Patrick Ward always thought of himself as an athlete. A fifth-generation U.S. Navy veteran, Patrick’s physical health was always very important to him. That’s why, when he sustained serious injuries while on active duty, Patrick struggled to be motivated in his everyday life.

After 55 surgeries and an amputation, Patrick wasn’t sure what was next for him. Most days, even after his physical recovery, he wasn’t interested in getting off the couch.

“I needed to get engaged in life again,” Patrick said. “When your options change, you need to change your life, because otherwise you can get in a bad place.”

While Patrick was healing, the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center encouraged him to get involved with the Veterans Creative Arts Festival, a program co-presented by the American Legion Auxiliary. Though arts had never been a major part of his life, he gave it a shot.

Despite never thinking of himself as a writer, Patrick quickly learned he had a knack for it. The inspiration he felt being surrounded by other veteran artists pushed Patrick to try something new – and it was a perfect fit.  Today he is a published writer, has won several awards, and writes a monthly column for a writer’s magazine.

“If you don’t think of yourself as creative, you don’t have to be around [the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival] long before you start to dream,” Patrick said.

“Being near people who are so brilliant and so talented and so outgoing, I leave energized and I always think I can do anything.”

Patrick credits the American Legion Auxiliary with enhancing the experience for him by going above and beyond to serve the artists – bringing them quilts when they were outside in the snow, providing them with a hospitality room, and always encouraging them to do their best.

This newfound talent and artistic expression truly turned things around for Patrick, who once felt lost.

“I thought those doors were closed, but it’s so personal, life-changing, and a second chance,” Patrick said, holding back tears.

“I always say if you get that second chance, grab it, run, and don’t look back.”

Because of #GivingTuesday, Patrick Ward was given a second chance to participate in activities that excite him at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, despite the physical setbacks he endured during his time in the service. You can help other veterans discover a new passion by supporting the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation on #GivingTuesday. Give today at