Vietnam War: August 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975 Cold War (Peace time)
Using the Arts & Community to Save Veteran Lives is a very important theme for me. I am very bothered by the number of Vets who commit suicide.
I have been painting in oils for over fifty years in a realistic style. I want to use my artistic skills show other vets there is hope. When I got out of the Army in 1972, no one would hire a vet, especially not a Vietnam vet. I went for 14 months of trying to get a job with the federal government. Week after week, I applied for work and when the employer saw that I was a vet, they spun me around and sent me on my way. No vets need apply! Every vet was portrayed by the media as a murder, psychopath, or druggie.
We lost the war. America doesn't like losers. My self image sunk lower and lower. Social conditions made me feel worthless. Yes I considered the big S-----. Fortunately I had people around me to help me get through the period of darkness. For several years I never told anyone I was a vet, never wore a vet cap, and never talked about the experience, never enrolled for Veterans Affairs benefits, never associated with veteran groups like the American Legion. I tried to cover it over like it never happened.
In 2007, I survived a heart attack which was a real life changing event. All of a sudden I had to quit my job. The medical cost were way out of control and beyond my means. Then an Air Force vet told me about his agent orange experiences and the new VA clinic at Ft Detrick MD. He was upbeat and positive and convinced me to give it a try. I did and it made all the difference. I met other vets who were carrying the same baggage. One was an 98 year old, African American who served in a segregated unit in WWII in Europe. He and I became good friends and he is the subject on one of my portraits. Gradually I started opening up and realizing each vet has a story to tell.
So now I am 75. I paint every day and do 5 or 6 portraits per year as well as some art directed at healing the hidden darkness within.