In the days leading up to Veterans Day, WNPR brings you stories from veterans and those in their community.
Edward Santos deployed twice to Afghanistan with the Connecticut Army National Guard.
"Coming back home, you tend to isolate yourself," Santos said. "You don’t feel like the general public understands what you went through, and what you’re experiencing here back home.
"I was attending a PTSD group at the Newington VA when my therapist announced that there was a Vietnam veteran teaching newly returning veterans how to paint like Bob Ross. Being that I grew up watching Bob Ross paint happy clouds and happy trees, I was instantly drawn, raised my hand, and I just had to take the class.
"Although I loved oil painting, it kept me isolated. The more I wanted to paint, the more isolated I had to be, and I stayed in my basement, and all I did was paint.
"I started meeting mobile photographers, and I was immediately drawn to the incredible artwork that they were creating by just using their mobile phones. Now to create more art with my mobile phone, I had to be out. So I was no longer isolated. I was out and about, talking to people, taking pictures, and it really did consume my passion.
"I know a lot of veterans that I’ve met -- I tell them, you know, you put on the uniform, you raised your right hand, you did your time. Every day out there, whether you went outside the wire like we did, or you stood inside, was a traumatic experience. Because you didn’t know if you were going to wake up the next morning. You wouldn’t even know walking down the chow hall you were going to survive that walk.
"The arts, for me, has allowed me to escape those thoughts that I have from being out there -- the guilt, the sadness -- and I know what it’s done for me, and I encourage others to seek the arts. At least give it a shot; at least give it a shot."