Invisible Wounds of War attempts to make visible the invisible wounds of war. It offers a supportive space for North Carolina Veterans to tell their stories, to bring into the light the wounds of war that often remain hidden, and to speak about what is typically viewed as unspeakable.
How can we, as a community, rise to support Veterans in a way that facilitates connection and hope? Listen deeply to each story, and try to receive each one with an open heart. Allow the stories to stir your own untold story. See if you can meet whatever arises with kindness and compassion. When one person shares their story, it gives permission to one more to do the same. I like to imagine a world in which we all share our untold stories in the interest of healing.
There is tremendous healing power in narrative. Writing can help to make order from the chaos, and photography can make meaning of experience where language fails. The featured pieces of writing were created by the workshop participants and include works about their invisible wounds from war and letters of compassion to themselves.
The photographs reflect themes that include self-portraits, healing and community. The self-portraits were collaborations between the Veterans and me in which the participants wrote a self-portrait and then designed an image from the writing based on how they desired to be represented. I offered technical support and served as a stand-in while they held the camera and composed the image. We then traded places, and I clicked the shutter to make the image that they designed.
Isolation emerged as a prominent theme during the project. Veterans from all war eras across our nation are dying by suicide at a rate of 22 Veterans per day. The courageous participants in this project decided that they want to transform the Veterans’ narrative to a narrative that ends with hope.
It is an honor to serve our North Carolina Veterans through this deeply meaningful project. It has offered more opportunities for connection and healing than I could have ever imagined. Please join me in meeting our North Carolina Veterans with compassion, connection and hope, one story at a time.