Joseph Shapiro of NPR interviews Genius Grant recipient Dr. Jonathan Shay, who discusses the relevance of the Odyssey to American soldiers returning home from war. Shay suggests that the poem’s meditation on the theme of storytelling about war makes it an invaluable work of literature that modern day soldiers can relate to. From this link you can also listen to Shay discuss how a specific scene from the Odyssey relates to soldiers coming home from the war in Iraq.
A lot of Shay's insight about how to prevent the mental health problems of war comes from reading the Iliad and the Odyssey. He first picked up the books while recovering from a stroke some 25 years ago. He was just 40. As he slowly recovered, he took what he figured would be a temporary gig counseling Vietnam veterans at the Boston VA. He told them stories of Achilles and Odysseus — and those tales of betrayal by leaders and of guilt and loss among soldiers resonated with the Vietnam veterans. "One of the things they appreciate," Shay says, "is the sense that they're part of a long historical context — that they are not personally deficient for having become injured in war.”