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UMM grad shares veterans' stories

UMM graduate Bethany (Eastvold) Barnett will be in Morris June 22 with her new book "About Face: Finding Peace Within the Battle." Barnett will be at the Morris Public Library at 7 p.m. Submitted photo1 / 2
UMM graduate Bethan (Eastvold) Barnett wrote a book about three Irish veterans and their struggles after serving in the military and their spiritual journey. Photo courtesy of Bethany Barnett2 / 2

When Bethany (Eastvold) Barnett was a student at the University of Minnesota Morris she wasn't thinking she'd someday write a book. Now, 15 years after graduating from the university she said developed her heart for hard work and an interest in literature and English, Barnett did the unexpected. She wrote a book.

Barnett will be in Morris sharing from her book "About Face: Finding Peace Within the Battle," at 7 p.m. June 22, at the Morris Public Library. Her book is based on the true life stories of three Irish veterans who served as part of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon in the late 1990s. Barnett tells the story of their struggles, their successes and their spiritual journey.

"It started as conversation and evolved into an essay," Barnett said. As the stories continued from twin brothers Ger and John Corcoran and Kevin Burke, a book began to form.

The conversation may not have even started if not for retired UMM English Professor Dwight Purdy and his passion for Irish literature. "He loved reading aloud. He loved Irish literature," Barnett said.

Purdy's interest and teaching led Barnett to study abroad in Ireland during her years at UMM. "(Purdy) obviously had a huge impact on me," Barnett said.

When she completed her master's degree at North Dakota State University. "I went straight over (to Ireland)," Barnett said.

She worked in the counseling field for several years. "I met (John and Ger) while studying a course," Barnett said. Barnett worked with women who had addictions while John Corcoran and Burke worked with men.

The three men share their stories in the book but their experiences in the military, their struggles with addiction and other issues are those experienced by others, Barnett said. The men also share their spiritual journey including recovery.

"We are putting into words the experiences other people had," Barnett said.

The book was recently published and Barnett just started a book tour. While she and the three men knew the book would resonate with others, Barnett has experienced such responses.

"Someone has come up to me and said...'I was there once,'" Barnett said. Other readers have shared comments with the Corcorans and Burke.

"Their lives are an inspiration," Barnett said. "I knew them. I knew the impact they had on people."

Barnett has lived near Dublin, Ireland, for 13 years. She and her husband Billy have a eight-month old daughter. While she lives thousands of miles away from her hometown of Little Falls and her college home of Morris, the memories are not far.

"I would say I absolutely treasure my memories of going to the University of Minnesota Morris," Barnett said. Barnett also connected to the community of Morris while a student. She was involved with the Morris Community Church where she met Ruth and Neil Thielke who have been friends and supporters since her college days.

To learn more about Barnett and the book, see her website at www.bethanybarnett.ie.

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