Wake County

‘They’re fighting back with the paintbrush now’: Therapy art made by Marines on display

A lone Marine wades through chest-deep water, his gun held over his head. A helicopter kicks up dust as it takes off next to a burning building. Two Marines drag a bleeding companion up a sandy hill as a Medevac helicopter approaches.

Those images and others go on display at the N.C. Museum of History on Sunday as part of an exhibit of paintings and sculptures produced by Camp Lejeune Marines as a means of recovering from their physical and emotional scars.

The exhibit, “Healing the Warrior’s Heart through Art,” is sponsored by the American Red Cross, which directed the art therapy program. It features more than 20 paintings depicting military scenes, as well as written and video testimonials from the Marines who participated in an art therapy program at the Wounded Warrior Battalion-East based at Lejeune.

The program is led by Craig Bone, a noted wildlife artist who has worked with military personnel for eight years.

“This is how I thank them for their service – with a paintbrush,” Bone said.

Bone, who is from Zimbabwe and now lives in Tampa, Fla., was injured in battle in 1976, as a member of the Rhodesian Army. As he recovered, he turned to art.

“I did a painting in bed in hospital, which drove the nurses crazy,” he said. “There was oil paint everywhere and all that, but I actually managed to do a painting.”

Bone says he sees many wounded Marines suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He says painting helps them cope with the trauma and allows them to work together as a team to create art.

“It’s very therapeutic for them,” Bone said. “They’re fighting back with the paintbrush now. They put the gun down, and they’re picking up the paintbrush.”

The exhibit also features written and video testimonials from Marines who participated in the program. A quote attributed to Sgt. Richard Ung said the program “allowed me to express things that I could not express with words.” Staff Sgt. Adel Manuel Abudayeh said that while painting, “I started coping with memories that had been causing me pain for years.”

Ken Howard, director of the N.C. Museum of History, says he hopes the art can connect the public with the soldiers’ experiences.

“We hope it will help people realize the incredible sacrifice these soldiers and veterans have made for our country,” Howard said in a statement.

Bone’s favorite memory from the program was working with the Marines to produce a painting of seven Marines who were killed in a helicopter crash. His team worked for two weeks and presented the work to the Marines’ families.

He said the work helped the Marines develop a sense of purpose in life after war.

“These guys – they’re supposed to be at home taking pills and drinking beer and stuff,” Bone said. “Instead, they’re up there and everyone wants to shake their hand. It’s a big step for them.”

Sam Killenberg: 919-829-4582

If you go

“American Red Cross: Healing the Warrior’s Heart through Art” goes on display Sunday, June 25, at the N.C. Museum of History, 5 East Edenton St. in Raleigh. The exhibit on the third floor, next to the new “North Carolina and World War I” exhibit and will remain on display through Jan. 7, 2018.

Museum hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call the museum at 919-807-7900 or visit ncmuseumofhistory.org.