Healing with Creative Arts

Growing Up

As children we grow up with aspirations we hold dear, things we’d like to accomplish when we’re older. For Desi Cozier, this dream became a reality when he joined the Navy as a weapons engineer. He thought about joining the military before, but didn’t know how. During his search for an electronic engineering program, Desi came across the RCC Institute of Technology, a college that was offering a hybrid program where students could learn electronic engineering and join the military at the same time. He knew he wanted to find a way to give back and be of service to those who were unable to help themselves. Desi ended up signed up, and spent 11 years in the Navy before transitioning to civilian life in August of 2020.

Growing up, Desi lived close to the ocean. His grandfather was a sailor and boat builder, so choosing to go into the Navy was a natural decision for him. After being discharged due to injury, Desi got involved with Soldier On, an organization that exists to help with the recovery of ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans through sport, recreation, and creative activities. As one of the many programs that your donations help support, Soldier On has been a strategic partner of True Patriot Love in helping Veterans transition to civilian life. In speaking with Desi on his experience with Soldier On, we were able to learn much more about the crucial impact these programs were having on his life.

Re-discovering Himself After Leaving the Military

“When you serve in the military, you adapt to a way of life that is structured in a very particular way”, Desi noted. He touched on themes of isolation and other difficulties in adapting to life as a civilian. “In the military, you learn about black and white, whereas in life there’s a lot of greys. When you become a soldier, you have to conform to a certain rule book on life. After coming out of that, you have to rediscover who you are.”

When Desi first came across Soldier On, he realized he wasn’t alone in his feelings and that there were others like him who were struggling with the transition to civilian life. It isn’t uncommon for medically released soldiers to feel unaccomplished or to carry feelings of shame.

There were other soldiers Desi met that were also medically released, who understood what he was going through, and his feelings of shame. “It was a safe place, and the people from Soldier On became another family.” At Soldier On, Desi met other soldiers who were also medically released.

Creative Arts Programming

The first program he participated in was the Warrior Games. He also took part in an army run, disc golf, and silversmithing class. It was his first time participating in an arts and crafts program though, an experience he says was completely different to anything else he’s tried before.

“It’s a completely different mindset,” Desi says. “It brought me back to a part of me that I totally forgot. I think in a sense, it’s like therapy. Instead of having someone help you, this art can now help you find things within yourself that you may have forgotten. I do want to note though that traditional therapy is still important for transitioning Veterans however.” The concept of art therapy has been around for years and is rooted in the understanding that creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being. Soldier On’s program provides Veterans with an opportunity to try their hand at artistic expression.

Through your generous donations, True Patriot Love has been able to support Soldier On financially since 2010. Recognizing the unique circumstances of military to civilian transition, True Patriot Love is committed to supporting Veterans to establish a connection with their community. As Veterans work to find a renewed sense of identity and purpose, creative arts programming is one tool in helping them along their journey.

Today, Desi is working on completing a Bachelor’s degree in Justice Studies, and may even consider going into law school in the near future.