In The News

Illinois Humanities announces Talking Service: A Veterans Discussion Group

This note appeared in the Effingham Daily News on August 23, 2016. You may access the original note here.


Illinois Humanities, the Great Books Foundation, and the Effingham Public Library are excited to announce the beginning of a veterans reading group in Effingham. Anyone who has served in the military in any capacity is invited to participate in Talking Service: A Veterans Reading Group. Discussions will start at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, at the library and will continue twice each month this fall on the second and fourth Thursday evenings of the month through November, with the exception of November 24, which is Thanksgiving.

Talking Service will provide an opportunity for veterans to share their military and post-military experiences with one another through reading and discussion of literature. It will be open to veterans of all ages, genders, and branches of the service, whether they served in war or in peacetime. Anyone who is interested in participating is encouraged to view the full schedule at and contact Matt Meacham ( for more information.

“We had the privilege of offering several Veterans Reading Group programs in 2014 and 2015, and the participants told us that they found the experience meaningful and beneficial,” said Matt Meacham, a program coordinator with Illinois Humanities. “We were very happy when our friends at the Effingham Public Library expressed interest in this initiative. We’re eager to work with them to provide opportunities for area residents who have military experience to connect with one another and reflect together on life during and after their service.”
Each Talking Service discussion will draw upon brief readings selected from Standing Down: From Warrior to Civilian (Great Books Foundation, 2013), a collection of literature that relates to military and post-military life. Twenty copies of Standing Down will be available at the Effingham Public Library for people to request and pick up as of today, Aug. 24. The selections will include a wide variety of writings by Ernest Hemingway, Walt Whitman, Estela Portillo Trambley, Leo Tolstoy, Siobhan Fallon, and other authors. The readings for each meeting will address a particular theme, such as “homecoming,” “caregiving,” or “moral judgments.”

Tom Caldwell of Effingham will facilitate the discussions. Caldwell served in the Army National Guard during the First Gulf War. He has taught English and philosophy at Lake Land College in Mattoon since 1997.

“Tom has a wide range of relevant experience as both a veteran and an educator. We’re honored and grateful to have him involved in Talking Service,” Meacham commented.
The Great Books Foundation, the Chicago-based organization that published Standing Down, has offered many reading-and-discussion opportunities for veterans in recent years and is collaborating with Illinois Humanities on Talking Service.

In conjunction with Talking Service, Illinois Humanities and the Effingham Public Library will present a reading by Brian Turner, whose work, including My Life as a Foreign Country (2014), often reflects his experiences as a veteran, at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14. Talking Service participants will have an opportunity to visit with Turner during the reception following the presentation.

More information and online registration are available