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Local organization helps veterans heal through art

Posted at 7:42 PM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-09 11:53:18-05

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. (WXYZ) — When America’s veterans return home sometimes a new battle begins against everything from homelessness to the risk of suicide.

But now there’s a new push to help them heal through art.

‘We have anywhere from photography to painting, to welding metal pouring. I have flag cases out of woodworking side,” says Joseph Gemayel with Project Brotherhood Resolve.

It is not your average art exhibit. Every creation comes from the minds and hearts of those who have served our country.

“We got together. We figured out the plan. We figured we were going to call it Veterans Gallery Night. We were gonna do it over Memorial Day Weekend and gonna do it here and believe it or not, this place had 20 boats just less than 30 days ago,” says Gemayel.

And with that idea Trader Todd's Marina transformed into a space where a group of veterans turned artists had a chance to put their passion projects on display, for sale to support a program that helps keep their fellow brothers and sisters from being displaced.

“My organization, Project Brotherhood Resolve, we work with veterans long-term goal is housing homeless veterans,” says Gemayel. “Right now, what we do is we prevent homelessness. So, we pay bills. As a matter of fact, we approve the $1,400 mortgage payment yesterday, so we are going to be doing that. So, we do that kind of work with veterans, kind of preventing them from becoming homeless and then keeping them on track.

Illinois National Guard Master Sgt. Joseph Gemayel was in service for 20 years, with 4 combat tours. He created Project Brotherhood Resolve after losing a soldier that was like a brother that he spent time with - in Kuwait and Iraq.

“Right around 2016, unfortunately, he committed suicide,” says Gemayel. “It was a shock to a lot of people because he wasn’t somebody that was on the radar to commit suicide, so a lot of people were shocked and that was kind of the shock value for me to get in there and do something back to my brothers and sisters.”

“It’s destressing,” says Army veteran Lawrence Gary. “When I’m doing art, I can't think of anything else but what I’m doing, so I’ll get into a flow. I’ll put on some of his music, and I’ll just let myself go and I notice all the stress I have I don't have when I’m doing this. My brain won't allow me to think about anything but the painting and, so, it’s a huge destresser.”

Gary's resin-rich texture work lined the wall for veteran’s gallery night. A number of people commissioned his work and he's putting every penny back into the brotherhood.

“There shouldn't be a homeless veteran. There shouldn’t be a veteran out there hungry that served or fought for this country,” he says. “When I found out that that's what this organization is doing, even this commission that I got today, that could have been my commission, but I made it go through Project Brotherhood Resolve.”

And on the table up front some of Sgt. Gemayel's own artwork that he uses to heal hearts, including his own.

“PTSD is different for everybody,” says Gemayel “there's no one treatment all the way across. For me it's woodworking, just smelling the sawdust and the wood, staining the wood after it's put together, and turning it into wonderful colors and wonderful shapes. So I’m doing it too. Part is a PTSD therapy for me.”