25 July 2009

Stand Down San Diego

I returned from Stand Down San Diego last Monday evening. These are the good people who started the Stand Down movement which assists homeless veterans, now with more than 200 events across the nation. A tent city using military tents, cots, and supplies is created by active-duty Marines. Homeless veterans and family members come into the campus early one morning. It's a safe environment where they are fed, housed, and cared for with dignity and courtesy for 2-1/2 days. They are given access to clothes, drug and alcohol treatment programs--that accept many participants during this very event--dental care, medical care, medicines, optometry, acupuncture, massage, podiatry care, spiritual counseling (if they choose), and entertainment each evening. I served as a tent leader and helped ensure that the 30+ men assigned to Lima tent were cared for and received the services they needed. I was paired with a great & wise warrior named Don. I wish I had a picture of him to share with you.

The amazing folks of Veterans Village San Diego (www.vvsd.net--YOU must check it out online!) help support this project with volunteers, supplies, transportation, and many veterans are accepted into their treatment program directly from the Stand Down event. Led by clinical director and goddess Marilyn Cornell, and assisted by the talented and lovely Jerry Stadtmiller, and the generous Kate Webb, and a host of friendly and brilliant people, this facility is a gift to the people of San Diego. I think it's a model of care for the whole nation, providing veterans with food, housing, counseling, job counseling, job training, yoga and creative arts workshops to help heal their minds, bodies, and spirits. At Stand Down I met many of their graduates--many now volunteering at Stand Down--and they are great people! They even have a Stand Down manual online here: http://www.vvsd.net/standdown.htm. If you don't have a Stand Down event currently in your community, start it, now! It's estimated that more than 1/3 of all the homeless in the U.S. are veterans. Having any homeless in the U.S. is appalling; having so many veterans among them is a disgrace. YOU can make a difference!

No matter how I try to describe this event, my words will not do it justice. Marilyn describes it as a cross between Woodstock and a family reunion. Stand Down is a time and place where we all come together as equals and everyone who participates is enriched, not just those who are assisted with a hand up (NOT a hand out), but those who volunteer. It is a life-changing event!

02 July 2009

Vet Art Project USA Begins!

The Vet Art Project started with an idea created because of a radio program featuring Edward Tick, author of War and the Soul. My plan was to begin the project here in Chicago and grow it across the country because there are veterans and family members of veterans and active duty military personnel in need of our support everywhere; and artists are everywhere, too. So . . . we just launched the Vet Art Project USA page on our Web site: vetartproject.com. Please visit it and see where we're growing projects already with contact names and e-mail addresses. Don't see your city listed? Want to get involved? Send an e-mail to lisa@lisarosenthal.com to see how you make a difference!

Do-ing, Not Writing!

Hello Friends,
We here at the Vet Art Project have been very busy over the past month. We've been busy DOing, not writing. We've . . .

Done a Mapping Workshop at the Chicago Cultural Center, led by psychologist Jan Johnston

Appeared at the Sharing the Power Mental Health Conference to talk about the healing power of art and the Vet Art Project

Performed "The Journey of a Soldier" and led a talkback with veterans in the audience & Christina Reddington offered a creative arts workshop on telling stories with pictures instead of words

Presented a program, including art created in the project, at a DePaul University Veterans event talking about the Vet Art Project and finding ways to work with the veterans at DePaul

And we've had many meetings building our network of support here in Chicago and around the country!