With U.S. Navy Veteran Walter Smith’s art teacher, just a hop, skip and a jump away from the front door of his childhood home since he can remember his fondest times have always included creativity in one form or another.
As a child he dreamed of the day he could have a camera in hand to explore the vast wildlife of nature. Now, as an adult, you can spot him across local Delray Beach nature trails and parks capturing the essence of mother nature.
With the help of the VA Veteran Readiness and Employment (formerly known as Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment), the aspiring photographer was able to make his childhood dream his new reality with the deluxe gift of a Sony camera, laptop, and Photoshop software.
For over fifteen years, creativity continues at the tip of his finger with every photo capturing what lies behind the breezy trees and trails of South Florida.
The camera was Walter’s key out of the door. He still remembers the days he would approach his front door and twist the lock open to immediately twist it back to seal it shut.
The VA Creative Arts gold medalist says, “As a PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] Veteran, every day is a challenge. Photography helps my PTSD by allowing me to get out of my home and express myself without encountering too many people. When I take a picture, I practice mindfulness. I focus on the moment and by focusing that energy to capture my surroundings - It is that very moment that is my therapy for my PTSD.”
Leaving what he knows best, his home, to venture out into the unknown was something Walter would have never fathomed but is now his daily routine with not just the equipment of his dreams, but too the support standing behind him.
With great gratitude he expresses the immense support poured out over the years, “The Creative Arts team at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center has become my little mini family. They have changed my life and have opened so many doors for me. What really matters to me is that I know somebody that believes in me and supports me.”
This support has evolved into bonds through the display of his captured moments. As the saying goes, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’ this testament stands true with his inner voice being on display gravitating audiences and inevitably building connections among his fellow Veteran brothers and sisters.
His artwork speaks for himself. He says, “It allows me to kind of introduce myself without having to speak, I just share a picture. It is my way of expressing myself, my creativity has always been my inner voice. The feedback I get from pictures is so satisfying and just so great to hear.”
With every adjustment to the lens to see the picture clearer, Walter replaces difficult battle images in his mind, with new peaceful images of his South Florida explorations.
For more information on Creative Arts Therapy, please contact Recreational Therapist Shashanna Hummer via email: Shashanna.Hummer@va.gov.