RUSSELL, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - For many people, especially veterans, finding the strength and will to get help with things, like PTSD, can be very difficult, but a Marine Corps veteran from Russell is working to help local veterans one paint stroke at a time.
In the front corner room of the Westfield Whip Manufacturing Company...
"We're going to be using a pallet knife to apply oil paints," Marine Corps veteran Steve Jones tells us.
Is an art studio, where Steve Jones finds peace.
"It's just really soothing," stated Jones.
The 46-year-old tells Western Mass News he hasn't always been a painter.
"The hardest part for most people with painting and making art is where to start," says Jones.
But after he picked up a brush, he quickly found out anyone can be an artist.
"Because you paint everything in the background first and then you lay on top of it," said Jones.
Steve was introduced to painting after serving eight years in the Marine Corps.
"I was in the federal building in Springfield getting my physical to join the Marines when 9/11 happened. The building had a bomb threat itself, so we had to evacuate and come back the next day on 9/12, so my actual enlistment date was 9/12/2001. Was deployed to Iraq in 2004-2005, was there for support of the battle of Fallujah, Operation Phantom Fury. Got out of the Marines in 2009. Thought everything was perfectly fine with my life, was ready to move on, and in 2012, the planet had a different idea of how I was doing and started experiencing some PTSD symptoms out of the blue. Couldn't explain why, but my friends that I had served with, also at the exact same time, were experiencing it. I don't what the reason was. Some of them were committing suicide, some of them were attempting suicide, and I was just feeling horrible myself. Not suicidal, but terrible," explained Jones.
Steve decided to go back to school, where he picked up a paint brush for the first time and felt a sense of freedom.
"I ended up learning how to paint feelings and emotions. I created a piece that set me free from all my awake time PTSD," stated Jones.
He decided to bring this method of therapy to other veterans and in 2016 founded Warriors Art Room.
"The very first guy that we helped came in, drew a picture of a guy with a gun to his head, and said, 'This is all I think about'. Not being a therapist or a counselor, I immediately referred him out and he's doing fine now. Once he saw the image that he drew he said, 'I don't want to be that guy," says Jones.
The non-profit has helped more than 800 veterans.
"I've found that once people get what's in their mind out and they see it visually, they're able to seek help for what they've seen. I just really, really, really enjoy helping people and working with people, and then here, you've got guys from different branches and that camaraderie comes back and you can share stories and you can talk. I like being able to share my story with other veterans, because then it encourages them, then they share with me. It's just so rewarding personally and then I get to teach them how to make art if they don't know how to make art, and when they discover that they actually are an artist, every single person's an artist," added Jones.
This month, we salute Steve Jones for his service to our country in the Marine Corps and his artistic hand in helping other veterans.
If you would like to nominate a local veteran, active or retired, whose story should be heard, you can email email@example.com.