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.

We Tend Toward The Shadows (But We Long To See The Light)

We tend towards the shadows

But once we knew the light

We’ve stared into the gallows

While angels hushed “It’ll be alright”

We tend towards the shadows

Because we live in FEAR of light

For when you walk the shadows

The darkness protects from the enemy’s sights

We tend towards the shadows

Because there’d we know we’ll make it through one more night

We tend toward precious shadows

For there we know we’re safe to rest- and to look into the light

We tend towards the shadows

Awake through all of every night

We tend towards the shadows

Because we’ve seen– a time or two,

                              err, many more—

           the spark go out on LIFE.

We tend towards the shadows

Because we bear eternal fright

We tend towards the shadows

Because we’ve given with all our might

We’ve tended towards the shadows

But we long to be seen in the LIGHT.


—M.C.M., February 6, 2011; Vicinity 2227 hrs. “Moon in Scorpio” (or not)


21st Century ‘Band of Brothers’


     Following a usually fitful night of sleep (especially given some added remorse over the Patriots’ loss in Superbowl XLVI) I woke up to the phone ringing. I let it ring.. but then- as I began to wake- I went downstairs on second-thought and checked the caller ID. It was Ma.  But- what? Ma’s home?!  Called back… “I’m in the hospital– with your brother.” “Oh, God– what happened?” (It wasn’t serious, or what I fear hearing above all things.)

         Afterwords, I watched– for the millionth time– the video I took of me & Tali (my 11-month old daughter) and sobbed my eyes out. (I hadn’t seen her in two weeks, which felt like forever, and even the priceless time we spent felt numbered from the start. But alas, I digress…

       Today, February 6th, is the day I will go to the PolyTrauma center at the West Haven VA to have my brain examined for the first time since it was smashed inside my skull just over 7 years ago in a violent, point-blank suicide car bombing that left me wounded but “Walking & Talking.” After seven years, those of us who know me best (to include myself) aren’t sure how to segregate between problems caused by PTSD, and those caused by mTBI. As such, TODAY IS A BIG DAY. (And after the phone call and subsequent sob-fest, all I wanted to do was lay back down and sleep the day away.)

       Soon, though, the sun was up, and— with 200mg of Sertraline and 20mg of Adderall now traversing my bloodstream  as with every morning “as directed”— it was out for a smoke, followed by a stop by the “Inbox,” which only led to another sob-fest, but (as with the rest) it was a mixture of pain and hopeful optimism in spite of so much LOSS. And what I read went precisely as follows:  

        “Hi Matt, Please call me Bob, The ‘Welcome Home” is the most heartfelt Brother to Brother embrace a Vietnam Vet can offer another Vet. It took us twenty years to hear it from the American public. We made sure it would never happened again to our warriors, which is why our newest warriors are honored when they come home.  I guess you had to live through that vilification and rejection to fully get that one. Be patient with us VN vets when we say it, its our way of honoring you and your brother and sister Veterans. I just moved to Florida last Oct. after living in CT all my life. Hopefully I can visit with you all when I visit CT in the summers.  I was a regular at the VA West Haven for 18 years. I’m 45 years down range from combat now, and it has been a learning experience. Navigating the readjustment issues of coming home is like visiting a strange country by yourself, you can’t speak the language, and have have no maps. Finding a tour guide makes all the difference, so learn as fast and as much as you can from those who have gone through it. It’s like new guys counted on you when they arrived in country, we learn from others, as always.”   

         Well, folks, all I can say after that is, Thank God for Bob Johnsey, who–overnight– went from complete stranger to BROTHER with his own willingness to reach out to the “new generation” of wounded souls.  But if you can’t understand why this man’s words reduced me to a child-like outpouring of the soul,  you’ll never understand the PAIN and WEIGHT that is carried–and SHARED— by the “brotherhood” that no Hollywood special, no matter HOW moving, could ever capture such as it is felt in the hearts of SOLDIERS like me.. and, for that matter, Mr. Bob Johnsey.

—-M.C.M., February 6, 2012

My world comes crashing down…

Before the Veterans Art Foundation was even a concept weaving it’s way inside my brain, I was an infantryman. Some people don’t know what one is. It’s simply a foot soldier, a grunt, the front line troops.

Like everyone who’s deployed, I have war stories. I try not to exaggerate or embellish mine. For instance, I didn’t kill a hundred Iraqis with my bare hands. Maybe one by knocking out his chest tube. It didn’t look like he’d had a chance, anyways.

Truth be told, I never pulled the trigger outside the “wire.” I had made the choice once and was pulling the trigger as my squad leader stopped me from firing on an Iraqi National Guardsman who’d been tucked away in a window, above our heads firing rounds into the field before us.

The real problems I had didn’t start until I touched down with the rest of the first wave home after our 12 month tour was complete. The three weeks that followed were both the best and worst of my life. I’ll never have another time like that. In some ways, I’ll miss it. In others, I’m glad it won’t happen again.

The powers that be had decided to extend my unit, the 172nd SBCT out of Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska. Our unit was to take control of Baghdad for four months. The news spread like wildfire, through the media and eventually down the chain of command.

Soldiers overseas were lined up, ready for their plane roster, in hopes of getting home soon. The CO of the unit ripped the dream to shreds. Panic, anger, and disgust swept through our ranks, at home and abroad.

My own thoughts initially were to stay at home, to ride the surge out. The vast majority of us fought the urge to run, to cower, and to opt out medically.

Coming home from war as a unit is an amazing, unforgettable series of events. Being greeted by family and friends is heartwarming. Unfortunately, most of us had no one there to greet us. We’d been moved north for the remainder of our time in the army.

The only sign welcoming our unit back was taped to a dumpster in a parking lot away from the main roadway. If you strained your eyes, you might catch it. Regardless, our homecoming was bittersweet.

After the news rocked the city, fort, and soldiers (families too) our lives became chaos. We fought white rappers in the streets, drunkenly screamed at military policemen, vandalized, and womanizer. What else could we do but unleash the fear and horror of returning to the unknown of war.

Those weeks, without the fanfare, politicians and anger were the best of my life and I’ll never be able to find that again. Good or bad.

– Mike Hawley, co- founder.

Some wounds can’t be seen.
PTSD can be a death sentence, if untreated.