Veterans share stories during theatre talk-back

Audience members were invited to join the cast of the Linfield theatre program’s “Fifth of July” in a special Veteran’s Day post-show discussion.

The talk, “Veterans’ Perspectives on War,” followed the performance Nov. 11.

Sophomore Jenny Layton said the theatre program holds discussions after at least one show every year.

“We call them talk-backs,” Layton said. “There’s a panel of people who are invited. The talks usually fit with the theme of the show. It’s usually an open discussion, and the audience and the cast are free to ask questions.”

The panel for “Fifth of July” consisted of six men who were veterans of World War II, the Vietnam War and the second Gulf War. Bob Ferguson, a 1965 Linfield graduate, Daniel Belderrain, a 1973 Linfield graduate, James Duckworth, a 2007 Linfield graduate, Professor Michael Jones, Professor Eric Schuck and Jim Ragsdale were all on the panel.

Layton said that since the play focuses on a veteran returning home, the panel shared their perspectives on war and their post-war homecoming stories.

“They mostly talked about what it was like coming home and adjusting to being back with people,” Layton said. “They all had different experiences coming back. One of them said he went hitchhiking after he went back, and one was in Europe for six or eight months before he could go home.”

Besides the panel, several audience members who participated in the discussion were also veterans.

“One woman talked about how women are kind of overlooked as Vietnam veterans,” Layton said. “She was a nurse in Vietnam, but she’s had trouble getting the same benefits and things as other veterans. That hit me so hard, that in Vietnam and WWII, women weren’t really appreciated.”

The cast of “Fifth of July” felt touched by this discussion of real life war experiences, Layton said.

“We were all so in awe of what these men and women were saying,” Layton said. “There were several times when we were in tears or near tears.”

Layton said the subject of the play brought the cast and the veterans together in this discussion.

“To listen to these experiences of war, and then insert myself into my character watching my nephew come home as a veteran—it was so interesting to listen to them,” Layton said. “And then for the veterans watching the play, it was similar to watching themselves.”

The Veteran’s Day performance was for the benefit of the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary of Yamhill County, which the veterans on the panel said they were grateful for during the talk.

“It was a beautiful discussion,” Layton said.

Sharon Gollery/
Culture editor
Sharon Gollery can be reached at

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