Published On: October 19th, 2015|441 words|1.6 min read|
Looking into the history of the Durham VA Medical Center, you will find a long-standing culture of art and creativity.
It is not surprising to discover that four representatives from the Durham VA Medical Center performed on stage during the Creative Arts Festival that opened Oct. 18. For some, this will be their first experience at the festival and for others a welcome return. Each will bring something special, and a little piece of North Carolina.
U.S. Navy Veteran Dolores Day rediscovered the arts through her local VHA Women’s Health Clinic PTSD/MST program almost 20 years after graduating from Dowling College in New York with a Bachelors of Arts in music through VBA’s VA Vocational Rehabilitation program. Working with Jillian Thompson, her music therapist, Day became more familiar with the program and the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.
“We had music therapy and [Jillian] also invited us to watch some of the previous shows on videotape,” she said. “I thought wow, that’s pretty cool!”
Day attended her first Creative Arts Festival in 2012 in Boston.
“What impressed me a lot with the other Veterans was how they reached out to each other, how they would gather and talk about their personal experience. How they reached out to other Veterans and helped them heal from those unseen wounds they experienced in war zones,” said Day, “That was really impressive to me.”
Day explains that although she sang for enjoyment, performing became part of her military experience. She was a regimental song leader in the Fleet, often invited by the Red Cross to perform at military hospitals.
“Lots of times I’d be walking around with my guitar strapped to the back of my uniform, so I could go to the clinics and visit servicemembers with injuries,” she recalls.
Looking back on her hospital performances, Day also remembers visiting Vietnamese children, who were napalm victims, as a profound part of her experience. She would stop and sing for servicemembers and others, alike. With a smile she says, “the song I have been invited to sing is ‘500 Miles’ – and it occurred to me, when I was active duty, I know I sang this song, walking around the hospital. “
When Day performs the song on Sunday, singing the lyrics “Lord, I’m one, Lord, I’m two/Lord, I’m three, Lord, I’m four/Lord, I’m 500 miles away from home/Away from home” she notes, “This is bringing it full circle for me. They didn’t realize that when they asked me to sing it.”
Megan Warren is a Public Affairs Officer at the Durham VA Medical Center in North Carolina.