What We Do
The Return and Recovery Program for Military Veterans by A4TH provides necessary assistance to veterans suffering long-term effects of mental and emotional stress experienced in combat and other situations. Those with whom we work come from the current conflicts, the Persian Gulf War, the Vietnam War, and earlier military conflicts.
We work directly with the veterans, their families, and organizations in their communities. We are currently doing so in cooperative and rewarding ways with the Veterans Administration, as well as with veterans’ organizations, churches, and other community organizations. In this way, we spread the word on a grassroots level that there are people who are cognizant of the service that veterans have given and are giving, and that the things they have done for this country are acknowledged and appreciated.
Indeed, most Americans have never met, befriended, or are related to anyone who has been in combat. Just as the wars are in distant lands, so the fighters of these wars are distant people. Even though they are Americans, they live in neighborhoods different than our own and pursue ways of life separate from our own—making the societal feelings of sympathy and concern for the welfare of our combat personnel scarcely noticeable.
The occurrences of crime, violence, mental illness, and suicide among our combat veterans suggest that they do not feel rooted in American society, and do not sense that they are active and integral in the great American culture as a whole. They return from arduous service—often multiple tours of it—to an enormous population of citizens who hardly notice what they have done, or who may react in disdainful or contemptuous ways. Feelings of despair among such veterans are not surprising, as they may feel rejected, neglected, or forgotten.
This is an era of profoundly diminished feelings of sympathetic connection on the part of the general population towards the minority of Americans who are in our armed forces and who are giving of themselves in so many ways—physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is a time in which all American citizens have an obligation to become aware of the personal costs to the personnel serving in our military. By means of our programs like the Return and Recovery Program for Military Veterans, A4TH raises public awareness of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and those currently serving and sacrificing in our theaters of conflict in the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Expressive Art Explained
Brain imaging research on combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has revealed reduced activity in the area governing speech, and increased activity in areas governing fear, anger, memory, and visual processing. These findings are in keeping with the two types of PTSD symptoms: the so-called “positive” symptoms (hyper-arousal, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and anger); and, the “negative” symptoms (avoidance and emotional numbing).
There are many ways of treating PTSD, and some are quite effective. However, expressive art has been shown to be effective regarding both the “positive” and “negative” symptoms, while some therapies seem only to address the “positive.” Emotional numbing is an inability to feel any type of emotion, and it must be dealt with for recovery to occur.
In using artistic expression, sufferers of PTSD can make images more or less overtly demonstrative of traumatic events or their feelings aroused by them. This is especially possible for those for whom it is difficult or impossible to talk about such things.
The making of physical art is an externalization (a demonstration outside of self) of the sufferer’s condition and its causes. The revelations of such condition and causes may be emotionally very risky for the individual. Therefore, such activity must be undertaken among others who are trusted to be patient, supportive, and empathetic. To foster this environment, A4TH employs counselors, artists, and mentors—many of whom who are combat veterans themselves.