Brave Art: The Healing Power of Art for Our Wounded Warriors
When we think of wounded warriors and their recovery, oftentimes things like rehabilitation, reintegration, therapy, adaptive sports and family come to mind. But perhaps one underestimated approach to recovery is art — the ability to express emotions and heal through different mediums.
On April 12, the Military Health System recognized the benefits of art in recovery and launched the Pentagon Patriotic Art Program: Wounded Warrior Healing Arts Exhibit. The exhibit features 40 dynamic images of artwork created by individuals across the military services’ Wounded Warrior programs and from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence.
The healing benefits of art are apparent when you speak with any of the featured artists.
“To me, it helps me transfer my feelings — either anger, sadness or stress — from my personal life onto paper or onto canvas,” said artist and retired Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Adel Abudayeh.
When asked if he always had a passion for art, Abudayeh said he had not done art in his entire life — not until he started doing it at the hospital.
Another artist, retired Marine Corps Sgt. Richard Ung, was able to share his emotions through his art. When asked why he titled his drawing “Small,” he said it represents how small he felt after enduring a difficult firefight on a deployment.
“After that firefight, everything started rushing through my mind, every thought. I realized how small I was in the world. It was a feeling I’ll never forget,” he shared.
Their experiences are representative of the holistic approach to healing, something Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director, Defense Health Agency, addressed during the event:
“It’s more than just the physical treatment. We need to be attentive to the different domains within each of our patients. Whether that’s the spiritual, the intellectual, the mental, the physical, the religious…all of those domains are incredibly important in terms of being able to re-emerge and be able to achieve that wholeness again. I think that being able to display the efforts, your efforts, in the healing arts, is just an incredibly powerful way to bring that message home.”
And it’s not just the adults who recognize the significance of programs like this. We asked retired Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher Greenleaf’s 5-year-old daughter, Joy, what she thought of his work: “I think it’s awesome!”
The yearlong exhibit celebrates and honors the wounded, ill and injured Service members and veterans who have leveraged the power of healing arts to inspire their recovery, rehabilitation, reintegration or transition to civilian life. Be sure to stop by and check out this amazing display of talent next time you’re in the Pentagon!
The exhibit is sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Washington Headquarters Services, Executive Services Directorate and managed by the OSD Graphics and Presentations Division.