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Our View: Podcast brings home stories of locals vets

Warrior Narratives opens door to unique experiences, feelings

KSJD Development Director Erik Quiroz’s podcast The Warrior Narratives comes off exactly as intended – engaging stories that juxtapose local veterans from wildly different backgrounds and experiences in the military.

As reported in The Journal on Feb. 7, army veteran Quiroz, producer and host of the podcast, provides a platform for veterans with Southwest connections or roots – three in the Durango-Cortez area, another one from the Navajo Nation.

Previously in editorials, we’ve wondered what’s on the minds of local vets, how they see themselves as a collective voice and how to best serve those who have served us?

Quiroz skillfully guides guests to share their truths to the degree that he seems barely there. This is a good thing. He has a gentle hand in helping veterans open up about their time – and their families’ – before, during and after military service. What each vet did – or didn’t – get out of deployments, and who they became because of it.

Each episode cracks open what very few Americans actually understand. Currently, only 0.04% of Americans serve in the U.S. military; fewer still see combat. Only about 7% of living Americans have served in some capacity.

In podcasts, some family members are just learning what featured vets went through. Some tales are terrifying, others monotonous.

“They never talked about this deeply isolating feeling,” Quiroz said. Vets don’t tend to readily share this with those who haven’t served.

The podcasts aren’t scripted. Based on his guests’ lived experiences, Quiroz is moved to ask particular questions. One being, “What does it mean to be a warrior?”

“Not everyone is kicking down doors,” Quiroz said. “They’re not having the same experience. Someone could be in the chow hall.”

From deep places of personal responsibility to family tradition or community reach, his guests’ responses are each their own. Outside of the podcast, Jess, who is part Hopi, shared with Quiroz the Indigenous ceremony that prepared him to become a warrior. Previously, elders had readied his older brothers for war the “old way.”

Quiroz, an avid film fan and amateur screenwriter, sharpened some of his own storytelling skills while on a tour in Iraq, where he heard “human stories all day long.” One that stayed with him came from an Iraqi who had been jailed and tortured for having a satellite dish to watch CNN, during Saddam Hussein’s reign. The man didn’t speak English, but longed to experience the world outside of Iraq. His neighbor turned him in. This anecdote stirred Quiroz to keep asking other Iraqis to tell their stories.

Besides cultural distinctions in other countries, Quiroz realized the vast dichotomies of the soldiers around him at basic training. One soldier had studied literature at Cornell University, a “white guy from Missouri” joined the Army because he didn’t have running water. Every person with a unique narrative.

After acclimating to military life, “you’re institutionalized,” Quiroz said. Civilians don’t always get that.

Of course, re-entering civilian life has its own challenges. Back on U.S. soil, Jess, an Afghanistan War veteran who was an infantryman and a dog handler, hurriedly said goodbye to his four-legged partner, Nero. Nero had saved Jess’ life, as well as the lives of others, by “indicating” caches of explosives. In the confusion of re-uniting with his family, Jess regrets not transitioning Nero to whatever would be next for the canine.

In a moment, their relationship was over.

This running thread – stark changes, disruptions, uprootedness – reveals what local veterans know. One day in the throes of military life, the next day in a restaurant on a tree-lined street. And this information helps non-vets better understand them.

While active duty, Quiroz had his own unnerving occurrences, one at the start of his vacation. In the Frankfurt airport, chit-chatting security personnel lackadaisically wiped his hands, testing for explosives. The wipe turned blue and Quiroz was detained in a holding room.

Quiroz was fresh off a combat mission and he had much explaining to do to people who would never fully get what his life was like.

The Warrior Narratives is funded in part by Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network, an initiative of the National Endowment in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.