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)

****WRITTEN FOR, AND INSPIRED BY MICHAEL HAWLEY, MY WARRIOR-SOUL-BROTHER

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND RESEARCH INSTITUTES, INC.

71 West 23 Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10010 · 212-845-4400 fax: 917-438-0894

Eloise E. Dunlap, Ph.D. Director, ISPR 212-845-4497   JoAnn Sacks,Ph.D. Executive Director/CEO, NDRI

The Veterans’ Health Study

The Institute for Special Populations Research (ISPR) within the National Development and Research Institutes (NDRI) is conducting a health study with veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) who returned to and have been living in New York City for the past 6-24 months (‘recent veterans’). This study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the V.A. Office of Research and Development. The goals of the study are to understand the reintegration process and to identify any specific challenges this population may face upon their return.

This study will use a method called respondent driven sampling (RDS) to recruit participants. Our staff must recruit up to 20 ‘recent veterans’ who are well networked to their peers. These will in turn recruit their friends, acquaintances and/or family members to also be part of the study. Our target sample size is 300 recent veterans.

Participating in the Veterans’ Reintegration study will involve taking a 1 1/2 hours survey on demographics, recent military experience, drug use history, HIV risk behavior, mental health history among other themes. All participants must give their informed consent to take the survey. All components of the study will be strictly confidential: no participant names will ever be collected in the survey. All participants will be financially compensated for their time.

National Development and Research Institutes contacts:

Morgan Cooley /Alex Bennett, PhD

Research Assistant/Project Director

646-361-7336 / 412-297-6026 (cell)

cooley@ndri.org / Bennett@ndri.org

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.

Our Mission

The Veterans Art Foundation’s small and doesn’t have much in the way of space/money/equipment.  However, we have something just as good, reach.  While we may not have until we have sponsorship or a businessperson in charge (not me).  We can provide opportunities.

We’ll continue to open doors for Vets or act as a go between.  Please utilize the opportunities to further yourself and your art (if that’s what you’re trying to do).  It will benefit us by lending credibility and expose us to a greater audience.

By this I mean art shows, film festivals, poetry collections, gallery openings, music  promotion, dance and sculpture to name a few.

I can understand struggle and failure.  In the beginning I tried to publish a memoir with the funds helping the VAF.  I was rejected soundly and gave up.  It’s a bit different now.  With the VAF we can breach the wall.  There are days I doubt my own skills or ability to run the program.  There are plenty of more talented people out in the veterans world who can benefit with our help.  All it takes is an opening to make a mark on the world.

Screenplay: SATIN FIST

I’m attempting to attach a downloadable PDF file of a screenplay.  It’s based on PTSD, DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell), and revenge.

It’s called Satin Fist, which is a play on the old Iron Fist type films.  Please feel free to download it and feedback’s welcome.  We hope someday to produce it locally or in Hollywood.  It’s a second draft, so it’s a bit rough around the edges.martial art movie

The stigma needs to be removed…

Veterans, Cops, and other people in stressful jobs find it hard to admit they’re having problems.  The main reason is dealing with the Stigma that comes with admitting mental illness.

I was an infantryman for 4 years with the Stryker Brigade in Alaska.  Infantry is full of alpha males and people who want to be perceived as mentally and physically tough.  I was guilty of heaping some scorn on a fellow soldier for coming to terms with his issues.  I thought I was tougher and less likely to suffer PTSD or other mental health issues.

It wasn’t because I was tougher, I’d say.  I was just calmer and rational about violence and stress.  That was just in the moment, however.  I tended to become emotional and angry after.  I’ve been in fistfights, bar fights, and altercations since Iraq.  I’ve also been recalled in the military after being out for 2 years.

What changed my life for the better was realizing the problems I was having and becoming proactive.  I’d accidentally fell into the vet center through a friend.  It took years of work and medication to calm me down and put me on the right path.  The Vet Center helped me form this nonprofit and set goals.  The VAF’s where I want to work and create for the rest of my life.

There are a number of resources for veterans.  I’ll highlight the Vet Center today and more later.   Active duty military have a hard time finding them or getting involved.  I was lucky, but the word needs to be spread.  Here’s a video and a link to the Vet Center homepage.  They’re confidential.  While under the VA, they’re not required to share information.

http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/