The pathway for healing comes in many different forms for Veterans. For one former soldier, it came in the form of a paint brush and a papier-maché mask.
David Frye joined the Army in 1986 as an infantryman. He served for more than 27-years. One day while at Dallas VA Medical Center for an appointment, he came across the Veterans Day Mask Masking Mural Project and discovered a new approach of expression.
The project came together through VA North Texas Health Care System creative arts therapist, Melanie McClure. It’s a way to give Veterans an opportunity to voice their stories using art. The masks were then made into a mural to be displayed at Dallas City Hall for their virtual Veterans Day event.
“We’ve had several Veterans come in and make these masks to tell us their story and how they took on their identity as a Veteran,” said McClure. “More than 20 Veterans came in and painted the masks using any craft items they wanted.”
Red, white and blue for patriotism
Frye said his mask (pictured above) has several different meanings to it. For example, the red, white and blue show his patriotism both pre- and post-military service. After transition from the military, Frye was a semi-truck driver and incorporated his experiences with being on the road into his personal mask painting.
“I drove all over the place and that’s what the blue represents. The white is a division between frustration and anger of just dealing with other drivers, civilian life and things like that. The black horizontal line is the division from everything in life and being calm.”
Masks represent feelings, experiences
The Veterans who took part in the art project created a mask to represent their feelings and experiences as they accepted their identity as a Veteran.
After completing his project, Fry didn’t want to stop with his creative endeavors.
“With this project I am able to get a referral to do different art and express things with VA. My grandfather taught me to paint when I was younger but I’ve never done anything quite like this. This is another outlet for me.”
Beneficial value of art therapy
McClure believes art is a powerful tool of communication. She wants each Veteran to feel supported and heard through their own creative process.
“It’s an honor to be able to have Veterans engage in this opportunity. [We want them] To understand the value of art therapy and how impactful and beneficial it can be on their lives and mental health. A Veteran’s identity can be overlooked or underappreciated and I want them to know that we do appreciate and support them and are thankful for their service.”
Jennifer Roy is a public affairs specialist with VA North Texas Health Care System.