Veterans of the battle of the invisible scars of war with art


Veterans across the country are using creative expression to relieve the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and are getting more support from the Congress.

In 2016 an additional $1.98 million in funding was added to the National Endowment for the Arts budget for the support of the Creative Powers, the NEA Military Healing Arts program. In 2017, it will expand and five art therapy sites are added to the seven currently spread across the country. The program is a partnership between the NEA and the Ministry of Defence and it brings creative arts therapy at the center of the patient-focused treatment for veterans, soldiers and their families.

The program has had positive feedback from veterans through surveys and evaluations carried out by the National Intrepid Center or Excellence (NICoE), Walter Reed Bethesda. Of the military patients, 85 percent said the therapy is useful for their healing.

Wally Kollmann served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He has the last 45 years of fighting PTSD and has turned to art therapy. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 26 percent of Vietnam veterans suffered symptoms of PTSD or signs of impairment related to the condition in their life.

“I have nightmares during the last 45 years forced in a cage,” said Kollmann

His work was recently featured in a national creative arts festival in Jackson, Mississippi. The exhibition gives the veterans the opportunity to express their creativity.

“I hope that by to do and see what I have here I can help release and I think it is, it is the letting go of pressure,” Kollmann said.

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More than a hundred of the thousands of veterans who applied were chosen for the presentation of their work. Elizabeth Mackey is the director of the annual event.

“It is a great form of therapy for veterans with PTSD and other mental health problems,” Elizabeth Mackey, director of the annual event, told

Michael Rogan, also served in Vietnam and was diagnosed with PTSD after returning home to California. He relies on art therapy as an outlet of expression.

“I start drawing and I get exactly that emotion,” said Rogan “I’ll be in touch with myself. As I sit here and talk to you all day and never think that kind of thing.”

Although art therapy shows promise in the treatment of veterans with PTSD, some say that more research is needed.

Dr. Charles Marmar, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center. He is also the director of the PTSD research program at NYU Langone Cohen Veterans Center.

“I don’t know that creative arts therapies will reach the level of the primary or the gold standard treatments,” Dr. Charles Marmar, chairman of the department of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center told “I think that at least as important adjunctive treatments.”

Marmar, who is also the director of the PTSD research program at NYU Langone Cohen Veterans Center, said that if there is more conclusive research has been completed on art therapy, he would be the one of the most important treatments for people who suffer from PTSD.

As for Kollmann, he is the hope that the expression of trauma through art, will help him overcome the nightmares he endured.

“This is art, it is a wonderful program,” Kollmann said. “It’s great therapy for all of us that are coming back from Vietnam or a war. It has really helped me.”


Willie James Inman, is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Jackson, Mississippi. Follow him on twitter: @WillieJames

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