progress is modest, we will move forward. My visionary Executive Director Stephanie Nugent has put tremendous personal faith and love for community into this pledge to support MSIM, and I can’t thank her enough for making all of this possible. Think about where you would like to see a Make Sure It’s Me presentation in the months to come. And . . . (another dramatic pause). . .

Mark your calendars for the full production of Make Sure It’s Me at the West End Studio Theatre in Portsmouth in June! Tickets will go officially on sale online on May 1, but you can call for reservations any time now at (603) 300-2986 (you’ll talk to Steph Nugent and she’s be delighted to hear from you!). Please tell everyone you know to come to the show, but DO MAKE RESERVATIONS! You can check out schedule details here.

Thanks again for your support of MSIM/nh! Phase One is complete! OO-RAH!!!

Former Cpl. USMC Angela Molihan, Sgt. US Army (ret.) Conan Marchi, & Leslie Pasternack beginning stage combat rehearsals for MAKE SURE IT’S ME.