Seema Sueko loves to find groups of people who don’t normally feel part of theater and coax them to attend a play at her Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company. For the play she’s currently directing, “How I Got That Story,” Sueko’s been working to intrigue and involve the military and veteran communities in San Diego.

We’ve been following that play behind the scenes, and I got an astounding letter from a nurse practitioner, a reservist serving in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. He’d booked his tickets for Opening Night of the play while in his barracks in a combat hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the NATO Role III Multinational Medical Unit.

I think he shares a really compelling perspective and argues convincingly for more of this kind of cross-pollination. Plays about war are not new, he says. “The choice between military verses family life and returning home from the battle are stressors that our warriors grapple with today with no better insight than did the Greeks,” he wrote. I’ve lightly edited the snippets below.

Read more from Jamie Ruddy:

I am a native San Diegan, son of a Fleet Master Chief, and a Graduate of San Diego SCPA (School of Creative and Performing Arts). In short I have been a part of the military and the San Diego theatre community my entire life. …

I think the story demonstrates how in life we start out with big ideals and then reality writes a different script for us. I got the idea that life changes us through our experiences, for this reporter it happened in a dramatic way in Ambo Land. I am glad this was a play that took place in a war zone. San Diego has a huge such a huge Veterans community in San Diego. More Veterans-oriented plays in the future would be nice for this underrepresented community that is full of retirees.

I would say that this was not a play about war; it was much more about a journalist in a war zone. I think it was very appropriate and professional of Seema Sueko to seek out Joe [Ciokon] (Judo instructor) a respected entity and journalist from the military community that had real life experience during the era of this play. Although monks are still protesting in Tibet by setting themselves aflame, much of the era in Ambo Land was reminiscent of my father’s war (he went to WWII at 17 and did six tours in Vietnam).

The topic of war is nothing new, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey deal with themes that are still relevant today. The choice between military verses family life and returning home from the battle are stressors that our warriors grapple with today with no better insight than did the Greeks. I would like to see more theatre in our community that reaches out to Veterans and their families and show Veterans are also a part of all American communities, ethnicities, gender, gay, and religions. I find it incredible that here is no contemporary stage play that looks at the wars of this generation with a fresh and insightful tale of how different the wars have been and how the human effects never change.

The first great playwright of our civilization Aeschylus was certainly eloquent enough to express his greatest achievement of his life in his self-composed epitaph when he wrote he was a Veteran at the battle of Marathon. Combat changes people and it is not always negative and tragic, most of us come back and are productive contributing participants in our communities.

It may be that it takes a village to raise a child; I am beginning to believe it take a society to bring home a warrior to be that positive productive influence and that process is sometimes ongoing and in some cases unending. When it is asked if you support our troops — ask also what is it you do to support them?

Mo’oelo Performing Arts can say they give a voice to Veterans, reach out to integrate them back home. It would be good if the larger San Diego theatre community did more action in this regard to assist the transitioning warriors and their families home and not only thank them for their service but thank them for winning the wars of our generation.

I thank you too for providing your platform of expression with Voice of San Diego and your backstage look at “How I Got That Story.”

With all my best intentions – Namaste, love and Aloha

Jamie Ruddy

In another note, Ruddy shared a bit more about his time in Afghanistan:

I was not injured and was never under any direct fire while in Afghanistan. I am a Nurse Practitioner in the United States Navy Nurse Corps, I am currently a reservist. My main billet there was to run the Primary Care Clinic, it was actually more of an Urgent Care, non Trauma Emergency Clinic inside the larger facility. I participated in very few traumas. Working at the NATO Role 3 MMU was essentially working in a cutting edge Trauma Bay with amazing equipment and incredibly diverse experienced and well prepared staff.

The survival rate is said to 98% if a patient arrived to the Trauma Bay with a pulse. Probably 70% of the patients we saw were Afghans. The huge focus of the hospital is to stabilize battle field trauma patients and medivac them to definitive care in Germany. The traumas and events were what I expected and although not easy, this is what we do. The Role 3 “Combat Hospital” was and still comprises medical professionals that are trained to deal with death on a regular basis. Me personally I do not feel I have any PTSD or any emotional, psychological or spiritual injuries definitely no physical ones. I feel good that I was able to serve in my profession the people and community that I love. …

So given the chance I will return to Afghanistan. It was a life confirming experience.

With love and all my best intentions

LT Jamie Ruddy USN, NC

Nurse Practitioner

What do Ruddy’s letters make you think about? Have you seen any other examples of local theaters intersecting the military community well? Leave us a comment below.

And if you’ve not yet seen the play and would like to, join me on Friday night — if you’re a VOSD member, tickets are only $10.

I’m Kelly Bennett, the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

And follow Behind the Scene on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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