Each year thousands of Veterans enrolled at VA health care facilities across the country compete in the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition, many in the poetry division.
Navy Veteran Richard Lundy loves to write and was excited to hear that he had won third place in the poetry division this year. This is a third medal for Lundy, who competed for the first time in 2016.
“I feel very humbled and fortunate to have won with so many applicants that submitted their work into the competition,” Lundy said. “I really didn’t start writing until I turned 75, and my poor little old English teacher in Osage County would be shocked to hear that I had won anything for writing,” he said with a chuckle.
Lundy proudly holds up latest medal
Lundy, a retired history teacher, never thought of himself as a writer but came to the realization that his stories could be lost if he did not record them for his children and grandchildren. It is his hope to encourage other Veterans to record their stories as well.
Veterans heal and grow in Art Therapy group
In the Navy, Lundy worked as an aircraft engine mechanic. He suffered hearing loss from working around the roar of the engines for long periods of time. After the military, Lundy taught history in the Claremore area for approximately 30 years. Upon retiring, he decided to move closer to Muskogee.
Lundy soon began entering his work in the national competition with the help of staff at the Jack C. Montgomery VA. Fast forward to 2021 with two medals behind him, Lundy decided to compete again.
That is when he met Marlene Diaz, peer support specialist, who was coordinating the local entries for the competition. Lundy also learned Diaz facilitated the Art Therapy Group for the Eastern Oklahoma VA.
“The Art Therapy Group is just one of the many peer support groups available to our Veterans,” said Diaz. “I have watched several men and women heal and grow through this program. Once they begin to understand they have the power to help themselves, it empowers them.”
“Among friends when I walk through the door.”
Peer support specialists, like Diaz, serve as role models, sharing their personal recovery stories and helping their fellow Veterans with goal setting, problem solving and managing symptoms with a variety of tools.
Lundy was previously part of a creative arts group and missed the camaraderie he had with his fellow Veterans.
“This group is really wonderful, and the people here are great,” said Lundy. “It can be hard to meet people when you have hearing issues but everyone here has a common background. The moment I walk through the door I know I am among friends.”