Touchstones Discussion Project’s Completing the Odyssey: A Journey Home – a discussion program led by veterans for veterans

In this discussion leadership program, veterans learn to co-lead discussions on themes related to service and homecoming. Participants in this program explore selections from Homer’s The Odyssey and from contemporary work— including many by veterans— about service and war to reflect on their own experiences and journeys.

This fall, the University of Nevada Las Vegas College of Education is engaging veterans in Touchstones discussions in two new courses. You can read about the genesis of this new initiative to better support veterans at UNLV in our Touchstones Circle newsletter and on the UNLV site here. We are honored that Completing the Odyssey: A Journey Home serves as the textbook in these courses.

The development, piloting, and replication of Completing the Odyssey as a veteran-led program was made possible through two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Read more about the history of this program here.

Program Overview

  • Intentional Sequence – Each lesson involves a short reading, individual work, small group work, and full group discussion.

  • No Preparation – All reading is done together at the beginning of the Touchstones discussion and no preparatory work is ever required.

  • Strengthening Skills – Lessons are intentionally designed and curated to build skills as veterans progress. Discussions enhance leadership, active listening, and collaborative discussion skills.

  • Ongoing Support – Training, coaching, and feedback is always available from Touchstones’ highly experienced staff.

“This group is perhaps THE key for returning veterans to reintegrate into society. All veterans would benefit. The country, community, and families will benefit.”

Discussion Group Participant, US Marine Corps

“After more than 46 years of silence since my return from Vietnam, I found a voice and a venue to express my thoughts about military service and my personal homecoming through a shared dialogue with other veterans both young and old.”

Joe Smith, US Army Veteran

“Touchstones is unprecedented in what it is doing, combining pragmatism with intellectual pursuit – it needs as much support as is available.”

Discussion Group Participant, US Army Veteran

Why Touchstones?

Our program engages veterans with colleagues in authentic and open-ended examination of the return to civilian life.

Our Impact

  • Provides a structure for a transitory time where many veterans are in a more vulnerable and high-risk position.

  • Builds a community where veterans can feel comfortable and understood as they practice  skills that will augment their ability to transition to civilian life.

  • Generates meaningful connections through friendships and mentorships that support veterans in their individual journeys.

  • Peer-led discussions means veterans leading and supporting themselves.

By the Numbers

  • Over 200 veterans have participated in programs since 2017.

  • Groups on Maryland’s Eastern and Western Shores, Washington, D.C., California, and faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) have used Completing the Odyssey with veterans populations, including in a special course at UNLV specifically for veteran students.

  • Touchstones has donated more than $65,000 in free training and program support services for veterans programs since 2017.

  • Veteran participants report that Touchstones positively impacted their ability to transition out of the military.