"I'm not trying to scare you with this stuff...it's a reality check...how soldiers in combat gotta deal with this mess...the reality of combat," rapped Anthony Sarpy, an Army veteran and participant in Lovell Federal Health Care Center's 2014 Veterans' Creative Arts Festival.
The annual festival took place on Feb. 27 at Lovell FHCC's Bourke Hall. It was a day-long event, with the visual arts submissions competing in the morning and the performance pieces competing in the afternoon. Many patients submitted pieces and performances for consideration in a variety of categories ranging from paintings to sculptures to original vocal songs.
Sarpy, a patient of Lovell FHCC's Stress Disorders Unit, wrote and sang a rap, "The Realities of Combat," about his experiences following his three tours of duty in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan. Like some of the other artists, Sarpy's submission was created well before he saw posters advertising the event.
"I wrote this song about two years ago, when I was facing some tough issues. I wasn't ready to share it until now," Sarpy said. At the urging of his peers and providers in the Stress Disorder Unit, Sarpy entered his song and performed at the festival. Sarpy's performance won first place in the original vocal song category.
Jim Frohnapfel, a Navy veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, also created his pieces before seeing posters for the event. He submitted several entries, including a hand-made leather cellphone case and a hand-made board game. Frohnapfel's entries both placed second in their categories. Although he did not win, Frohnapfel, who currently resides in Lovell FHCC's community living center, is not discouraged from submitting pieces again in the future.
"I've done this event in the past. It is a fun event. I like working with my hands and it's nice to show people what I can create," Frohnapfel said.
Sarpy agreed and said it was a positive experience for him, also. Many of Sarpy's peers from the Stress Disorder Unit attended the event and cheered him on during his performance.
"It was really great to look out on the crowd and see all the guys there," Sarpy said. "I appreciated their support."
Sean Gartland, recreation therapist supervisor, organized the festival and was very happy with the event.
"I think it is great that so many veterans participated," Gartland said. "We had some beautiful artistic submissions. The paintings were very unique, and the hand-made pieces were incredible. The crowd was especially pleased with the performance pieces. The songs had lots of people tapping their feet and clapping their hands!"
First-place winners from each category of visual and performance art pieces will move on to the national competition in Milwaukee this October.
Gartland said that this type of event is great for Veterans, regardless of whether they place.
"This competition is a great outlet for our veteran patients at Lovell FHCC," he said. "They use artwork and performance to be expressive about their experiences, and they have the opportunity to be recognized for that work. It's a great competition, and we wish all of our winners the best of luck as they advance to the national competition."