My name, as you likely surmised from the URL, is Travis Martin. I am author of the new book War & Homecoming: Veteran Identity and the Post-9/11 Generation. I am also director of the academic program in Veterans Studies, first-year courses administrator, and a host of other things at Eastern Kentucky University. In my spare time, I aspire to become the world’s foremost “dog influencer” on Instagram, largely by showcasing the shenanigans of #bartlebytheanatolian and #glorigirlaussie.
I’m in higher ed. So, I like to do a lot of the things people in higher ed like to do: teach, write, design courses, think radically. I am especially fond of working with first-year students. I don’t know, there’s something about helping young people shape their life trajectories that inspires me. I used to fancy building a time machine. Turns out I’m not good at physics. Helping young people is probably the next-best thing to going back and making all the right decisions.
I’ve been working with brilliant scholars around the world to help start this new academic discipline in Veterans Studies for more than a decade. And I think we’ve come a long way with the program at our school. I served in the Army a long time ago and that experience shaped my research and writing interests early on. I specialize in twentieth-century American war literature and social theory. Though, I’m pretty fond of playing with ideas from across the disciplines. Interdisciplinarity pays off. It would be fine with me if I were remembered as a charlatan. At least I’d be remembered for something.
My new book is on the topic of veteran identity. A question to consider: What is the difference between a veteran as a symbol and a veteran as a human being? We often ask prior service members to gather together in communities, to tell their stories in therapists’ offices and other safe spaces. I feel like this is appropriate when dealing with combat trauma and mental health issues. But most veterans do not experience combat. Most of the veterans who do are not permanently scarred by it. Yet, there’s something about the way we conceive of veterans in the American unconscious that is just as limiting. What if, instead of being viewed as sacrosanct or potentially damaging to the veteran’s psyche, veteran testimony was viewed foremost as a source of knowledge or lessons on the topics of humanity and resilience?
Plenty of altruistic people are advocating for veterans. I spent nearly half a decade running a veterans creative arts non-profit and got to see up close the passions that drive those who serve veterans and their families. Today, I like to think I am working to solve the other side of the equation – fixing the world veterans return home to after service. I do this in my writing. I do this with hundreds of students who take Veterans Studies courses every year.
Instead of saying “thank you for your service” we need to get comfortable and provide venues in which veterans tell us about their service. Our beautiful rituals and heartfelt platitudes are fine. But can we alter the practice of patriotism in such a way that veterans can become their most capable and authentic selves? That’s what I try to figure out in the book and much of my other writing.
In addition to veterans issues I am interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning. I began my journey as an educator using expressivist writing pedagogies in a variety of disciplinary settings. As I matured, I became interested in conscious and unconscious power dynamics that exist between teachers and students. My most recent course designs emphasize transparency in learning and teaching, students as partners in the classroom, service learning, and ungrading.
Anyway, thanks for taking a minute to stop by the site. You can find links to most of the things I have written, interviews, and other interesting tidbits in the menu. Reach out if you ever want to talk more!