Thousands of veterans take part in local Veterans Creative Arts Festivals across the country each year. From there, some are invited to showcase their talents at the national level.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Raymond Douglass discovered a talent he didn’t know he had. “I have no formal writing experience or anything like that. I just write down what I feel at that moment,” he said.

An employee at the Danville VA Medical Center in Illinois, where Raymond is a patient, picked up on the veteran’s talents and asked if she could submit some poems he had written to a local-level Festival.

“I said, ‘Send them in. Nothing’s going to happen; I’m not going to win anything,’” said Raymond.

But he spoke too soon. Raymond learned that he did in fact win something – an invitation to the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. Not me. I didn’t win,’ and she said, ‘Yes you did,’” Raymond said.

After giving it some thought, Raymond decided to take the opportunity and made the trek to his first National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

“I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had a good time,” said Raymond. “[The event] gives veterans a sense of accomplishment, it gets them out of the house, and they get to meet new people and see new things.”

He encourages anyone and everyone to give what they can to help the Festival live on.

“You don’t have to give $1,000. Five dollars, a dollar, or whatever change you have in your pocket,” Raymond said.

Play your part in helping veterans like Raymond Douglass find healing through the creative arts by donating to the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation National/Local Veterans Creative Arts Festival(s).

Click here to make an online donation.