How do you get an injured service member to talk about an injury they don’t want to talk about?
Give them an art project.
“I was like, ‘I’m a soldier? You want me to color,” said Staff Sgt. Dwayne Gadsden, who was skeptical at first.
“It does help,” said Gadsden, an Army flight medic who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury after being deployed to Iraq three times.
“In my job, you don’t see scrapes, burns,” said Gadsden, “You’re putting people back together, basically.”
He’s one of dozens of injured service members going through rehabilitation, counseling, and physical therapy at Madigan Army Medical Center’s new Intrepid Spirit Center.
The center officially opens next month, but art therapist Brenda Maltz has been working with veterans for almost a year on base. For some, painting masks gets the soldiers talking about their injuries.
“It works for because it’s a non-verbal form of therapy,” said Maltz, “It helps them put together the unspeakable.”
She said working on art projects can get some traumatized veterans to open up about their incidents.
Gadsden said spending an hour with two of his children making a collage with magazine headlines and photos helped his healing and strengthens his family bonds.
He’s preparing to retire after a 20-year military career and said getting help now will prepare him for his next career: being a stay-at-home father.
He's glad the military is willing to help.
“You’re used to attacking people, killing people,” said Gadsden, “You come back and it’s hard to turn that off.”