GOAL – to promote peace while embracing, rather than alienating, our nation’s veterans; men and women who have the potential to be the strongest teachers of peace through their experiences and understanding of war.
Ashlar’s Combat Arts programis for and by vets designed to deal with eliminating or dramatically reducing debilitating symptoms. We at Ashlar firmly believe that the symptoms of traumatic stress reflect injury, not inherent psychological weakness. We provide safe relationships in which trust can grow and veterans can tell their stories in their own time and in their own way with the support of other vets. Our job is to educate, support and guide veterans through a process of giving expression to his or her story through telling, through writing, through arts processes and where the veteran makes the decisions and is in control. Once the vets have experienced the processes themselves and had additional 30-50 hours of further education, some will become mentors to other vets as well as well as peer educators to the larger community in all things toxic stress.
Who better to work with a vet than another vet? Who better to teach the community about the results of war than a vet?
We also work with the veteran’s families, educating them about the underlying brain changes in their vet that causes challenges, suffering and can lead to destructive behavior to him/herself or others. We teach them about the healing processes through which their vet will be led and how the family will change once symptoms have been reduced or eliminated. We invite family members to participate at any level they choose but the educational phase is required.
Our multiple techniques are adapted to arts processes – even though the vet may feel totally lacking or disinterested in creative expressions, we find that making art aids in giving form and expression to unspoken memories and extends language in ways often more accessible than words. For those interested, free studio time is offered along with different arts media such as drawing, sculpting, collage and more Our arts deal with theme of Reclamation, Redemption and Memorial. in the early 1980's, our founder created a specialized writing programs, so we know well the positive results of writing for healing. WE have a small hand-book on our methods that is nearly ready for distribution (stay in touch). For information on the history of this tradition we refer people to work done by awarding winning poets Ellen Bass and Maxine Hong Kingston. A book: Veterans of War --Veterans of Peace emerged from Kingston’s workshops with veterans writing for peace. Currently, there is a great deal of literature available written by soldiers and embedded journalists. For example: The Yellow Bird by Kevin Powers and The Things They Cannot Say by Kevin Sites.
For those veteran artists who want to share their Story with the general public, we offer gallery installations and exhibits, readings of written work and performances. Making public the war story has proven to be very important to many and provided a needed entrance into their communities again. Nobody is pushed to make any part of their story public, but it is our duty to wholly support and lend visibility to our veteran artists and writers who do choose to do this. Through work done with refugees and others who have experienced violence and war, telling the story to a larger world brings the Teller out of isolation and gives them hope that they have been heard.
When the veteran’s story is shared, the public gain a genuine sense of what they expect from these young soldiers whose sacrifices are no longer abstractions. The art work and writing of our war veterans are important beyond their own healing and point those in the general public toward our need to act and emotionally understand that the 22 suicides a day are real people. Our soldiers need to re-enter their communities through their stories and have them received and held so that the general public understand the devastation of war.
The Ashlar programs include regular workshops covering topics like: Arts Instead of Words; Pillars, Spirit houses for continued healing; Self Care; What does Neuroscience Teach Us; What Happens in Families of the Traumatized; Writing through the Body and more.
Core values of Ashlar: safety, vet controlled processes, transparency; protection, the belief in community.
For specifics of the program see webpage and go to ashlar.org