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Art As an Escape: MND-B Troops Find Creative Outlets During Deployment

Spc. Howard Alperin, Multi-National Division Baghdad

1st Lt. Michele Johnson, a casualty platoon leader and Christian non-fiction author from Gulfport, Miss., spends time reviewing one of her writing journals, Oct. 31. She is participating in a writing contest that challenges each contestant to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  Spc. Howard Alperin

BAGHDAD Date: 11.03.2009

The stresses of a long deployment can wear on Soldiers.

While there are a variety of activities, here on Camp Liberty, some Soldiers prefer to focus their down time in a more personal way.

"It helps me cope with missing home," said Spc. Wilbur Deshields, an entry control point guard, with A Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. "You can only go to the gym so many times. Drawing is my mental escape. It gives me a chance to be creative. There's no limit to what I can do with my imagination."

For Deshields, there is therapeutic value in having a creative outlet.

"Whenever I'm mad, stressed-out or frustrated, that's when I get out my sketch pad," continued Deshields, from Akron, Ohio. "I draw best when I'm upset."

Deshields gets a lot of satisfaction by using his talent to help others.

"Sometimes, people ask me to draw a picture or an image for a tattoo. Other times, I draw something to cheer people up, to make them laugh," he said.

Creative outlets are another way for Soldiers to express their personal development during deployment.

"Everyone that comes to theater should leave as a different person. They should have had some transformation along the way," said 1st Lt. Michele Johnson, a casualty platoon leader and author, from Gulfport, Miss. "For an artist, you can see that transformation in their work."

Johnson, a published Christian non-fiction writer, writes blogs, poetry and songs.

"Writing is another way to get out what's on the inside; the feelings and emotions you're having about a situation or a person," said Johnson, assigned to the 271st Human Resources Company, Multi-National Division-Baghdad. "It helps me escape. It gets me away from the dirt and rocks. For however long I'm writing, I can focus on something else."

With her first fiction novel already published, Spc. Maria Beasley from Marfa, Texas, is using this deployment to publish her second novel and start work on a third one.

"For me, writing is a spiritual thing," said Beasley, a human resources specialist, assigned to Headquarters Support Company, DSTB, 1st Cav. Div. "It's about believing in the impossible."

Beasley gets her inspiration for writing from her interests, surroundings, the people in her life, stories she hears, and movies or television, she said. Her avenue for escape from the rigors of deployment is by transporting herself into another world with original characters, she added.

Having a passion or an art allows for the time to pass that much faster while deployed, according to these Soldiers.

"It's an outlet to express myself," she said. "It allows me to be who I really am. I let my mind get lost in the story."

Creative writing is good for helping to get through a year in theater, added Beasley. Her mind is always occupied with thoughts for her next chapter.

These Soldiers are proof that whether it is a chapter to be written, a song to be sung or an image to be drawn, finding an artistic outlet while on deployment is a constructive way to accomplish personal endeavors, wake up the mind's eye and beat back stressors from interfering with the mission.

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