Janet Weinstein/ABCNews(BETHESDA, Md.) — It wasn’t until the third time Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Jon Meadows was hit by a blast that he realized something was wrong.
“My whole lower part of my body was going numb. I was starting to not feel anything,” Meadows told ABC News.
Meadows’ convoy had felt hits twice before on tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he summed up his new forgetfulness and blurred vision to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
After months of mental and physical deterioration, Meadows checked in to Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland for evaluation. That’s when he was told his condition was much worse than he initially thought.
“I have damage to my frontal lobe and there’s damage in the inner center part of my brain,” Meadows said.
Today, Meadows can’t see well, has trouble working with his hands and says his “brain gets tired easily.”
But, he says, one thing has helped him through it all: clay.
“When I start molding, playing with the clay. I see a picture. That picture in the clay might be something that I could be thinking about, or something that I saw,” Meadows said. “It’s like a really good, enjoyable therapy.”
Meadows is a part of a program called “IMP-ART” — or Injured Military Personnel Art — hosted by The Art League in Alexandria, Virginia. It aims to help veterans rehabilitate through visual arts. Meadows is a rising star in the ceramics program.
“He came in with this amazing ability for proportion and story,” said Blair Meerfeld, Ceramics Department Chair of the Art League. “So we thought it’d be good to get it all out in a gallery setting.”
Meadows held a debut art show this summer at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA. The Art League said that because the public’s response to his first show was so strong, they decided to host another pop-up art show a few months later.
Each piece has a back-story to it. Meadows says he made one sculpture of a soldier holding a baby in dedication to all troops who see injured children on deployment and feel helpless.
“[The image] really gets stuck in their mind and there’s a lot of guilt,” said Meadows.
He says the most emotional piece he’s put together so far is ‘Tattered and Torn’ — a sculpture of a woman kneeling at a casket with an American flag draped over it.
“I let pieces dry too fast and some of it cracked, so we decided to name it ‘Tattered and Torn’,” Meadows told ABC News. “It was like, people’s lives were tattered and torn because of the death. A lot of people felt emotion to it.”
Meadows says working with clay has not only helped him work through issues emotionally, but has also aided with his vision and motor skills.
“It’s really helped me,” said Meadows. “It’s not just this ‘girl’ thing like I had initially thought.”
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