Part Four — Visions of a Veteran
Imagine that you are a United States Marine soldier who has recently returned from nine months fighting the insurgents in the mountains of Afghanistan. Perhaps it was your second or even third tour of duty during this twelve-year war. You seem to have survived the war intact, but inside you are horribly scarred by what you have experienced. You carry an invisible backpack filled with a heavy load of guilt and grief. You don’t carry your weapon anymore, but you often feel like you might need one.
As you drive through familiar streets in your hometown, you are hyper-sensitive to the fear and possibility that there may be IEDs buried under the pavement. Pedestrians look suspicious and vaguely familiar even though you are thousands of miles from “the sandbox”. When you are in the Walmart, the shelves remind you somehow of the cliff outcroppings you used to hide behind back there. Loud noises make you jumpy and irritable. Sleep does not come easily and when it does, it is filled with images of horror and pain. Your head holds onto these nightmares that never end, and the worst part of all is that nobody understands, even though they say they do, even though they try.
For Richard Casper, war was a thief who stole his innocence over and over again in the four months he was deployed to Iraq. There is no recapture of what is lost.
But there is healing.
There is hope.
This veteran has a beautiful vision to help others who have suffered and ARE suffering as a result of their war experiences. He is starting a foundation for warriors like himself who find that creating conceptual artworks and working in ceramics, music and writing can restore wholeness and meaning to life.
Imagine an art facility open twenty-four hours every day and night. You walk into the building and spy a smiling receptionist at the front desk. “Can I help you?” she asks kindly.
You explain that you’d like to work with ceramics tonight, and she leads you to a room fully equipped with a potter’s wheel, tables everywhere and bags and bags of rich red clay. The color reminds you of the earth in the middle east. You sit down and begin to mold and and push the clay until time is long forgotten and you’ve made something beautiful. Or maybe it’s not beautiful at all, but you feel better so you just lump it all back into a bag and breathe.
Or maybe you’d like to record the new song you wrote. Or maybe you’ve got some photography ideas you’d like to experiment with. Maybe you just need a quiet place to gather your thoughts and pour them out on a piece of paper or dump them into a hard-drive.
Maybe just some watercolors and brushes will help you find the peace you desperately need. Keep it simple. Keep it real. Just get it out there. Even if nobody understands, at least you’ve benefited from the art experience and that’s good enough for today. And tomorrow’s another day, right?
Richard describes himself as a veteran and an artist. He’s a songwriter, too, with a couple of really great songs on YouTube. I hope you’ll go there and listen to this country boy for yourself. It’s so easy to just click here.
Richard believes that art therapy can not only bring healing to disabled veterans, but can also save lives. Mother Goose can only wonder if ceramics and art saved Richard Casper’s life.
His eyes light up and he smiles as wide as the sky when he tells Russ and me that his mom really and truly understands his art. Mother Goose wonders if the prayers and the whole-hearted, unconditional love and acceptance of his mother have saved Richard’s life.
He talked about his other ideas for helping veterans — his heart is pure and optimistic, full of dreams and plans and hope. He has a GREAT network of people who will provide all the publicity and business management and opportunities he needs to make his visions reality. He knows some very important people in Nashville and is determined to show the nation, show the world that disabled veterans can make a difference in our communities and our cities and government.
They’ve already seen hell and survived.
Imagine what they can do for the rest of their lives if given the opportunity to recover from the horrible stresses of war and violence. If they have the resources they need, our brave veterans can grow stronger and our great country will also grow stronger. Veterans need jobs, education, emotional health and well-being, and our support.
Will you remember The Ballad of Richard Casper?