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Students Hear First-hand Account of War

Professor Carol Brash's first-year seminar class learned first-hand how war seals the memory of soldiers into a time capsule, with one continuous loop that replays over and over without reflection or relief. They also learned how one veteran and a close friend broke that seal and pieced together a collection of war memories with photographs to try to make sense of his experience.

Riley Sharbonno, SJU '02, took thousands of photographs during his deployment as a nurse in Iraq. After his return to the United States, conversations with his college friend and artist, Monica Haller, CSB '02, developed into a project with a healing purpose. Haller, working with Sharbonno, used the photos to tell a story of war. The result of their collaboration is the book "Riley and his story."

On Feb. 10, students at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University heard their story. It was the first time Haller and Sharbonno had given a presentation together on how his photos and their conversations about his experiences developed into 500 pages of sobering images and text.

Prior to this presentation, the students read a review of the book and an article reviewing an exhibition of art protesting war and were assigned to write a one-page response. They also were asked to come up with questions, for both Monica and Riley.

Haller and Sharbonno welcomed a variety questions from the students: "Even though you were a nurse, did you have a gun?" "Do you have PTSD?" "Do you express your opinion of the war?" "Are there people you don't think should see the book?" "How did you decide which pictures to use?" "What does the military think about the book?"

After a follow-up discussion at their next class, the students are now writing an essay, which will include both their own observation and analysis of the book and what they learned from the visit and readings. 

A story about Haller and Sharbonno, "Documenting a soldier's story," was published in the Thursday, Feb. 11 St. Cloud Times. 

(Posted Feb. 12, 2010)