take my amateur art practice to the next level, building a professional fine
art practice, I noticed the artists I admired most were pursuing something they
were deeply passionate about. They pushed their ideas to the fullest potential,
digging deep into their subject matter because that’s what makes great art.
literally full of trash as I was making art out of discarded materials) I
decided to follow a new path. I began exploring a very difficult subject matter
for me: being an angry Army wife. As I started to express this to my professors
they were very intrigued. One commented, “I don’t even know what that means –
what does it mean to be an angry Army wife?” I then posed the same question to
myself wondering, what does that
my life very difficult and yet I felt I couldn’t do anything about them. What I
didn’t know then was that my husband was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD) and I was developing Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(Secondary PTSD). My husband spent years struggling to receive help from the
Veterans Administration (VA) because his injuries, both mental and physical,
were invisible. When we couldn’t get the help we needed we were both stuck,
feeling powerless, and when you are powerless long enough it starts to make you
meant I used a lot of red paint, a color that matched my anger as seen in my
painting titled, The Pentagon.
I also tried a performance titled, Support Our Troops, in which I dressed like a 1950s housewife and
carried around my husband’s box of old army gear – everything left from his
time in the Army National Guard – a box we will carry around with us our whole
lives. I didn’t talk with anyone about the box during the performance because I
felt I wasn’t allowed to talk about it in real life.
performance by Sarah Dale
me out there – partners of veterans who felt helpless about their situation. That’s
when I developed an ongoing community project online titled by the group Instagram
spouse experience and then repost them to the group feed. I avoid images and
text we are all used to seeing, such as happy photos of women welcoming home
soldiers, and instead search for images usually hidden from mainstream media like
PTSD medication arriving in the mail,
signs asking neighbors to be courteous with fireworks, and red night lights used around the house to name a few
examples I’ve found thus far.
at the bravery of these fellow veteran partners. It takes guts and
vulnerability to share difficult moments with the whole world online, but I can
tell you from first-hand experience that two incredible things happen when we do share pieces of our veteran spouse
REBOOT Combat Recovery Leadership Academy, Arlington, VA, 2015
with the world because we are no longer the only one carrying them. Sharing my
experience through my art has lifted my burden in ways I didn’t know were
possible. Secondly, other loved ones of veterans find out they are not alone.
My husband and I didn’t get the help we truly needed until we met some amazing
people at REBOOT Combat Recovery who have
walked with us through our healing journey in incredible ways.
start sharing your content with us using #VeteranSpouse. We’d love for you to
join us in sharing your experience. Trust me, it is liberating and can be truly