LARSON: Reaching out to veterans with ArtReach

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

My Warrior

We fight like King David, we love like St Peter,

we hate like the devil, we find comfort in hell.

We are fathers, sons, husbands, and lovers who want

normal lives, have children, go to mass, watch movies

However we are empty inside, rage dominates us,

sometime hate overwhelms us,

our spirit shackles us, flashbacks are normal to us,

tears are forbidden, loneliness is normal -

why because we experience death thru our scents -

sight, hearing, smelling, sometimes daily.

We want help - we are afraid to ask why -

because warriors are strong, not weak,

emotions evade us, prayer is beneath us,folks cannot help us because they don't understand us.

I do not trust them, because they will not protect me.

Our mouths are our worse enemy and best ally.

Please humble yourself -

we have other brothers and sisters in this fight.

Who - 1st responders, ER nurses (Angels of Mercy),

doctors, inter-city school teachers,

Saints, missionaries, veterans from other wars,

your family

These folks give us hope,

I want to make it and will help me make it.

When I attended an organizational meeting for the newly formed ArtReach Foundation in Duluth in 1999, founder, Susan Anderson blissfully explained her proposed mission of taking art supplies to war torn Bosnia to help children emotionally heal from the trauma of war. To me, it all seemed overwhelming. To Anderson it was just a matter of following Joseph Campbell's words: "Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls."

Since then, ArtReach has torn down walls all over the world by using art, music, poetry and drama to help tens of thousands of people overcome trauma.

Then in 2009, as record numbers of veterans were returning from war with PTSD, ArtReach opened a door to a domestic program called Project America.

"We work with soldiers to treat the silent wounds of PTSD directly at various military base locations and at community based workshops throughout the country," Anderson said. "We also train therapists to further this work in their own therapy practice."

Dr. Erik Fisher of Lawrenceville, nationally known as "Dr. E." of CNN, NBC and FOX fame, serves as a volunteer board member of ArtReach.

"I have known Susan for more than 17 years. She is an amazing individual, and when I heard about all she was doing, I wanted to be a part of it," Dr. Fisher said. "The ArtReach Foundation has the capability to make a profound impact on the populations that they serve. The effects of trauma are wide-reaching, not only impacting those individuals who experienced the trauma, but often loved ones around them and the community at large."

Bill Howerton, USA Maj. (ret) was a workshop participant and has first hand knowledge of how PTSD can affect a whole community. And he can artfully express it.

"ArtReach exposed a world of potential healing for my PTSD by asking me to serve on the Theater of War discussion panel. Our panel discussed how the Greek Warrior Ajax suicide affected his family, friends, soldiers and the community. Linking the relevance of this ancient warrior to our current U.S. Military PTSD issue demanded my personal action," Howerton said.

"As my PTSD maturation level increased, I realized other U.S. Veterans from WWII to Vietnam dealt with this silent disorder alone and in fear. As my journey continued, ArtReach exposed a poetry writing talent and after a December 2010 mental meltdown, I penned my first poem, "My Warrior." The poem served as a foundation for me to reach out to others in need. I share my feeling in certain circles without fear, reservations or the use of any pharmaceutical medication to treat my PTSD while teaching coaching and mentoring others about PTSD."

ArtReach is always looking for new venues for their workshops. If you would like to open your doors or help in other ways, visit www.ArtReachFoundation.org

Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson79@gmail.com.


sarahldavis 2 years, 9 months ago

Perfect Veterans' Day column! I'm so glad you could showcase Bill Howerton's poem.


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