THIS POEM IS NOT
ABOUT THE FILM
“We Are Not Done Yet” is a creative journey of ten U.S. veterans of varied backgrounds who come together in hopes of battling their traumatic military pasts through the art of written word. Grappling with PTSD, the “warrior poets” share fears, vulnerabilities, and victories that, eventually culminate into a live performance of a collaborative poem under the direction of actor Jeffrey Wright. In the process of creating their poetry and rehearsing for the performance, these men and women build a new-found tribe in one another, allowing them to share the too often hidden truths about their intimacy with war, death, and trauma.
To contact us, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
MEET THE VETERANS
The Military life has been a blessing and a curse. It has taken me to places I could have only dreamed of growing up on the Samoan islands.
The Military life has been a blessing and a curse. It has taken me to places I could have only dreamed of growing up on the Samoan islands. I have seen horror, destruction, merciless acts of inhumanity. I have seen gallantry and heroism. I have sent and welcomed many good friends home. I have been shot at by enemies and spit on by the people we have fought to protect. Through 12 years of service and still counting, a battle deep within grew stronger with each breath and every thought. A battle with myself. This battle eventually took its toll, leaving me gasping for air, drowning in my own shallow grave.
The feeling of regret and hate left me unable to love, feel, or care. Unable to look my mother in her eyes and tell her I love her. The emptiness and pain inside took my wife, my friends (dead & living), my family and almost my life. I needed an outlet. Art & Poetry have become a highway to healing. I love working with acrylic paint but I consider myself a mixed media artist. Experimenting with new materials constantly expands my practice: printmaking, oil painting, plaster, clay, glass, resin and spray paint just to name a few. I love the flow of each type of medium and how everything takes its own course. I believe that Art & Poetry are my therapy and reveals much more than i could ever express in words; pain, sorrow, depression, repression, aggression, healing and eventually, one day joy.
This is my Path To Redemption.
My military career began in early 2005, and spanned just under 13 years, ending in mid-2017. In the last 2 years of my service, I began participating in weekly therapy sessions for treatment of PTSD.
My military career began in early 2005, and spanned just under 13 years, ending in mid-2017. In the last 2 years of my service, I began participating in weekly therapy sessions for treatment of PTSD. The amount of treatment increased the last several months and I fully participated in several creative writing workshops. During this time, my belief in the creative arts and quality mental health care grew, as I saw the real world benefits they began to have on my life.
All of this, however, came to an abrupt halt with my discharge. Transition out of the military put an end to my regular therapy sessions and group meetings, as well as my medication, access to benefits and my daughter’s access to the GI bill. Just as detrimental as stripping away so many material things that I had been counting on, the discharge itself greatly strained the trust I once placed in the military system. The vast differences between civilian life and life in the military also proved to be a challenge, with the pace of everyday life contradictingly slow and predictable while also feeling erratic and out of control. Writing and art were again one of the only tools dependable enough to count on for relief.
I am currently 34 years old and I know that eventually this part of my life will be just a small portion of what will hopefully be dominantly filled with enlightenment, but right now it still represents a significant portion of my experience as a man on this earth. I also recognize the complexity and contradictions that exist within my opinions of and experience with the military, but I am sure over time as they untangle they will shift, alter and grow. In my efforts to deal with PTSD, I have started a blog that I use to keep my head above water, and hope it will encourage others to do the same. I recognize trauma as a universal human plight that can occur anywhere and can be experienced by anyone, including people outside of the military. I believe in supporting those who at times may not have a voice and particularly empowering youth so that they may always be able to express themselves and better our world as time moves forward.
I am a United States Army Veteran, who spent 26 years of service leading and setting an example of strength and courage to others under my command.
I am a United States Army Veteran, who spent 26 years of service leading and setting an example of strength and courage to others under my command. However, over the years, I forgot to lend care to myself. After retiring from duty, I sought a path of spiritual growth, self-healing and reflection to overcome the harsh traumas suffered throughout my tenure in the Army. During my journey I uncovered an intense passion for performance therapy and storytelling. I began sharing dark touching life chapters nationwide. With the assistance of Ann Randolph (writer and performer), David Diamond (Theater for Living), Mecca Burns (Theater of the Oppressed), Buzz Mauro and Deb Gottesman (Theater Lab’s Life Stories Institute) and recently, performing in a production of “War Words Dance”. I adopted the saying the work Isn’t Therapy but it damn sure is Therapeutic. Now, on a mission to teach others how to find the victory in their lives I founded “LIV” Life In Victory.
I served in the Air Force for 6 years as a Mental Health Technician. During this time, I became increasingly disillusioned with the military medical system and the way that individuals were treated less as human beings and more as malfunctioning equipment.
I served in the Air Force for 6 years as a Mental Health Technician. During this time, I became increasingly disillusioned with the military medical system and the way that individuals were treated less as human beings and more as malfunctioning equipment. Through my work, I regularly encountered people during some of the worst times of their lives and I wanted so badly to be able to offer more than scripted answers and hollow encouragement.
In 2014, I was raped by a fellow service member. And I found myself desperately in need of the medical system in which I had so little faith. I spent years fighting to be seen as having a valid "injury". I hated feeling that I had to prove over and over that my rape was as valid a reason for PTSD as someone else's combat trauma. I was doubted, denied care, and accused of malingering. I was told that there was no reason that I should not be able to spend my work days reviewing medical and legal files of rape victims or triaging mental health patients while I was actively suicidal. After almost 3 years of fighting, I was medically discharged in 2017.
Multiple studies have shown that having a sense of belonging is one of the greatest protective factors against mental health disorders. I was fortunate to find a group of individuals who were committed to creation, healing, and community. They provided me a home and a landing place when I needed it most. Even as we have all moved in new directions, I remain grateful for my fellow service member artists and the support and grace that they showed me during the hardest years of my life.
I am a Retired Marine, Poet, artist, and teacher. I found art at the end of my Career with the military. Believing in the power of art as communication I work as a facilitator of Arts programs at a Hospital, as well as a board member of a non-profit that brings art programs to military members.
Instagram - JoeMerrittArt
Contact me - Joe@communitybuildingartworks.org
I served in the Army for 14 years. During my service, I did some things I thought were really great and other things I thought were really terrible, unforgivable and irredeemable.
I served in the Army for 14 years. During my service, I did some things I thought were really great and other things I thought were really terrible, unforgivable and irredeemable. I became sick physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In 2015 after trying to end my life, I agreed to allow people to help me help myself and over time, this made my life livable again. The help was medical, pharmacological, psychological, relational, natural, and magical. All of it was art: complicated, messy, painful, and amazingly beautiful. The art continues and I am grateful to have the opportunity to share it here in what is once again a whole new world to me since my medical retirement in July 2018.
Quote: If I created/allowed hell on earth through the power of my thoughts and indeed: I did, it must be equally true I can create/allow heaven on earth.
So then, let me set my mind to heaven now and nothing else.
I can offer no greater contribution or use of my time at the present moment than this.
My name is Robert Plagmann “Bobby” and I am a traveling yogi based out of Dolphin Virginia. I grew up more or less in rural North Carolina, near the Outer Banks. I spent some time in Kansas and Georgia along the way.
My name is Robert Plagmann “Bobby” and I am a traveling yogi based out of Dolphin Virginia. I grew up more or less in rural North Carolina, near the Outer Banks. I spent some time in Kansas and Georgia along the way.
I joined the Marine Corps in December of 1999 and served until December of 2017. During my career I served in some of the most beautiful places on Earth with some of the most amazing people the world has to offer. I also suffered many of the hardships that go along with a life of military service. During my last two years on active duty, while struggling with drug and alcohol dependence, and on the verge of being ushered out of the Marine Corps as a result, I attempted suicide.
I learned a lot in the military, but I never learned what to do when my life unraveled and I found myself divorced, addicted, and coming apart at the seams from a lifetime of unprocessed trauma. I had no idea where to turn or who to ask for help. I was ordered to participate in an outpatient rehabilitation program where I was introduced to creative arts and yoga as a treatment modality for post traumatic stress symptoms and as an outlet for recovery.
The first time I wrote, a small cloud cleared. Writing required me to go into the depths of my pain and to turn it over in my head and my hands. The group allowed me to do that in a safe place. It was a place free from judgment. It was a place where I could always go even when I thought everything about me was bad. I continue to write my heart out now even occasionally writing a song or two and strumming them out on an old Taylor.
The first time I closed my eyes in a yoga class all I saw was fire. Eventually the tips of the flames softened. Through a consistent yoga practice I continued to learn more and more about how to sit still with my pain, to feel it and allow it to run its course, undiluted, concentrated and savage. I wanted more of what yoga had to offer. When I left the service I traveled to India where I spent several months studying yoga in the Himalayas of northern India. There is a lot of strength to be revealed in how we embrace our pain and our past. Writing and yoga have allowed me to do just that and, more importantly, to build my own future.
I live on a farm and travel in a customized RV with my Pit Bull Terrier/Terror “Baagh” surfing, singing, and trying to share as much love as possible with the time I have left. From time to time I write about it over at robertplagmann.com.
In hindsight, I've realized that by the time my high school friends were writing college entry essays, it was far too late for me. Leaving Missouri after graduation became my primary goal. Working in fast food literally tipped me, and the scale, in the US Navy's direction.
In hindsight, I've realized that by the time my high school friends were writing college entry essays, it was far too late for me. Leaving Missouri after graduation became my primary goal. Working in fast food literally tipped me, and the scale, in the US Navy's direction. After a friend enlisted, I met with her recruiter. He promised job training, travel (although women couldn't serve on ships yet) and money for college if I wanted it. He threw in a signing bonus and I was sold.
On August 7, 1995, I arrived at the Navy's Recruit Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois.It was there that I took the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I upheld that oath until my medical retirement on June 14, 2017.
In 2016, a complicated health journey and pending medical retirement increased my existing struggle to manage anxiety and depression. Thankfully, my Occupational Therapist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center introduced me to the Warrior Writers and Combat Paper workshop. Her encouragement ignited my healing journey through art, and now I find joy introducing others to the wide array of expressions that have helped me find solace and deeper purpose.
To date, I've worked with the following mediums: ceramics, drawing, stained glass, glass fusion, paper/book making, painting, photography and figurative sculpture. I'm truly interested in discovering art in all its forms. Transitioning to civilian life has provided me increased opportunities to wander, explore and create - wherever life may lead. After nearly 22 years of service, I'd be lying if I claimed to dutifully follow Alev Oguz words, “Art is the journey of a free soul”, but I'm striving to be a little closer each day. In the meantime, I try not to take myself or my art too seriously.
Sareen Hairabedian is an Armenian-Jordanian filmmaker currently living in Washington DC. She grew up in a home filled with film, dance and music, which enriched her cultural experience that later shaped her voice as a creator of human-driven documentaries. Her eagerness to tell socially conscious stories led to the foundation of HAI Creative, a media production company that collaborates with organizations such as UN Women, USAID, USIP and others to help bring stories of the unheard and underrepresented to screen. Sareen is currently developing her next documentary in her native homeland, tackling issues of identity, resilience and connection to land. 'We Are Not Done Yet' is her directorial debut.Read More
“Working with these veterans and active service members has been one the great privileges of my life. They are a truly inspirational group of women, men, warriors, artists. To have witnessed parts of their journeys has been, in the best way, stunning.”
Tony, Emmy, AFI and Golden Globe Award-winning actor Jeffrey Wright has enjoyed an illustrious career that has spanned the worlds of theatre, film and television. Wright can currently been seen playing the critically acclaimed role of “Bernard Lowe” in HBO’s WESTWORLD, for which he has earned two Emmy nominations. His upcoming projects include, lead roles in Netflix’s HOLD THE DARK and the upcoming O.G. that premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, for which he won the award for _“Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film”. _Wright broke onto the big screen in 1996 with a harrowing performance in the feature BASQUIAT portraying the gifted, late painter Jean Michele Basquiat. Since then he’s appeared in productions such as SYRIANA, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, THE HUNGER GAMES SERIES, HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE and CASINO ROYALE.
Born in Washington, D.C., Wright graduated from Amherst College and received a B.A. in political science. He later earned a doctorate of humane letters from his alma mater. He resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his family.Read More
David Holbrooke is a filmmaker and cultural entrepreneur, as well as the founder and ringleader of Original Thinkers. In his previous role as the director of Telluride Mountainfilm he inspired and entertained thousands of people every year with his innovative programming and watched nearly three thousand documentaries over the course of a decade. He also directed The Diplomat, a film about his father, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. In this new venture, he seeks to illuminate the role that storytelling plays in a changing society. Holbrooke lives in Telluride, Colorado with his wife Sarah, three kids, two dogs and bunch of chickens (one less after an unfortunate encounter with a hungry bear.)Read More
Patti Bonnet is a documentary producer whose work focuses on social and environmental justice and cultural awareness. She was line producer on the award-winning documentary feature Racing Extinction, served as post-production consultant on the documentary Chasing Coral and co-directed the documentary short Come Back to Sudan. She served as a cultural delegate for the US State Department’s 2010 American Documentary Showcase in Rwanda. She has also worked for National Geographic, PBS’s MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, and the ABC News program This Week with David Brinkley. She has a BS in Journalism from the University of Colorado, and a MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).Read More
Abhay Sofsky is a filmmaker who was born in Brooklyn and raised in West Virginia. He produces, directs, and edits with his brother Halavah (HalavahAndAbhay.com). Abhay was Editor and Associate Producer of the 2012 SXSW Grand Jury Prize winning documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, for which he received the IFF Boston Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing. He also edited Shadowman (2017 Tribeca Film Festival), Before The Flood (2016 Toronto Film Festival), John Leguizamo’s HBO special Ghetto Klown, and a number of music videos for Vampire Weekend.Read More
Wytold, a six-string electric cellist and composer from the Washington, DC area, worked collaboratively with Seema Reza, Jeffrey Wright, and Veterans to facilitate the creation of “We Are Not Done Yet”. In addition, he composed the musical score for the film and has served as a board member of Community Building Art Works (CBAW) since its founding. Wytold is also a regular performer and facilitator of music workshops for Veterans and Active Duty Service Members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir.
Wytold began working with the Veteran community through Music & Words, a biannual one-week workshop in which participants write, record and perform original spoken word poetry and songs with accompaniment by Wytold and GRAMMY-nominated progressive hip-hop artist, Christylez Bacon in collaboration with poets Seema Reza and Mahogany L. Browne. Veterans featured in “We Are Not Done Yet” have created songs, poems and visual art, as well as deep friendship and bonds, through CBAW workshops like these. After several years of leading Music & Words workshops and giving weekly hospital performances, Wytold joined this team of dedicated artists working daily with Service Members and Veterans to build community and share their stories and messages through art, music and poetry. Today, Wytold continues to teach Service members to play instruments, write songs, and hear music more deeply and fully as they reconnect with their lives outside the military.
As a recording and performing artist, Wytold plays an electric cello with two extra strings allowing him to capture the depth and power of a stand-up bass, the rich tonal timbre of the acoustic cello, and the bright crispness of violin solos and harmonies. He records his live playing on stage using a loop pedal to create his own rock-orchestral compositions. Wytold’s original music celebrates classical technique hand-in-hand with modern grooves, improv, and rhythms of pop, rock, jazz, and world styles. Using electronic edge alongside acoustic harmonies and double-stop grit, Wytold’s electrified-chamber sound energizes rock clubs as much as it inspires reflective audiences in the concert hall. His music has been performed by the National Symphony Orchestra and featured in the Sundance award-winning and EMMY-nominated film, “Blood Brother”, among many other theater, film and dance productions. In 2018, he received the County Executive Award from Montgomery County for Excellence in Arts Education, and is a former Artist in Residence of the Strathmore Performing Arts Center and recipient of a number of grant awards from the state of Maryland, Montgomery County, and the District of Columbia. For more information visit Wytold.comRead More
Seema Reza is a poet and essayist and the author of the memoir When the World Breaks Open and the poetry collection A Constellation of Half-Lives. Based outside of Washington DC, she is the Chair and co-founder of Community Building Art Works, a unique arts organization that encourages the use of the arts as a tool for narration, self-care and socialization among a military population struggling with emotional and physical injuries. In 2015 she was awarded the Col John Gioia Patriot Award by the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore for her work with service members. An alumnus of Goddard College and VONA, her writing has appeared on-line and in print in Bellevue Literary Review, The LA Review, The Feminist Wire, The Offing, and Entropy among others.Read More
Community Building Art Works is a 501(c)3 charitable organization committed to building community through the arts. Our belief is that healthy communities are built and maintained by multiple leaders, and empowering veterans with the tools, education, confidence, and resources to support others will advance art, community, and healing across the country. The organization grew from an innovative multi-disciplinary hospital arts program developed by Seema Reza (Chair) on two military installations in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. That program supports service members with community-focused arts programming through all phases of treatment from inpatient/partial hospitalization through the transition into civilian life. Since its inception, thousands of Service Members, Veterans, and Military Family members have participated in high quality art sessions led by accomplished, professional artists on Military installations. These programs have been extremely successful in reducing the isolation, loss of community, and diminished sense of purpose that accompanies trauma, but funding is tenuous and their scope is limited.
CBAW formed to open those limits, and bring these valuable programs beyond the military health system into the public domain. Through free and subsidized public programs, large scale performances, writing and art workshops, and facilitator training for veteran alumni, CBAW is making the lessons learned from nearly a decade of arts programming with severely injured veterans accessible to underserved populations.
CBAW is dedicated to artistic excellence and the power of art as a tool for rigorous thought, individual empowerment, and community transformation. With your help, we will advance participatory research initiatives and facilitator training, ensuring that more people have access to the opportunities we’ve provided to Service Members and their families in our nation’s capital.
Our board comprises veterans from three branches of service, established contemporary artists, and professionals in the field of adaptive reintegration. In addition to our seven executive board members, CBAW’s work is shaped by an advisory council of veterans, artists, and mental health clinicians. These individuals provide feedback on community needs, program direction, and help facilitate workshops and build the community.