Invisible Wounds of War is a project working with North Carolina Veterans to explore the injuries of war that are invisible to an outside observer. The project is created and directed by Jen Johnson and is based in Wilmington, NC. The project includes:

Writing workshops for veterans
Photography workshops for veterans
Online writing submissions from military personnel & families statewide

An exhibit of the writing & photography from the 2015 project was held at
UNCW Randall Library 11/5/15 – 1/21/16
(Link to the online gallery of the exhibit)

Check out the video with four of the veterans who participated in the project in 2015:

Project Mission:
I have seen and heard the struggles of Veterans coming home. In my experience, many Veterans don’t share their stories because they feel that other people can’t bear to hear them. This project gives permission for the stories to be told about the invisible wounds of war and gathers an audience to bear witness to the stories.

Veterans are dying by suicide at a rate of 22 per day. I see this as an urgent epidemic that constitutes a community and public health concern. It is my hope that this project serves to offer some measure of healing for Veterans through the writing, photography and mindfulness workshops. I also seek to educate health care and mental health providers about Veterans’ concerns and needs. I hope this project starts a community conversation that results in the general public having a greater understanding of and compassion toward our North Carolina Veterans.

I believe in the healing power of narrative and find that writing and photography are powerful tools for telling people’s stories. Writing can help to make order from the chaos. Photography makes meaning of experience where language fails. I hope to provide a safe space in which Veterans can begin to share their stories and connect with other people who are willing to share theirs. When one person shares their story, it gives another person permission to share theirs. The Veterans who participated in the writing and photography workshops decided that they want to transform the Veterans’ narrative into one that ends with hope.

If you are a Veteran in crisis or are experiencing suicidal thoughts please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. This project does not offer crisis intervention services, but we encourage you to please seek help if you have having suicidal thoughts and/or a plan. Whatever you’re experiencing, it can get better with professional help. 

Invisible Wounds of War project is directed by Jen Johnson.
Jen Johnson, MS, MS, MFA, LPC is a photographer, writer and counselor in private practice in Wilmington, NC. She has worked as a counselor since 1991 and offers mindfulness-based counseling and therapeutic writing and photography in her clinical practice. Jen is the former Statewide Coordinator for the Independent Living Needs Program for the Veterans Administration in Atlanta, Georgia. She previously worked at Shepherd Center rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta with patients with traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, stroke, spinal cord injury, M.S. and neurological/neuromuscular disorders. Jen’s father attended West Point Military Academy and served in the Army during the Korean War.  Jen’s academic background includes an M.S. in Community Counseling, M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling and M.F.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in North Carolina and Georgia. Her writing has been published in regional, national and international print and online magazines and blogs, literary journals, and professional training manuals, and her photographs have been exhibited internationally and are held in collections by hospitals, medical centers, universities, financial institutions and private collections.

Project Sponsors:

North Carolina Humanities Council

This project is made possible in part by funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County

UNCW Randall Library

Carolina Case Management & Rehabilitation Services, Inc.

CCM logo

**Tax-deductible donations can be made to The Arts Council of Wilmington. Please write “Invisible Wounds of War” on your check. Thank you for your generous support. Checks can be mailed to The Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County 221 N Front St Suite 101, Wilmington, NC 28401.

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