Right off the bat, Melissa Steinman spotted a detail in Julie Marie Myatt's "Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter" that didn't ring true.

Right off the bat, Melissa Steinman spotted a detail in Julie Marie Myatt's "Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter" that didn't ring true.

The new play about a woman veteran of the war in Iraq coming home will have its world premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland next month.

In the script Steinman read last summer, Jenny wound up sleeping on the floor of her friend's tent, and her new friends, in an act of caring, remove her shoes while she's sleeping. Steinman, who spent 2005 serving in Iraq and Kuwait, says that wouldn't happen.

"That's not gonna be a hand-shaking situation," she says. "No one would allow that."

The reason is hyperawareness, a condition rather like having your fight-or-flight switch on at all times. Steinman suffered from it.

Steinman, 28, grew up in Ashland, joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served in a port security unit protecting oil platforms in Iraq and U.S. assets in Kuwait during 2004. The OSF asked her to work as a consultant giving her perspective as a veteran of the war. The OSF found her at the VFW post in Ashland, where she is a member.

She says hyperawareness is common among combat veterans who have recently returned from active duty.

"It's a survival mechanism," she says. "When you've been hyperaware for a year or more, it's difficult to come back to the real world and turn it off."

She says it's exhausting.

"You get less sleep. My body was always on."

Steinman worked with dramaturg Lue Douthit and actor Gwendolyn Mulamba, who is playing Jenny, after reading the script last summer. She says she likes the play.

"It's about how as a community you deal with people returning from conflict," she says. "They're trying to start a conversation."

"I think it's helpful for the community and for us to be connected in that way," says playwright Julie Marie Myatt. "She's been great."

Steinman is getting counseling through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City. She says it's good to talk with other vets.

"One of my strangest experiences was talking with my old flight instructor and comparing — he's a Viet Nam vet — sitting and talking with somebody who served 30 years earlier," she says. "We're both getting help through the VA."

She shies from talking in detail about her war.

"Most everybody has heard explosions and been in situations where their life was at risk," she says. "We were less threatened by small arms fire and more by explosives."

Steinman has been out of the Coast Guard a bit more than two years. In her day job, she puts an oceanography degree to use by running the A-B-Sea Foundation, a nonprofit that provides marine science instruction to isolated populations.

She says she'll probably see the play with other vets.

"I imagine we'll make a field trip," she says. "Get everybody together."