When I was a young girl, my basement playroom was filled with my father’s Army jackets, helmets, bags, and belts. I loved wearing all of his gear. My mother cut one of the belts to fit me, and I wore it for years. My father rarely talked about his experience in the Army other than a brief mention of his time attending West Point Military Academy. As a child. I had no clue what war entailed, and I didn’t really understand my father in the context of his military training and service until much later, after he had died.
In 1990, while working as a Counseling Intern at a Mental Health Center for my Master’s Degree in Counseling, my very first client was a Vietnam Veteran who had served in the Army. 25 years later, I still recall his face, his story and the intensity of his suffering in vivid detail.
I still didn’t have a clue about the depth, severity and widespread occurrence of the invisible wounds of war until 2003, when I began working on a contract basis as the Coordinator of the Independent Living Needs Program for the Veteran’s Administration (VA) in Georgia. Words fail to describe what happened as I interviewed hundreds of Veterans and began to wake up to the reality of the aftermath of war. It was also during this time that I finally began to understand the ways that my father’s military experience had shaped him.
In 2007, I moved to North Carolina and began working with Veterans who were interested in writing about their combat experiences. Writing and photography have the power to heal. They help us to make order out of chaos and helps to bridge connections with others when talking about things feels impossible.
In 2014, I joined forces with Kyle Horton, MD, MBA, Internal Medicine physician in Wilmington. After a little over a year of regular planning meetings, Invisible Wounds of War was created, and we received grant funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council. This project represents all of what I love doing in my work—facilitating opportunities for healing through writing, photography and mindfulness.
Kyle and I both are passionate about Veteran’s concerns and about working on a project that we hope offers healing for NC Veterans. We hope that this project serves to offer some measure of healing for Veterans through writing and mindfulness workshops and photography sessions. We also seek to educate health care and mental health providers about Veterans’ concerns and needs. We hope this starts a community conversation that results in the general public having a greater understanding of and compassion toward our North Carolina Veterans.
Please join us:
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If you’re a North Carolina Veteran, consider submitting writing about your own invisible wounds on our “Submit Writing” page
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We look forward to connecting with you!