Combat Veterans Use Art to Experience Healing

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Former army medic and Warrior StoryField artist, Bob Lecy. Photo by Robert Bellows/Warrior StoryField.

Written by Devin O’Branagan

Six years ago, Longmont artist Robert Bellows was working on an eight-foot, four-thousand-pound metal sculpture of a rooster, a private commission which can now be seen at Alfalfa’s in Boulder.

Two Iraqi combat war veterans got wind of the project and asked Bellows if they could help. This causal collaboration turned into nine months of teamwork and transformation.

As Bellows handed over more of the creative decisions to the vets, it changed them. “Something in these guys softened,” Bellows said. “And it changed me, too.”

When the rooster project was complete, the vets asked him, “So, what are we going to build now?”

Bellows replied, “I don’t know, but whatever it is it’s going to be about you guys. About coming home from war. About the war you carry after the war. About transforming back into civilian life.”

Inspiring a team of veterans and civilians to express themselves through art is the essential heartbeat of the Warrior StoryField project.

There are now approximately forty veterans, women and men, involved with the Warrior StoryField project. Working on the sculptures provides the artists an emotional opening, a connection and helps to rebuild trust.

According to former army medic Bob Lecy, “Trust is one of the first things lost in war. Rebuilding that and relationships with others is one of the major struggles of coming home. The real purpose of this project is to have a safe place to tell our stories and not feel judged.”

Photo by Robert Bellows/Warrior StoryField.

The construction projects currently underway include a sixteen-foot-high metal dragon, representing the warrior’s experience in training, service and at war, and an eighteen-foot-high metal phoenix, representing the many transformations every warrior faces upon return to civilian society.

The stories of these combat veterans are built into these sculptures, which they hope will someday be placed facing each other in a large park. The artists want a sanctuary for veterans to be able to process the experience of war.

Terry Cohen, a civilian involved in the project, explains that endgame will be, “Not a monument to the fallen or a tribute to the war, but an expression of the living.”

Warrior StoryField is about the healing of relationships; not only the relationships of veterans with the fractured parts of themselves, but also with others.

Mike Marzano is a former New York firefighter who was called upon during the 9/11 attacks to bring his technical rescue experience to the recovery efforts of the World Trade Center.

Marzano was drawn to Warrior Storyfield because his late father served in Korea, his older brother served in Vietnam and because “I have my own trauma, my own set of challenges and I can really relate to these guys. For me, this is the real world.”

Warrior Storyfield is a family of warriors who use art as their language. By collaborating on these large art projects with civilians, a much needed community dialogue begins. These conversations serve “as a powerful conduit for the voice of veterans, their families and their community,” according to the Warrior Storyfield website.

Warrior StoryField invites donations, would embrace more veterans, and is looking for space to establish their sanctuary. To learn more about the project visit www.warriorstoryfield.org.


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