Friday, September 3, 2010

Writing is therapy: veterans open up and share their experiences withothers ... therapeutic writing helps veterans express themselves andbuild self-esteem.

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"I think I wrote myself out of the hospital thanks to HVWP," Van Garner said, referring to the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project.

Garner, a member of Chapter 6 Chattanooga, Tenn., is a 76-year-old disabled veteran who served in the U.S. Army in Germany and in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War era. After suffering a nervous breakdown in 1960, Garner recalled his "recovery seemed impossible." But, while hospitalized in a Tennessee VA medical facility, he heard about HVWP which provides hospitalized and outpatient veterans an outlet for sharing thoughts and experiences through therapeutic writing. So, he decided to give it a try. He didn't do well at first, but he kept trying until he won a fourth place prize in a hospital contest. It was the boost he needed.

Garner wrote with renewed enthusiasm. Finally, one of his stories was printed in Veterans' Voices, a magazine established in 1952 to provide hospitalized veterans returning from World War II an outlet for writing. Started by Margaret Sally Keach and Gladys Feld Helzberg, with assistance from the Greater Kansas City chapter of Theta Sigma Phi, it has since become a component of the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center recreation and rehabilitation program.

"I came alive!" Garner said. "My writing has helped me overcome my mental illness. It's worth supporting HVWP, because it helps so many people overcome the difficulties they face."

The Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project got its start in 1946, when journalist Elizabeth Fontaine convinced members of the Chicago North Shore chapter of Theta Sigma Phi (now known as the Association for Women in Communications) that "writing is good medicine" and ideal therapy for veterans in VA medical centers. With their support as writing aides corresponding with patients and the approval of the VA, the project was launched.

Initially the program had no funds and used donated supplies, personal typewriters and penny postcards to serve hospitalized veterans nationwide. It wasn't long before DAV and Auxiliary members learned of the program and have supported it and Veterans' Voices in showcasing the writing of thousands of veterans who write for pleasure and rehabilitation. With the exception of a part-time office manager, the project has an all volunteer staff supported solely through contributions. Veterans' organizations, such as the DAV and Auxiliary, provide the largest source of financial support.

Auxiliary Past National Commanders Dorothy Van Hoy and Rose Marie Schilpp are active in the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project. Van Hoy became a member of the volunteer board in 1974, and Schilpp has been active for approximately 25 years and currently serves as the project's vice president. She also supervises the mailing of Veterans" Voices three times a year.

"There are many ways we can serve our veterans," Van Hoy said. "I have found HVWP gives the veteran, inpatient or outpatient, a way to bring back memories, express innermost feelings and recall good experiences and much more. It's also an opportunity to see their work in print."

"There is no entry fee for submissions," Schilpp said. "Veterans need only submit their writings through their VA medical center in order to be judged and submitted for printing."

"Veterans open up and share their experiences with others," she added. "The therapeutic writing helps veterans express themselves and build self-esteem."

Former Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Leah Ann Jones can attest to that. Medically retired in 1991 after more than 13 years in the military, Jones suffers from bipolar disorder. She has been involved with the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project for nearly four years. Her writing includes five prize-winning short stories. She also helps with the mailing of Veterans' Voices at the Kansas City VA medical center.

"I'm a big advocate of creative writing," Jones said. "I like it because HVWP is a national program. Veterans' Voices gave me the chance to be creative. For me writing is extremely good therapy. I hope those who read what I write are motivated to write, as well."

For veterans like Van Garner and Leah Ann Jones, it is a prescription for good health. Your support of the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project can help fill that prescription.

To learn more about the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project, visit The Web site features samples of veterans' writing, how to submit writing and other items of interest.

Source Citation
Hall, Jim. "Writing is therapy: veterans open up and share their experiences with others ... therapeutic writing helps veterans express themselves and build self-esteem." DAV Magazine Nov.-Dec. 2009: 10+. General OneFile. Web. 3 Sept. 2010.
Document URL

Gale Document Number:A213030186

Disclaimer:This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.
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