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A word of thanks: VA Hospital Art Therapy program

Today, I was honored and privileged to present an award for artistic achievement at the VA Hospital in Livermore (not the building above, but another in the complex). An active Art Therapy program in the Bay Area helps veteran men and women heal from physical and mental injuries suffered during their service for the United States of America. Sometimes, the injuries occur in combat with enemy forces, but sometimes the injuries can occur from rape by members of their own service, or by “friendly fire” from their own countrymen or allies.

As it happened, one of my LAA colleagues, Bud Donaldson, worked to create this art show (the 2nd annual) of works by people in the Art Therapy program. Also, as it happened, I was privileged to give an award to a U.S. Marine (once a Marine, ALWAYS a Marine) veteran of WW II, who survived the bloody assault on Guadalcanal. I told him, seated in his wheelchair, that he was fortunate. He said that he was “lucky.” :-) He explained his involvement in Art Therapy as getting “roped in” by Bud (Bud has that effect on people! :-) ) when there were not enough chairs at a table with people playing cards, but there WERE enough chairs at a table at the Art Therapy program.

I don’t buy it. The gentleman has a GIFT for art. :-)

A number of members of the local art groups turned out to present awards, as well as member of local, and representatives of state, government. But the story is NOT about me, or them, the story is about the amazing artistic accomplishments of the veterans themselves, and the skilled teacher-therapists who devote their time to working with the vets, and bringing forth their amazing talents.

The VA Hospital itself is on a hill and has become a wildlife refuge of sorts for blacktail deer and wild turkeys, which know that they are safe among the vets. It is a restful place, with some sweeping views of hills, parkland, and vineyards.

I spoke with a gentleman whose PTSD occurred over 40 years after his service in Vietnam, when it surfaced during his retirement. The activity of his employment had kept the trauma suppressed, but not healed, for all of those years. He had begun doing photography as his artistic outlet, and I shared my business card with him for other photographic views of California and as a means of encouragement.

So whether it is physical injury or PTSD, Art has a power to soothe and heal. One of the truths that came forth in today’s awards assembly was that art sometimes reaches an area of the human brain that verbalization and written words cannot.

I want to thank, again, the people at the Veterans Administration who invited me to attend today’s awards assembly, and to the veterans themselves, who boldly explore their talents and gradually heal their wounds.

-Bill at

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