Closed Now
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Closed Now
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Sailors Speak: Military Service Discussion Program

Are you an active-duty service member, reservist, veteran, or family of a service member?

The USS Constitution Museum invites you to join us for a Navy-focused discussion program called Sailors Speak: The Impact of War on Naval Veterans, Their Families, and the Country. This seminar-style program will explore the history and experience of military service through the lens of USS Constitution during the War of 1812 in comparison with the modern post-9/11 wars.

Guided by our trained discussion leaders, participants will engage with the USS Constitution Museum’s collections, and with each other, to examine and reflect on military service from a variety of perspectives. Our discussion leaders include veterans, historians, and military community members. Whether interested in self-discovery, a sense of belonging, or an opportunity to share experiences, participants will develop a greater understanding of the historical context of military service and hone their critical thinking and communication skills.

Register today using the form below!

There are three discussion programs available:

Group A: Wednesday afternoons from March 1 to April 5, 2023 (1:00pm –4:00pm ET) in-person at the USS Constitution Museum

Group B: Thursday evenings from March 2 to April 6, 2023 (6:00pm – 8:00pm ET) virtually via Zoom

Group C: Saturdays on March 11, 18, & 25, 2023 (9:00am – 4:00pm ET, with 1 hour for lunch on your own) in-person at the USS Constitution Museum

Discussion groups are open to registered participants only and will not be recorded. Free parking is available.

Program Overview

Sailors Speak seeks to prompt deep discussion and close examination of the historic and contemporary record by encouraging members of the military community to reflect collectively on their experiences. Each session will be facilitated by trained discussion leaders and mentors, who will cultivate and maintain a safe space for honest discussion with the goal of forging connection, understanding, and compassion throughout the program.

The museum’s public historian and curatorial staff will lend their expertise and insights, drawing from the USS Constitution Museum’s collections. In advance of the discussion meetings, participants will be given a selection of historical and contemporary resources that will provide a contextual foundation for program discussions. All necessary materials will be provided to the participants free of charge.

Universal themes to be discussed will include:

  • Motivations for joining the military
  • Impact of separation on families
  • Military service and the experience of war
  • Returning home and reintegration
  • Commemoration and memory


Session 1
Meet your fellow discussion participants and learn about each other’s military backgrounds. An overview of the program will be provided and we will discuss the historical contexts of the War of 1812 and the post-9/11 Wars.

Session 2
Examine recruitment and the motivations of USS Constitution’s sailors for enlisting in 1812. For comparison, we will discuss modern military experiences and how motivating factors may have changed or endured over 200 years.

Session 3
Consider the impact of military service on families throughout history. We will explore the ways in which service members and their families maintain connections during deployment. We’ll consider how these periods of separation affect the experience of service, both for the service member and for those at home.

Session 4
Discuss deployment and the individual and collective experiences of war. We’ll survey USS Constitution’s daily shipboard routine and sea battles, and how those events compares to modern experiences of service and deployment. 

Session 5
Explore the challenges faced by veterans and their families during reintegration after deployment or retirement. We’ll consider how society sees and treats the veteran community, and how veteran identities may have changed since the early 19th century.

Session 6
To conclude, we will reflect on the themes of commemoration and remembrance. USS Constitution’s service and memory is celebrated by the nation and was the foundation for a patriotism that did not exist prior to the War of 1812. We’ll explore what helps you commemorate your service, and what aspects of war are remembered or forgotten by society.

Wooden Bird Carving Activity
Each discussion group will have an opportunity to try woodcarving with U.S. Air Force Veteran and USS Constitution Model Shipwright Guild member Michael Davison, who will demonstrate how to create a small wooden “comfort bird.” The wooden birds are soothing tactile objects used to provide comfort during a time of stress or anxiety. Virtual participants will receive a finished comfort bird handcrafted by Michael.

  • Active-duty service members, reservists, veterans, and adult family of military service members are welcome to register. Despite the program’s focus on USS Constitution and naval service during the War of 1812, those with affiliation to any branch of U.S. military service are encouraged to participate. 
  • Those with military experience or connections from any era are encouraged to register despite the program’s focus on the post-9/11 wars in contrast with the War of 1812.
  • Combat experience is not required.
  • The diversity of candidates is a top priority, including age, race, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, parental status, religion, disability, and military status. 
  • Volunteers for the in-person discussion programs will be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Museum will consider an exemption from the vaccine requirement if volunteers are unable to get vaccinated due to a qualifying medical disability or a sincerely held religious objection. The Museum is not required to provide an accommodation or exemption from the vaccine requirement if doing so would pose a direct threat to others or would create an undue hardship for the Museum.

To register, please complete the form below.

"*" indicates required fields

Contact Information

This information will be used for registration purposes only and will not be shared.

Discussion Program Selection

This information will help us place you in the appropriate discussion program.
Preferred Discussion Group (Please select one)*

Bring a Friend!

Do you have an adult family member or friend who would like to join? Add their name below.

If you have any questions about this program, please contact Jennifer Dempsey, Project Coordinator for Sailors Speak.

This program is made possible by a Dialogues on the Experiences of War grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities 


National Endowment for the Humanities logo