As the family member of a hospitalized veteran, you hold a key to your loved one's well-being. You can encourage your veteran to write. Too often veterans find themselves in a negative state of mind. Writing can unlock a stale mind and propel it into a positive outlook. Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project (HVWP) works along with the VA medical system encouraging patient veterans to write and submit their work for possible publication in Veterans' Voices.
I am living proof that through writing, one's outlook can be transformed from a negative influence to a positive approach. The first articles and poems that I had published in Veterans' Voices propelled me, a hospitalized veteran at the time, toward mental freedom and eventual release from confinement.
My involvement in HVWP has been a dream come true. It all began in January 1961, when I entered the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. I'd had a nervous breakdown while serving in the U.S. Air Force. A psychological illness, schizophrenia-paranoia, had drained my body and mind of all elements necessary to compete in the world as we know it.
In my depressed state, I thought my young life of 27 years was over. I existed in body only; unaware of what was going on around me. Through this tragedy came the catalyst for hope, HVWP.
I had always wanted to write, but thought I didn't have anything worthwhile to say. Eventually, I began entering HVWP writing contests and was surprised when one day, I was published in Veterans' Voices. Needless to say, I began to gain some confidence from this success. Periodic notes from the editor and occasionally from the HVWP president fueled a desire to explore further my writing potential.
Anyone who has a family member in a VA Medical Center can perform a miracle by helping their kin begin writing. I know from experience that veterans feel the need to be heard. A kind word from a loved one or friend concerning a manuscript can send spirits soaring. This goal coincides with HVWP's purpose-to instill in the hearts of writing veterans a feeling of value and worth. As a writer for some 42 years, I look back on when I was depressed, delusional and speechless. I thank God for HVWP and the written word, which helped me transform darkness into brilliant light and afforded me the warmth of love and caring.
I'm told that the spoken word is soon forgotten but the written word lives on forever. The power to unravel mysteries about self becomes possible with HVWP's assistance. It's wonderful to know that you, like HVWP, can encourage a veteran to explore his mind through writing, thereby uncovering truths that promise a new beginning.
Since the founding of HVWP 60 years ago this year, writing has renewed the spirits of thousands of America's veterans. Their words, like the words I write, tell a story of love and caring, a powerful duo in anyone's life. HVWP and you, the veteran's family member, can make a difference. Encourage someone you love to begin (or continue) writing! It's a clear mind that emerges after a spell of writing.
Van Garner writes regularly for Veterans' Voices. He is passionate about the power of the written word and the importance of writing as therapy. Many of Van's articles encourage other veterans to write.
I am not sure that I can express how much the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Program and Veterans' Voices has helped me over the years.
My dream was always to write something important before I die. You cannot imagine how valuable the HVWP is to a disabled veteran like me.
It was my dream to be a writer since I was a young lad. Veterans' Voices magazine has given me the opportunity, many times, to put my words on paper in a public forum.
I have won a few cash prizes for my efforts. The money has helped me and my wife. We are both disabled and with limited resources; it is sometimes hard to make ends meet. The money was great, but it was not the best thing for me. For me, the best part of the program is the actual writing from my experiences and then seeing my name in print. You just can't know how good it makes me feel to be published in a national magazine and know that my story might help another veteran in the process.
Veterans' Voices magazine has helped me come out of a very thick shell, one that I would have never thought I could escape from. I have come back to a life that I thought was gone forever. I was in a very deep depression, and death seemed like my only course of action. I had tried to take my life several times. Then a nurse therapist at the VA hospital told me about the HVWP. Writing for this project has kept me alive ever since. And for me, a disabled veteran who was on the brink of suicide, that means a lot!
Many other veterans value the HVWP and Veterans' Voices magazine as I do. Any dollar or time well spent that goes toward furthering the magazine not only helps us veterans who write, but also helps the many veterans across the nation who read Veterans' Voices.
I encourage everyone who reads my testimonial to consider helping the HVWP because this organization has helped me more than I can say in this short essay here.
Michael Harrod, a regular contributor to Veterans' Voices, is a writer and artist who hopes to inspire other veterans to begin putting their ideas and thoughts into words. He has written a book with the purpose of helping others to write.