Community Conversations with Veterans Partnership and Program Moves Online

In March 2020, carefully planned public programs started to fall apart due to the novel coronavirus. San Jose Public Library is one of 18 library jurisdictions participating in the 2020 Community Conversations with Veterans initiative. The initiative offers California libraries the opportunity to connect more closely with veterans and their families, while also helping veterans and their families connect to the community and resources. Participating libraries have worked carefully over the past few months to establish community partnerships and plan two or more public programs in Spring 2020. When it became clear that SJPL’s April 23, 2020 documentary viewing and discussion of Visions of Warriors would need to be cancelled or postponed, a group of librarians, university staff, and community partners responded and we are finding new ways to collaborate and reach communities.

Ming Lai, director of Visions of Warriors, offered to make his documentary available for the San Jose Public Library and San Jose State University community. California Center for the Book has worked closely with Rosemary Van Lare and Deborah Estreicher, librarians at San Jose’s King Library and with Elena Klaw, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Veterans Embracing Transition (VET) Project at San Jose State University to move this community programming online.

The resulting program is a virtual screening that will be offered free to library patrons and university students and faculty from Monday, 4/20/2020 to Monday, 5/4/2020. On 4/27/2020, SJPL recorded a video discussion with Ming Lai and Mark Pinto, moderated by Jemerson Diaz, a U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) veteran, former SJSU Communications Department adjunct faculty member, SJSU Mental Health Ambassador, Veterans Embracing Transition (VET) Connect peer leader, Warriors at Home teaching assistant, and National Alliance on Mental Illness leader. Mark Pinto is a USMC veteran, SJSU alumnus, VET Connect alumnus, and artist. The discussion is archived and is available on  San Jose Public Library’s YouTube channel and embedded below.

As our communities and libraries move into this new normal, partnerships and relationships have become even more important. At California Center for the Book, we are honored to work with Ming, Rosemary, Deborah, Elena, Mark, and Jemerson to make this happen. Their devotion to serving and supporting the veterans and those who care for them is apparent, and their willingness and ability to quickly adapt is much appreciated. This team is helping Californians connect and collaborate through their library. We need it more than ever.


Julianna Robbins
Program Manager
California Center for the Book
California Library Association

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About Visions of Warriors

In “Visions of Warriors,” four veterans from the Vietnam War era to the Iraq War participate in the groundbreaking Veteran Photo Recovery Project at the VA Menlo Park and use innovative photography therapy to treat their mental illness.


“Visions of Warriors” enters the minds of four veterans from the Vietnam War era to the Iraq War who are battling against mental illness—Mark Pinto, Homerina “Marina” Bond, Ari Sonnenberg, and Priscilla “Peni” Bethel. They participate in the groundbreaking Veteran Photo Recovery Project at the VA Menlo Park and use innovative photography therapy to treat their moral injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and other mental illnesses. The documentary also profiles the Veteran Photo Recovery Project team—founder and nurse practitioner Susan Quaglietti, art therapist Jeff Stadler, clinical social worker Ryan Gardner, and clinical psychologist Kristen McDonald. With a non-linear narrative structure to mirror the veterans’ shattered lives, the film alternates between the veterans and the mental health providers. It also introduces other dynamic veterans who participated in the program. The overall narrative arc of the film extends from the veterans’ diverse backgrounds to their challenging military service to their debilitating mental illness to their intensive treatment. Because the veterans use photography therapy to treat their mental illness, the cinematography is inspired by iconic photo essays in Life Magazine and National Geographic that intimately capture people’s lives. Ultimately, “Visions of Warriors” is a universal story about the strength of the human spirit.

About Community Conversations with Veterans & California Center for the Book

Community Conversations with Veterans is a partnership between California Center for the Book and Veterans Connect @ the Library.  California Center for the Book is a program of the California Library Association, supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.