Veterans Art Project seeks to bring awareness to military veteran suicides with art installation

Ted Williams, 67, a US Navy veteran has been in the program four years and said he likes to make things for his friends. Elizabeth Ortiz/ PhotographerLucy Patton, 75 who is a former Marine Core clerical worker, made the benches outside the arts complex at Saddleback College.Steve Diley, the ceramics instructor and head of the Veterans Art Project stands in front of one of the many kilns in the ceramic class area. Elizabeth Ortiz/ PhotographerLinda Ward, 56, is a systems engineerwho had to travel all over the world as a civilian so that our US plains can land.

The suicide death toll of U.S. military personnel suffering with post traumatic stress disorder after returning from active duty is estimated at 22 victims a day according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Veterans Art Project at Saddleback College is doing their part to raise suicide awareness through an art installation on the northern entrance of Saddleback Colleges Veterans Memorial on Nov. 14 – 21.

The art installation consist of multiple white gravestones, each with the number 22 on the front, signifying the number of veterans who commit suicide daily.

“That’s more than all deaths contributed after 9/11,” said Steve Dilley, ceramics instructor who leads the Veteran Art Project at Saddleback. “We are looking at a big wave of veterans coming back soon.”

The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) explains that this disorder occurs in many veterans returning home to the U.S and is related to fear that occurred, usually during combat. Symptoms include having flashbacks or feeling anxious, numb or depressed.

Dilley believes hands-on art making can help heal veterans who suffer from PTSD.

“Anytime working with art, it becomes a nonverbal means of communication, inexpressible through language,” Dilley said.

“I like to play with ceramics, it keeps my mind busy and I’m aloud to do what I like,” said Lucy Patton, 75, former Marine Corps clerical. “I made six ceramic tile benches out in the courtyard in the creative arts area [on campus].”

Joe Snyder and Jessica Nguyen have been coming into the VAP for over four years and both enjoy their time with other veterans.

Ted Williams, 67, U.S. Navy, has used his time in the VAP to make items from clay that would benefit his home.

“I just finished a large bird house, and have made platters and cups for friends,” said Williams. “This is the first sort of art class I’ve taken in my whole life.”

The Veterans Art Project is open 9 a.m to 3 p.m on Fridays in FA 209.