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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Healing Myself through Art

National Veterans Creative Arts Festival

Judy Hill with her award
winnng artwork.

Army Veteran Judy Hill served her country for 23 years, from 1977 until she retired in 2002.  After returning to home to Monroe, Louisiana, Judy obtained an Art Teaching Certification in the event that she needed to work. It turned out that teaching was too stressful and she decided not to pursue teaching.

While serving her country as a computer hardware/software analyst in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Judy was subjected to sexual trauma, a stalker and bombings.  Fortunately, Judy's husband Danny, also in the Army, was stationed with her and was there to support her through this.  Both were assigned to the 3rd Army/ARCENT Headquarters.  Her youngest son, Brandon Dalton, also happened to be deployed to Saudi Arabia with the 1st ID, an Army tank unit based in Kansas.  Her other son, Scotty Dalton, was also in the Army during this time.  "Professional women in Saudi Arabia are an oddity.  I had to go outside of the base on the local economy to purchase items and was frequently subjected to the local Saudi men's actions.  You just deal with it and continue doing your job," said Judy.  Her stalker turned out to be a fellow soldier whom she had never met.  He was caught by the CID after Judy's husband Danny insisted they follow her.  In the meantime, Judy continued working 17 hours a day as if nothing was wrong.  "You don't know who is friend and who is foe.  I was also followed by terrorists," she said.  After the soldier was caught, the bombings started – day and night.  During all of this her husband became ill and was sent to Landstuhl, Germany, while her son was on the frontlines.   All of this led to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which Judy didn't even realize she had.  "I thought I was fine, but I wasn't."

Judy was seeking help through the Women Veterans Program at the VA facility in Shreveport, Louisiana when her counselors told her she was using her artistic skills to self-medicate.  As an artist, she enjoys sculpting, oils, painting, drawing and print-making.  Her gold-winning piece at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, Eight Desert Faces, has been a healing process for her.  The faces in the picture depict memories of the bad things that have happened to her.  "Art is a healing process and has helped me deal with my PTSD."  It was her counselors who recommended that she contact Sandy Franks, the  Public Affairs Officer who was coordinating the first Creative Arts competition at the medical center.  "When I notified Judy that she had won the gold medal and was invited to the Festival she was so excited.  She is so thrilled to be representing our medical center and was honored that her artwork was so well received.   Judy bubbles over with enthusiasm and her excitement is contagious," said Franks.

"The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival is more fun than I ever thought it could be.  I really enjoyed the tour to Terra Studios.  It was so well put together – calm, relaxing and fun," said Judy.  "I have also enjoyed being with my fellow Veterans – we've all been there."  Judy's cousin Sarah accompanied her to the Festival, and her husband Danny is also here.

By Susan Varcie, program specialist, VA National Sports Programs and Special Events

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