SOURCE: Help Hospitalized Veterans

Help Hospitalized Veterans

October 22, 2013 14:23 ET

Soldier Turned Medic Uses Arts and Crafts to Help Cope

WINCHESTER, CA--(Marketwired - Oct 22, 2013) - Captain Bertis McMillan joined the U.S. Army in 1983. Knowing his true calling was in helping save lives, he trained to become a combat medic. McMillan continued his medical education and became a licensed physician assistant (PA).

Years later while serving in Afghanistan, McMillan's armored transport vehicle was hit by an IED. "I felt the blast, but didn't suffer so much as a scratch," McMillan said.

Following his discharge from the military, McMillan worked as a physician assistant. Over time, he started developing memory issues, and lost the ability to maintain his PA credentials. He attributed the problem to boxing. McMillan had participated in the sport since age 14, coaching two teams while in the military.

"I started to feel uncomfortable around people and began going into seclusion. That led to depression and feelings of worthlessness. I enrolled in VA's healthcare system and began receiving treatment for PTSD and traumatic brain injury," he said. "VA staff got me to open up and share my experiences, and suggested I try using art as a form of introspection."

McMillan discovered an arts and crafts program sponsored by Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV). He began visiting HHV's new Community Based Crafts (CBC) location near Tampa, Florida.

"It was tough at first because I was so isolated, but I made new friends through the CBC," said McMillan. "When I don't go, they call to check on me. Their genuine love and acceptance has given me the confidence to come out with my homosexuality, something I've kept hidden all my life," said McMillan. "Having a place for veterans to go and share with each other is essential," he added.

HHV is the nation's largest provider of free arts and craft kits to veterans receiving healthcare. Since 1971, HHV has donated over 28 million therapeutic craft kits. For more information visit

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