The Shepherdstown Opera House is the venue for the telling of a story about war by one who experienced it.
Local author Thomas Trumble will perform in the production of his first play, "Speak the Word Only," for three performances this weekend. The story will tell the story of soldiers who experienced the Vietnam War, as well as their experiences prior to war and after returning home.
Trumble, a Vietnam Veteran, has produced the play as well as written it and will play one of the characters during the performances. In addition to the play, Trumble has just released a book, "Time to Go Home," which is currently available on Amazon.com. The play offers a live rendition of the content of the book.
A retired consultant, Trumble has been involved with a variety of town and county endeavors but has always loved to write. He shared that his wife, Anne, encouraged him to write which has led to the book and play now available.
"It's controversial," Trumble said of the play. "There are difficult scenes with profanity. Soldiers speak a certain way," he continued. "It's a story of soldiers telling war stories, some of them mostly true, others maybe not."
In what Trumble labels an "emotional" play, the story of three soldiers and their interaction and experiences will come to light. The main character, John, is a part of Trumble himself.
"He is a little autobiographical but John is also part of so many other soldiers," Trumble said.
"The play will ultimately describe the continuum of three phases," Trumble said, "getting ready to go to war, time at war and coming home." He explains the coming home as "drowning in civilians." This re-entry into a world a soldier had previously lived in after experiencing the effects of war is the topic of book and play alike.
The larger picture, Trumble said, deals with any war, not only Vietnam. Today's veterans face the same re-entry that Vietnam Veterans faced as well as additional burdens. He discussed in detail the idea of abandonment by the American people of the war veterans during a recent interview.
"Vietnam Veterans were abandoned by the government; the Episcopal Church who sent aid to the North Vietnamese abandoned American soldiers; people in Vietnam who helped U.S. soldiers were abandoned as well," he said.
Trumble said that civilians cannot know what a soldier at war goes through. Even a soldier's vocabulary is different, he said. He also shared that civilians cannot know the 'ghosts' that must be dealt with when soldiers return home.
"Ghosts are memories," he said. "Love, hate, whatever emotion brings them to the surface, it only goes away when the memories go." The play shows John attempting to deal with the memorials and the ghosts as well as with the changes he faces upon returning home.
"It will never be the same for soldiers in their lives," John says in the play.
Trumble called the process of writing the book and the play "labor intensive."
"A second play will be easier now that I have a base," he said.
What he hopes for those who see the play and read the book to take away from the experience is that we as people must think very carefully about the cost of war, not just sending soldiers off, but the cost upon return as well.
Trumble shared his thoughts that today's Veterans who return from war must be taken care of by the American people and the people must be ready to pay the price for that care, not only physically but emotionally as well. He explained a bit of a difference between today and his Vietnam era in that many of the soldiers wounded then did not come back alive. Today's advancements in medicine and surgical techniques save many lives which would have been lost in past times.
The play will be performed Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Directed by Bob Willgoos and Joyce Webb, faculty members at Shepherd, the play features local cast members including a Jefferson High student and a Shepherd University student.
Trumble's book, while currently available on Amazon.com, will soon be available in local bookstores as well.