Three Local Veterans Participate in National Veterans Creative Arts Festival - Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
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Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System


Three Local Veterans Participate in National Veterans Creative Arts Festival

December 4, 2013

In January 2013, the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center (JCMVAMC) joined VA medical centers around the nation for the annual VA Creative Arts Competition, which serves as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help Veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities.

Veterans have the opportunity to enter more than 170 categories in art, music, dance, drama and creative writing. A national selection committee chooses first, second and third place winners among all of the entries and select winners are then invited to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

More than 3,400 Veterans participated in the 2013 competition and approximately 150 Veterans were invited to attend the national festival, which was held Oct. 21-27 in Reno, Nev. Among those invited were three JCMVAMC Veterans, Curt Douglas Russell and Connie and Wanda Lockwood, who are husband and wife.

Russell and Wanda Lockwood, both Army Veterans, won first place in the Vocal Group Patriotic - Music category, while Army Veteran Connie Lockwood won first place in the Solo Interpretive Performance - Dramatic category.

The festival was the first for Russell and Wanda Lockwood and the second for Connie Lockwood, who was invited to attend the 2008 festival.

Connie credits VA’s creative arts program and the 2008 festival with saving his life.

“If it hadn’t been for the creative arts, I wouldn’t even be here today,” said Connie, who contemplated taking his own life in 2008. “I’ve been waiting five years to go back and say thank you for saving my life.”

In the past five years, Wanda has heard plenty of positive stories about the festival from Connie and was thrilled to be able to experience it for herself this year.

“It was amazing,” said Wanda. “I met a lot of interesting people and it felt like we were all family. We had a lot of fun and there were all kinds of activities.”

Throughout the week, the three Veterans had the opportunity to attend art and music workshops and meet other Veteran artists. They were also among 120 Veterans who were chosen to sing in the festival choir and they spent most of Oct. 21-26 in rehearsal. On Sunday, Oct. 27, the choir performed for the public at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.

“You start with this raw product on Tuesday and you get this finished project on Sunday,” said Connie. “You think you’re never going to get there. But after all the hard work and practice, it comes off really well on Sunday. It’s like an amazing transformation.”

Connie said the long hours in rehearsal paid off.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” he said. “Everybody comes on Sunday and put their very best forward. It’s an exhilarating feeling.”

Russell said his favorite part of the festival was sharing stories with other Veterans.

“I really met a lot of nice people,” said Russell. “That was the best part about it was meeting so many good people, very encouraging people. It’s like meeting an extended family support group.”

All three Veterans said they’re already working on their entries for the 2014 creative arts competition and hope to be invited to the next festival, which will be held Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wis.

“I want to go back,” said Wanda. “It was so much fun. Last year, I was kind of slow on getting things done but this year I’m ready. I’m getting stuff accomplished so I can at least have a shot.”

For more information about the JCMVAMC Creative Arts Competition, please contact Deborah Moreno at 918-577-4014.