One of the most recurring comments from them was, they didn't think people actually cared. so this had a big impact on them. THat people would stop and read, and look. They felt seen and heard. It is a BIG issue. Whether it is the mliitary environment, home, work or community, they are taught to tough it out and deal. not ask for help or show vulnerability. They acknowledged that serves a soldier well for the job he is asked to do, but what about when they come back? For those with "invisible injuries" like PTSD, they have little release, or tools to let go or expose their feelings. It is equated with weakness.
One of the vets said to me, "when I walked around the room and read the artists statement, I understood, that we are not so far apart. We feel the same way. " and that was BIG revelation for him. Others agreed. They said, they were a little anxious about what they were going to find when they came in. They expected something more political or divisive because that is what they see everywhere else.
Before they left, I headed back to the masks to the one guy who had a mask in the show but hadn't said anything. I said, "what do you think?". he extended his hand, and said "Thank you, ma'am for doing this. I really didn't think people cared.". He said low morale is one of the leading causes of death when they are over there. I think they see the divisive left/right nature of the media as overall non support. As we walked out, he told me he had been in Iraq for 2 1/2 years. He told me the exact date of when he went in and when he got out, as if each day was counted and lasted an eternity. He said, he lost so many friends who were married with families.He said, " I only have my parents. they had wives and kids. it just isn't right. I would trade my place today with any one of them if I could. ". I got a glimpse and only a glimpse of how it is different for each one of them. Collective injury, but specific personal trauma.