Meet Telling: Southwest Veteran Joseph Cofield

The Florida Humanities Council partners with The Telling Project, a national effort to bring veterans’ stories of military service to local communities. “Telling: Southwest Florida” features four veterans from the Army and Marine Corps.

Each week, we will tell you a little more about each veteran. Today, we spotlight Joseph Cofield, U.S. Army veteran.

Joseph Cofield first joined the Army in 1976, starting with the Delayed Entry Program. His enlistment came after the conclusion of the Vietnam War, but tensions with the Soviet Union were beginning to increase. “Serving during the Cold War taught me why our constitution and our nation are so special,” Cofield says. He initially believed training would take place at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, but was eventually transferred to Fort Gordon, Georgia.

After graduating from basic training, Joseph entered Advanced Individual Training at Fort Gordon, assigned as a signal specialist. A majority of Joseph’s 21 years of military service occurred in Europe, particularly Germany. Stateside tours include Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Gordon, Georgia; and Fort Sill, Oklahoma. During his Army service, Cofield also trained as a Chaplain Assistance as a secondary MOS.

Once he retired from the military, Joseph pursued his passion for education. “It took me 25 years to achieve my dream but I am proof that hard work, dedication, and commitment can make your dream a reality,” Cofield explained. “I want everyone to know that the American Dream is still alive and well.” He believes his service provides an example to others. “My son and niece are now serving in the military and many family members are achieving college success because they saw how the military shaped my life even in civilian life. My story is the shaping of a patriot and citizen.”

Joseph runs Constitution Project, Inc. The goal of the organization is to give every fifth grade student in the state of Florida a pocket U.S. Constitution booklet, a population of over 200,000 students.



Meet Telling: Southwest Veteran Timothy Durham

The Florida Humanities Council partners with The Telling Project, a national effort to bring veterans’ stories of military service to local communities. “Telling: Southwest Florida” features five veterans from the Army and Marine Corps. Three performances will occur at the end of the month in Naples and Fort Myers.

Each week, we will tell you a little more about each veteran. Today, we spotlight Timothy Durham, a U.S. Army Sergeant.

Timothy Durham first enlisted in the Army in 1976, after finishing high school. ”My family has a long tradition of serving during wartime,” Durham explains. His first assignment was in Germany, where he spent time in a tank company on the East-West German border. Following his departure from active duty military in 1983, Durham attended college in New Jersey and joined a reserve unit, serving as a drill sergeant.

Following the September 11th attacks, and after a fifteen year separation from the military, Durham rejoined enlisting in the Florida National Guard. “I put my civilian career on hold and, at the age of 47 with a 5-year old daughter at home.” His unit, the 651st Military Police Company, deployed to Iraq in September 2005. Tim’s unit was responsible for transporting detainees throughout Iraq. Spending a year in the country, Durham’s unit performed over 100 transportation missions, including the single largest transfer of detainees in theater. The 651st suffered a direct hit from an IED two days before Christmas in 2005. Durham was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tim left in 2006, returning to his civilian job at Collier County. He worked for four years as the Chief Deputy for the Collier County Supervisor of Elections. He currently works as the Executive Manager for Corporate Business Operations for Collier County.


While patrolling the German border they heard an explosion, Tim shares the story.


Meet Telling: Southwest Veteran Jason Calabrese

The Florida Humanities Council partners with The Telling Project, a national effort to bring veterans’ stories of military service to local communities. “Telling: Southwest Florida” features five veterans from the Army and Marine Corps. Three performances will occur at the end of the month in Naples and Fort Myers.

Each week, we will tell you a little more about each veteran. Today, we spotlight Jason Calabrese, a U.S. Army Sergeant.

Jason Calabrese joined the United States Army after the September 11th attacks in 2001. He served in the Army from 2002-2005. One of his initial deployments was to Germany. He is a current National Guard Reserve Member. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2005 with the 1st Infantry Division.

“My experiences, and those who served with me, are unknown to most civilians state side,” Jason told us. “It’s

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WGCU
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May 4 at 7pm

This program contains adult language and themes of war and combat violence. Audience discretion is advised.

akin to being an astronaut who just returned from the moon. People want to know what it was like, and I want to share so the memories are not lost.”

Jason uses his experience in the Army as an inspiration for writing. In addition to serving as a Human Resources Specialist with the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Jason is a professor of English at Florida Southwestern State College.

To learn more about Jason’s story, and to hear from four other military veterans, join us for Telling: Southwest Florida later this month.


Below is one of the poems Jason wrote about his military experience.

The Shores and Shoals of Iraq

From Baghdad’s straights to Port Fallujah,
the tides of the past have receded back
and Democracies’ setting sail to the
Shores and shoals inside of Iraq.

And back home we’re all on board
And greet our leader with applause.
We tow the line to distant shores
All for our Captain’s worthy cause.

He’s set the course ahead
And checked the maps and charts,
for us infidels whose minds are set
on winning Muslim hearts.

And if we’re stung by seaward pests
or bugs that bite when they attack,
we’ll use great big gaping nets
to catch those pesky gnats.

And we’ll sail ‘till the Captain yells
“Land ho, we’re safe from harm.”
And we’ll greet our Muslim brothers
with shaloms and open arms.

And the Sunni’s will dance and sing
and hold the Shiite’s hands
as the bells of liberty ring
bringing peace throughout the land.

And when insurgents exchange
olive branches for their guns
then and there we’ll know
our work is truly done.

And when we see a splashing tail
Or red sky at the dawn,
we’ll cast off for the next great whale
Ahab sets his sights upon.


Scott Owens served nearly nine years as an infantryman with the Army’s famed 101st Airborne Division, including two tours in Iraq. Injured during a fire fight, he lives with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and PTSD. The Winter Haven resident has worked as an advocate for veterans’ issues and is a fulltime student studying political science. In this video, he talks about the Army core values that have helped guide and sustain him through some tough times.


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Several veterans shared their personal stories on stage to community audiences in Florida as part of our work with The Telling Project. This program helps bridge the communication gap with an American public in which less than one percent has served in uniform over the past dozen years of war. And it demonstrates the power of stories to help us make sense of the world, to take us to places we have never been, to look at the world through someone else’s eyes.

Learn more about Scott Owens and other veterans in our next issue of FORUM magazine. Pre-order it here.

Watch this video of a 2015 stage production of “Telling: Tampa Bay,” featuring Owens, his wife Shannon, and five other Florida veterans.