I maintain my ties with my fellow veterans at my Legion post. We are located at the top of the WI map and our town logo is “Wisconsin’s Last Wilderness.” We meet through the frigid cold months of winter and recite the preamble to the Legion constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance. We promote “peace and goodwill” to veterans and our larger civilian community.
In 2021, I became aware of the Veterans Affairs Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center (OGJVAMC) Art Competition in Iron Mountain, Mich. Right away, I recognized the opportunity to share an aspect of our lives that tells our stories in creative ways.
The local representative at OGJVAMC for the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, “Boone” Jesse Kerley, CTRS, sent me a copy of VA’s 2021 Competition Handbook and assisted me in submitting and tracking the judging process. As a creative writer and poet, I entered the art competition in the Creative Writing Division by submitting a poem I wrote that would be judged locally. In September 2021, I received notification that I was awarded first place in the category “Poetry Non-Rhyming” and that my poem would be submitted to the 2021 national festival and would await their judging process.
There are many creative categories in this competition headed by chairpersons who organize specific division logistics. The process is streamlined for participants and veterans are encouraged to submit works of art, craft, creative writing, dance, drama and music. I submitted the poem “Compatriot,” which tells a tiny story through the eyes of my dog, Winchester. The language of the poem makes it clear that the dog is primarily concerned with his “master’s” success and well-being. The poem is about loyalty, duty, commitment and comradery.
Yes, dogs (and cats) are capable of all that and more and are wonderfully significant in healing and promoting the well-being of their human friends. VA medical facilities also recognize the benefits for veterans to be able to creatively express and share their work in their #Arts4Vets program. “Compatriot” combines both happiness through pets and creativity through language arts, and won second place in the national competition, which I am very proud of. Locally and regionally I have exhibited my poetry and now, thanks to a VA competition, my poetry has risen up to national recognition.