U.S. Marine Richard Casper was hit by a blast on an Iraqi road in February 2007. It was the fourth time he’d been hit by an explosive in just four months.
After Casper returned to his home in Illinois, he suffered from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some veterans with PTSD find comfort in yoga. Some find comfort in hiking. But for Casper, his comfort came through art.
It wasn’t long until Casper co-founded an organization to help other veterans like him find an outlet in art, music, and writing. The nonprofit, CreatiVets, began in 2013 and continues to flourish today.
Sometimes, CreatiVets sends veterans to Chicago to study with the best at the School of the Art Institute. Other times, the group sends veterans to Nashville to work with skillful musicians. Today, the group has helped over 80 people.
One such person, Tommy Houston, collaborated with musicians through CreatiVets to create the song “Yellow Balloon” for his daughter. Houston shared the song with his daughter in a YouTube video that has now garnered over 400,000 views.
The art program is equally as successful. Though CreatiVets hasn’t made any Van Goghs yet, it does provide an experience that allows veterans to tell their stories and provide relief from their stress and anxiety.
In addition, the art program gives participants the opportunity to showcase the pieces they make in a gallery to raise public awareness about veterans’ psychological and emotional health after coming home.
“Personally, it was very hard for me to talk about my Iraq war experience, and [I] avoided questions about it,” said a CreatiVets participant. “I didn’t want to revisit the sad feelings or horrific memories. It wasn’t until after I began to tell my story to people that I felt a sense of relief from some of the grief I held inside.”