Warrior Songs is hosting a four-day creative arts healing retreat at The Siena Center in Racine, Wisconsin from Wednesday December 6th through Sunday December 10th. This retreat is completely free to veterans. We even have a travel stipend of $25 to help cover the cost of their travel. The retreat is open to any veteran from any time period who suffers from PTSD or MST and has a sincere desire to heal. We have spots open for 15 veterans. No creative arts experience is needed to participate. Interested veterans should apply here at the link here.
To learn more about our process please continue reading
The retreat is structured on the work of my good friend, Dr. Ed Tick. In his book “War and The Soul”, Dr. Tick outlined the warriors journey and points to how good our country is at sending our veterans off to war, and how we often fail at welcoming them home. He points to a need for civilians to bear some of the responsibility of the actions of the veterans, who went to war and served in their name. It’s an oversimplification of Dr. Tick’s work, but put simply, in order for veterans to fully heal from the psychological and emotional wounds of war, veterans need to be able to communicate the truth of their experience and civilians need to hear it. This is the final step of bringing our veterans home.
Over the 4-day retreat, veterans use the creative arts to share their stories of their journey. We start with boot camp and move all the way to deployment and finally to returning as a different person as the one who left and the new battle they face with the enemy in their mind (PTSD). Each phase is explored through a different art modality, sometimes writing, and other times painting, we even create a song from the group experience.
Healing from PTSD requires processing the experience and the trauma, but recounting an experience in a detailed linier account will often aggravate a veterans PTSD. They are triggered by the memory and so they try to repress the memories. They isolate, they avoid, they self-medicate…they do everything they can to not remember. PTSD makes it very difficult for veterans to talk about their experience. However, there are other ways to get to the trauma that don’t require a linier detailed account. We do this through the creative arts, where you can paint a feeling, or the part of the story you are ready to tell. Also, when they show the art, they can communicate their truth without having to be the subject of the conversation. Instead of the listener looking at the veteran eye to eye, which can be disempowering and very uncomfortable, both the civilian and the veterans can look at the artwork, adding a layer of protection to the veteran. The creative arts allow the veteran to explore what they are ready to talk about in a way that isn’t as triggering as traditional talk therapy.
Integrated into the program are educational pieces about how PTSD effects the brain, and symptom management methods such as relaxation or breathing techniques. The retreat culminates with an art show and presentation where the community can come, see, and hear the work the veterans have created. Allowing civilians to hear the truth of our warriors and completing the often-missing final piece of the warrior’s journey. It may sound simple, but I’ve witnessed miraculous healing from these retreats. Veterans write us afterwards to tell us how much this changed their lives. Here are a few of those letters veterans wrote to us and asked us to share.
I left Warrior Songs with such a peace that when I returned home and saw my sister, and my shrink. I didn’t even have to say, “I did such and such” because I was glowing like Moses when he came down from the mountain after visiting with God. They saw the difference in me before I even opened my mouth. Kimberly L. Heartsong, Lt Colonel (Retired) – Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan
As a Vietnam vet, what these retreats provide is so instrumental in not only our individual healing, but by providing a venue for, camaraderie with more recent war veterans , fills a need for not only us individually, but will reap benefits for generations to come. That our communities would donate monies for me, someone they will never meet, to an experience such as Warrior Songs, touches me deeply. In a demonstrative fashion, your donors generosity, coupled with the empathy of your facilitators exposes a worth; and nurtures us resulting in expressions that to have witnessed such, even as one of the walking wounded myself, is so private, so personal, so precious; I'm returned to my family, my community, filled with compassion and appreciation for what we warriors carry. Rick- Vietnam Veteran
I can't say enough in praise for the Warrior's Song workshop/retreat I attended this past month. It's been over 40 years since my return from the conflict in Vietnam, for the first time I've felt acceptance among my peers. I feel that my isolation, failed relationships and sketchy career have been vindicated in the truth telling of our stories, my experiences have been validated. Now I am free to speak my truth because of you all, able to accept my place as "elder", no longer a pariah. Through art, through poetry, song and writing, Warrior's Song has made it possible to speak the unspeakable. Ray – Vietnam Veteran
The Warrior Songs Retreat helped me tell a story that until recently only a precious few people inside my tightest circles were privy to--that I had spent a decade trying to bury and forget. Until that point, I had never picked up a paintbrush, and was blown away by what I was able to create, without even trying and having no training whatsoever. Something inside me had changed, for the good, forever. When I returned home from the retreat, my wife immediately recognized that my eyes were clearer, I had more bounce in my step, and a massive burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I discovered that in painting I had the perfect way to put memories down on canvas, in order to get the bad feelings out of my soul – Jesse Iraq Veteran
Thank you and please remember
PTSD is not a weakness and we don’t leave our wounded behind. Thank you for listening.
Founder & Executive Director of Warrior Songs