Arts and Garden Projects for Veterans

Green Road Project

The Green Road Project seeks to upgrade natural woodland environments to optimize healing for Wounded Warriors and families at Naval Support Activity, Bethesda, MD (NSA/B), home of the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda (WRNMMCB). The proposed site is an existing natural streambed (Stony Creek) located in woodland topography running from the southwest boundary to the northeast boundary of the Medical Center campus. The Green Road mission is to create opportunities for behavioral health and rehabilitative healing activities, communal activities, and contemplative experiences utilizing a combination of natural and manmade elements. The Green Road master plan incorporates the 3/8 mile long streambed and adjacent land. Our project will integrate into the existing NSA/B base improvement plan, and will provide a convenient connection between two campus-lodging facilities (Fisher Houses and Sanctuary Hall) for Wounded Warriors and their families. Movement of Warriors and families from north to south sides of the campus will be facilitated by the plan, particularly for those with disabilities.

Green Road development will include streambed restoration, creation of a wheelchair-accessible walking path, and a central zone of active and passive activity/garden/commemorative spaces (about 1.6 acres in size) in proximity to the stream. The total projected cost is approximately $4 million, with $1.5 million coming from the private sector. With the aid of a variety of donors and partners, we expect to complete this project by October, 2015. In subsequent phases, we hope to enhance the Walter Reed Bethesda campus with other gardens, including several within the hospital building itself.

The Green Road Project will create a unique healing environment at the new Walter Reed, to the benefit of Wounded Warriors, military families, hospital staff, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), and other beneficiaries. An advanced research program, based on a unique set of advanced metrics developed to assess holistic care at WRNMMCB, will directly measure the healing effects of nature exposure on the Green Road.

A $1 million grant from TKF Foundation is providing essential funding for the Green Road project. The Institute for Integrative Health (TIIH), Baltimore MD, is the sponsoring nonprofit. Other partners include the United Service Organizations, Metropolitan Washington, DC (USO-METRO), Capital Funding LLC, The Mental Insight Foundation, the Semper Fi Fund, the Yellow Ribbon Fund, the Julia Burke Foundation, the Walter Reed Society, the Uniformed Services University (USUHS), the University of Maryland landscape architecture program, Harvard Medical School, the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, and CDMSmith, Inc.

Green Road photos and other materials may be found at www.greenroadproject.org.

The points of contact for the Green Road project are CAPT Frederick Foote, MC, USN (Ret.), Project Manager, (240) 483-9676; Fred.Foote@comcast.net; and Ms.Wendy Bohdel, Chief Operating Officer, The Institute for Integrative Health (Baltimore), (443) 681-7603; wbohdel@tiih.org.

The Warrior Poetry Project

The Warrior Poetry Project (WPP) harnesses the healing and expressive power of poetry writing for Warriors, Veterans, and their families and friends in the Washington, D.C. area. Dr. Fred Foote teaches classes on the elements and techniques of poetry from 1730-1830 (5.30- 6.30 p.m.) the second and third Wednesday evenings each month, at Alfio’s Restaurant, 4515 Willard Ave, Chevy Chase, MD (off Wisconsin Ave. near Friendship Heights Metro stop.). Alfio’s is on the ground floor of the Willoughby apartment building. Free Valet parking is provided at the door. Classes include optional workshopping of students’ poems. Following the WPP classes, the Warrior Arts Cafe at Alfio’s features headliner performances of writing, music, and other arts, followed by an open mike.

All friends of Warriors and Vets are welcome to take part in the WPP, and all services are provided free of charge. Classes are non-sequential, so intermittent attendance is fine. Course syllabi, events, and other announcements are on www.warriorpoetryproject.com.

WPP classes are taught by Fred Foote, Richard Epstein, and guest teachers. Fred Foote (CAPT, MC, USN, ret.) is poetry editor of O-Dark-Thirty, the magazine of the Veterans Writing Project. Richard Epstein is director of the Memorial Day Writer’s Project.

Maryland Network of Arts and Gardens for Veterans

Newly-created in 2015, MNAG-V is a statewide network of community-based, locally-funded projects that bring the healing powers of art- and music-making, and exposure to Nature, to Veterans across Maryland. The aim of the Network is to measurably reduce the burden of PTSD, and the number of veteran suicides, statewide.

Experience at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda MD (WRB), and elsewhere, has shown that art- and music-making, and engagement with Nature, are two of the strongest therapies for traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), which afflict tens of thousands of Maryland Warriors and Veterans.  MNAG-V seeks to spread the successful use of these modalities, pioneered at Walter Reed, to the wider Veterans community, in order to decrease the burden of TBI/PTSD, and reduce the number of Warrior/Veteran suicides, across the state. If successful, the Network can then serve as a model for the Nation.

Current MNAG-V-affiliated projects exist in Bethesda, La Plata, Westminster, and other locations in Maryland, and more are being added each month, as the healing effects of the arts and Nature become clear. Most projects consist of free arts/music lessons for local Veterans, arts cafes, or local garden projects. Projects are locally funded and administered, and engage their own artists, gardeners, and Veteran participants. As the system grows, MNAG-V  will supply a full-time Network coordinator (based at the Institute for Integrative Health, Baltimore (www.tiih.org), who will optimize coordination, training of artists, development of policies and standards, and research on program effectiveness. The program will also facilitate long-term arts activity for patients in healing arts programs at Walter Reed. MNAG-V partners include Maryland Citizens for the Arts, the United Service Organizations, Metropolitan Washington, D.C. (USO-METRO), Americans for the Arts, the Global Alliance for Arts and Health, the National Initiative for Arts and Health in the Military (www.artsacrossthemilitary.org), and other organizations.

There are no financial,  organizational, or other requirements for affiliating with MNAG-V, other than a sincere interest in promoting the healing of Veterans. The point of contact for MNAG-V is Dr. Fred Foote (CAPT MC, USN, ret.), fred.foote@comcast.net; (240) 483-9676.

The Maryland Network is now (June 2015) hiring a STATE COORDINATOR to provide arts program administration services to local arts and garden projects. For position description, See website of the Institute for Integrative Health (Baltimore), www.tiih.org, and select “Careers” at bottom of page.