by Jim Reyland

Photography courtesy of Mike Barrowman

“My Father’s War is certainly a searing, unvarnished, and very personal account of war . . . the words and music flow like honey.

—Evans Donnell, Theatre Reviewer

When something truly significant happens to you or someone you love, the story of that experience stays with you, and if you’re an artist, you share it with the world in your own special way. This is how My Father’s War came to be. Wife and husband team Carol Ponder and Robert Kiefer created and now perform this powerful storytelling and musical experience for all of us. 

Lt. Herschel Ponder with his P-47 Thunderbolt

Lt. Herschel Ponder with his P-47 Thunderbolt

It’s a wonderful ride, adapted from Carol’s father’s 1989 memoir from WWII, where Lt. Ponder wrote of his fears, his joys, and his struggle to remain human during and after a terrible war. 

My Father’s War is a staged reading production, delivered in Lt. Ponder’s same storytelling voice—droll, sincere, and cruelly straightforward. It is a story about a boy who enlists in the Army Air Corps after Pearl Harbor, leaving his beloved Appalachian Mountains. He becomes a “professional exterminator,” flying P-47 Thunderbolts. When he comes home again, he must reintegrate into civilian life while struggling with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTS) and other unseen wounds from his war.

My Father’s War isn’t just about WWII. It’s about going to war and coming home again. Blended with wonderful songs from the period like “Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” it also includes traditional songs “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “The Minstrel Boy,” and even “Goober Peas.” The discussions after the performance—an integral part of this theatrical encounter—are always rich with shared experiences. 

Carol and Robert have been theatre and music professionals for over 40 years. (Yes, that Carol Ponder.) Writing, performing, and leading creative workshops grounded in My Father’s War, they use everything they’ve ever learned about the performing arts and education through the arts.

My Father’s War is a beautiful production that evokes the essence of war and warriors, their victories, sacrifices, loyalty to each other, and the sweet pain of coming home. Sitting in the audience, you’ll feel your love of country washing over you and filling your heart. 

Photograph courtesy of Mike Barrowman

Photograph courtesy of Mike Barrowman

If you’d like to support My Father’s War so that many more may share it, or to be informed about future performances taking place not only in Nashville but all over the United States, please contact Robert or Carol at or visit

Jim Reyland’s new book, Handmade – Friendships Famous, Infamous, Real and Imagined, will be available May 2016 at in paperback and on Kindle.


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