Veterans Night of the Arts

Veterans Night of the Arts

Veterans’ Night of the Arts
Tuesday April 22, 7pm

Sacred Heart University
5151 Park Ave, Fairfield, CT 06825
Schine Auditorium

Poetry, Drama and Music Dedicated to Recovery From Mental Illness and Deployment.

Non-perishable food items, household items and donations will be collected for homeless Veterans.

1000 Words Contest

1000 Words Contest

We’re accepting submissions!

OUR FIRST CONTEST With a Randomly Drawn Prize of $100 for your writing/art! April 1st – 25th.

The more you submit the more chances you have to win! People who have submitted earlier this year, are retroactively entered.

The VAF is starting a Bringing 1000 Words Project. We want you (veterans and families) to take a picture, artwork, portrait, landscape, etc. that’s yours and write about it.

It can be the story behind your work, poetry, an essay, a speech, one word 1000 times over, what inspires you, anything in that vein. Or even a letter to someone you love/miss. You can write words over your work, as inspiration or just for the heck of it.

We ask that you be a veteran (noncombat included) or a family member. It can be anonymous, or public. Just email us the piece, let us know if you want your name on it.

It’s designed to broaden our understanding of art and motivations, along with self or group healing. It can be happy, sad or anything on spectrum.

We will display some of the work that comes in…

Please share with your friends/family!

The VAF’s second Podcast

Listen to our second podcast as I interview Matt Mack, a combat veteran from the early days of Iraq.  He was blown up by a suicide bomber in a car and lived to tell the tale.  Hear what it’s like to survive and recover from a bombing.

The Veterans Art Foundation’s First Podcast!

His Untitled Work

His Untitled Work

Interview With Jay Pizarro:
Listen to him talk about his painting, influences, symbolism, Vietnam and healing. I also had the opportunity to interview him.

Special Thanks to him for his time and openness!  It was great to interview him during a few weeks back. He’ll talk about his war time experiences, coming home and hope.

1000 Words

1000 Words

Welcome Home
By Michael Hawley

There’s nothing like coming home after a wartime tour. Sometimes it’s beautiful, yet others have a tragic edge. It didn’t seem that way for us

In 2006, 371 soldiers, myself included, from the Alaskan Stryker Brigade touched down upon the ground in Fairbanks. We were greeted by the cool summer weather associated with sub-arctic regions, but after the simmering desert heat of Northern Iraq, it was a welcome treat. We were “home.”

The battalion I hailed from hadn’t lost a soul over the past year. We’d plenty of wounded, but nary a single soldier had been killed.

Our group was the first wave returning from war, the vanguard. Most of us were single or geographical bachelors, with little family or friends in the region. There was a bit of chaos and furor when one of the men lost their night vision goggles, causing everyone’s bags to be searched, and delaying us hours upon arriving at the hanger.

Enterprising souls had placed beer and liquor on our beds to welcome us home. I ended up with Killian’s Irish Red, a beer I loathed and instead of drinking myself into oblivion at such an early hour, I settled in for a long summer’s nap.

Other men didn’t relax. By noon, one man was dancing upon the Chile’s bar. He followed this antic up by punching another soldier in the face. Luckily, the cops let it slide. It was a mournful sign of things to come.

The following day, awful rumors spread through the barracks, unit, fort, and the city itself that our unit had been extended. Even the 24 Hour News stations had picked up the story.

It couldn’t be true, we were home. Home. How could anything like this be possible, I thought. “Fuck that, I’m not going back.” I said, quickly regretting the words as they spilled from my mouth.

Across the ocean, in the Middle East, men and women had packed their gear, weapons, and even vehicles into storage and they were lined up, thinking they’d be given the itinerary for plane rides out of the desert heat. The news hit them first. Unpack your shit, you’re headed South to Baghdad, for another 4 months.

The news broke fast and furious, but for those of us in Alaska, life was limbo. Generals, politicians, and civilians alike pondered our fate. On one hand, “You’re the best unit there is, you’re going back to save Baghdad,” and the other, “We don’t know what’s going to happen to you, you’re already here.” For three weeks, the 371 of us lingered in the unknown.

Rage, spite and bitterness started wrapping itself around my soul and it didn’t take long for an explosion. I became a walking IED.?.

The third day back, I drank myself stupid and the next day, I’d fought a massive hangover and lost the battle. During stretches of our morning exercise, I spewed grape juice, across the green grass and my PT uniform. Instead of drinking that night, I remained sober.

I’d been flirting with a local girl and watched an argument spiral dangerously out of control across Midnight Mine’s small parking lot. It took seconds to realize it was our men. Pushes, punches and kicks felled a pair of obnoxious locals spoiling for a fight. Regardless of who was at fault, they’d called one of our men a “Nigger” and that was enough.

I remember the fight, well most of it. One of the men who’d been stomped regained his feet, walked up behind a short recon sergeant and punched him the ear. The man must’ve outweighed him by 50 pounds. As the soldier fell, he shattered his ankle, and was unconscious before he hit the rough pavement.

The assailant lined up to kick our man while he lay prone. Without thinking I began to kick him across the parking lot as hard as I could. It was a fun fight, until the posse showed up. Reddot, a white rapper showed up with a yellow lead pipe with tassels and began clubbing us. He clubbed me first, across my lower back, but I stood, and threatened to “break his fucking knees.” I was so calm, he ran from me.

Live or die, I didn’t give a fuck. I was probably headed back to Iraq.

I turned around and saw a half dozen men. I hadn’t noticed them before, but assumed they weren’t friendly, so I began kicking everyone I saw. For ten seconds, it was like a Bruce Lee movie, then reality hit and it hit hard. I was pounded into the blacktop and when I woke up, cops and ambulances surrounded me. The picture above was taken immediately following the fight. Some of us broke hands, others had bleeding on the brain, and the sergeant with the broken ankle was forced to stay behind in Fairbanks for surgery.

The following three weeks were a blur of women, booze, and an occasional painkillers. Most of the 371 returned to combat. Many were shattered, below the surface, including myself.

Thousands remained in Iraq while this occurred, and soon we were reunited in sun-drenched Baghdad. Our boots touched down upon the dusty airfield in Iraq with unseen wounds, despair and a strange sense of brotherhood. If we were going to be fucked, we’d be fucked together. It took me years to heal and in some ways, I still am.

Even when I tell the story, nearly breaking down at times, I cannot convey the horror of having our lives ripped out from under us. To me, there was no escape, no hope and I figured it was the end. Our own suicide mission.

Those four months cost lives. The unit lost it’s only man, Alexander Jordan, a man we’d called a brother, a man who should’ve been home in a just world. This story’s dedicated to him and all the men we lost those final months. You’re not forgotten, at least among us, the unlucky 371.

1000 Words

EXCITING NEW ANNOUNCEMENT: 1000 Words (You can tell because of the Caps Lock)

The VAF is starting a project called 1000 Words. We want you (veterans and families) to take a picture/artwork/portrait/landscape, etc. that’s yours and write about it.

It can be the story behind your work, poetry, one word 1000 times over, what inspires you, anything in that vein. Or even a letter to someone you love/miss. We’d ideally like it to be 1000 words. It can be anonymous, or public. Just email us the piece, let us know if you want your name on it.

It’s designed to broaden our understanding of art and motivations, along with self or group healing. It can be happy, sad or anything on spectrum.

I’ll start one off by posting it Wednesday. We’ll see what type of momentum and power. Perhaps sometime next year, if we have enough work, maybe we’ll publish it (with your permission of course) in a book. Let’s see where this takes us at the VAF.

The 1000 words includes the title.  You can swear, we’ll just label it NSFW.

You can submit at our Facebook Page:  Or email me at


It’s been way too long since we updated the Blog.  For this I’m sorry, the fault rests with me (the founder – Mike Hawley).

We’ve concentrated on Twitter and Facebook over the last two years and it’s been productive.  However, this could be the heart and soul of our community.  Where we share writing, art, etc. 

There have been many changes over the last two years.  I’ll just list the recent ones .

  • We’ve grown in popularity and internet following
  • I’m now a social-work intern, who will concentrate more on our internet presence.
  • We’ve a meetup group (and attend others too)
  • We’ve added a pair of wonderful volunteers (Rachel and Adam).  Without them, the foundation wouldn’t have made it this far. 
  • We’re hosting our first major art show on September 7th
  • And much more….stay tuned for more. 

The next few updates will be about what’s going on with our foundation.  Some will be good/bad/ugly as far as what we’re doing.