Navy Veteran and creative writing gold medalist Patrick Ward is excited to share his work at this year’s Vet Gala at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF). His featured story can be found among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.

“Writing has helped bring me back to the person that I want to be,” Ward said. “I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to be here and to share my story with others. We all have stories to tell. My hope in telling mine is that it inspires someone while I’m here.”

Inspiration and healing

Gary Beckwith, creator of the annual Veterans Literacy Jam at Battle Creek VA Medical Center and one of this year’s NVCAF writing event organizers, says he hopes Veterans realize their potential and leave feeling healed.

“I believe that writing can be a cathartic experience,” said Beckwith. “The writing workshops and Vet Gala were designed to, not only highlight the talents of our writers, but were organized with the hopes that Veterans leave here feeling inspired.”

During the festival, writers take the opportunity to speak about their writing and how it has affected their health, emotional well-being and recovery.

Army Veteran Otto Espenschied has used writing to help him overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and cope during a nine-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Recently receiving a gold medal for his short story titled, “I Don’t Have PTSD,” he explains that writing and participating in this year’s festival has helped him understand that he is stronger than he ever knew.

veterans in writing workshop

Navy Veteran and creative writer, Patrick Ward (right), listens during a discussion at the writing workshop at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. Ward’s story is among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.

“It’s hard to dream when you’re barely holding on,” he said. “Writing has helped get me through some tough times, but I’m alive. I can hug my daughters and my wife each day. What more can I ask for?”

Each year, the NVCAF showcases the many talents of Veterans enrolled for care at VA medical centers across the country. To learn more visit:

Melanie Thomas, MBA, is a public affairs specialist at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

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Published on Nov. 5, 2019

Estimated reading time is 2.1 min.

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  1. SClikes December 5, 2019 at 3:03 am

    This is a unique type of art., Patrick Ward is a golden name in the creative writing field. This talent is helpful to people who suffer Traumatic Stress Disorder.

  2. Mira Naanes, LMHC, BFA, MLA, MEAT November 10, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    This is beyond wonderful!!!
    I have experienced 1st hand the healing power of creative arts, and horse therapy. It thrills my heart to see the arts and horse therapy offered to Veterans throughout our country. I would welcome the opportunity to join with a pivotal team working on developing the expansion of creative arts throughout each state, beyond Veterans enrolled for care at VA medical centers. Let’s talk. Mira

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