Army Veteran Uses Art To Honor Fellow Soldiers

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A U.S. Army veteran is using his talents in a unique way, to pay tribute to those who’ve served in the Armed Forces.

Jeff Metheny paints with toothpicks.  It’s a talent he discovered while overseas in Afghanistan.  But, it also helps him deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

At a glance, the paintings look like many others.  But, look closer and you’ll find they reveal a unique story of one veteran making a difference.  Metheny was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, and it’s what happened there that gave him a new sense of purpose.

“I don’t know what it was about Afghanistan, but something just kind of clicked and I started painting,” said Metheny.  “I didn’t know it then [that] I was suffering from PTSD, and this became my own art therapy.”

There was one problem with his newly discovered passion.  They had no paint brushes.  But, he found an alternative by accident, while eating lunch.

“I took the toothpick out of my mouth and when I did, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed I had chewed it down to look like as paintbrush.  And we had plenty of toothpicks.”

Metheny realized there were memorials dedicated to servicemen and women who had died.  But, he wanted to also honor those who had lived.  So, he began painting on the flag poles with toothpicks.  His work received recognition from Slovakia, Great Britain, branches of the U.S. military, and even Vice President Joe Biden.  Metheny returned home a year later and was medically discharged due to injuries sustained overseas.  He says that was one of the toughest times in his life.

“When it finally went through, it was even more difficult, because there was a finality to it.  But I’ve discovered other ways to serve,” he says.

He created sets of paintings which showcase the VA, as well as every branch of military. 

“I’d like these to be a living memorial to them. These paintings here represent each branch of service.  And each branch is separate, but we’re all united under the flag,” he says.

He also has veterans sign the back of their respective branches.

The paintings can be found at some veterans foundations, as well as at the VA clinic in Rockford.  Soon, they’ll be posted at the VA hospital in Madison and it remains a valuable outlet of his expression through a dark period.

“Doing something, anything whatever it is, to get your mind off the horrors of war helps.  There’s creative ways and there’s destructive ways.”

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