Iraq war veteran uses paint to get past trauma

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (November 8, 2015) — One Hoosier Hero, who's using paint to get past his trauma, had his artwork on display at the Indiana State Museum this month.

Tanner Archibald, of Columbus, served in Iraq from 2006 through 2007 until a vehicle he was driving was hit by improvised explosive device.

"That flipped the vehicle upside down and it burst into flames," Archibald said.

He was the only one in the vehicle to survive the blast.

“I carry survivor’s guilt,” he said. “I carry driver’s guilt.”

Archibald struggled returning home. He suffered from nightmares, flashbacks and memory loss, but started getting better after being introduced to art therapy.

“I'm not saying all those things are going away," Archibald said. "But I’m understanding them a lot more and I can cope with them a lot better having gone through this type of therapy.”

Archibald was introduced to art therapy by a flyer on the wall in an elevator at the VA.

“The yellows and the reds, the oranges reminded me of fire," he said. " I immediately knew there was a part of me trying... to go into this further and figure out what is troubling me so much.”

Today, he's made more paintings that he can count. About a dozen are on display on the third level of the Indianapolis State Museum.

“This year we were hoping to expand the scope of (the veteran's) program to include many of the challenges veterans face -- homelessness, unemployment and high suicide rates," Indiana State Museum's Gallery Programming Specialist Katelyn Coyne said. "Those are all things veterans deal with coming home and rather than just celebrate them as heroes, which they certainly are, we wanted to highlight those challenges and offer resources.

The exhibit has resources to deal with PTSD and information about the Veteran's Crisis Line.

The museum held its Heroes of the Heartland program day Saturday that featured the Indianapolis Municipal Band and Archibald shared his experiences in Iraq and with art therapy.

“It proves me there has been progress,” he said. “I’m returning to some normalcy in my life and that’s the best I can ask for.”

Archibald said this exhibit continues his mission to "honor the fallen." His artwork will be on display through Wednesday, November 11.

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