“Remembering is easy… it’s forgetting that is hard…” – Ron Whitehead, Desert Storm Veteran and Art Teacher in Ossining
What is life like for a veteran who returns home from war? This is an important question that is often neglected, according to John Rizzo, a photojournalist who created Our Path. This film and photo exhibition about the struggles of local war veterans was recently presented at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry. Rizzo interviewed three Westchester-based veterans MarieAnn C. Raguso, Theodore K. Ottman and Ron Whitehead, who shared with him their haunting stories about their service and lives after war. The veterans revealed the numerous unexpected issues they must confront—from waiting for months to be treated by an overloaded Veterans Administration Health Care system (VA) to having suicidal thoughts caused by feelings of being isolated from their families and friends. In creating this project, Rizzo hoped to increase awareness of the difficulties veterans are facing, and most importantly to encourage support from the community. He explains: “When a veteran has the chance to talk about his experiences, the healing begins…The strength comes from bonding together. Community support in its simplest form does a great deal.”
Similarly to Rizzo, Ron Whitehead, one of the veterans featured in the film and an Ossining art teacher, uses his work as a voice to support other veterans like himself. The veteran co-founded the Living History, a five-year-old project that pairs Ossining students with veterans to create personalized artworks that portray the veterans’ stories. Whitehead feels grateful that his work allows him to make a difference. He explains: “What helps me is helping others.” On January 19 at the Ossining High School, there will be a presentation of Our Path at 12:15pm, followed by a panel discussion. This project is supported by ArtsWestchester’s Arts Alive Grant. Students, faculty, and local veterans are invited to learn about the issues that local veterans face.
Arts Alive Grants are made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program (DEC), a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NYS Legislature, and administered by ArtsWestchester.
For more info, visit: johnrizzophoto.com.
Image above: Ron Whitehead (photo credit: John Rizzo)