Vet­eran copes with mem­o­ries, finds a re­lease through art

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY BRAN­DON GOLD­NER

Ev­ery artist has his fa­vorite medium. For Jon Han­cock, 30, that medium is spray paint. The Mary­land artist — whose art goes on dis­play on Vet­er­ans Day in an ex­hibit at the Na­tional Vet­er­ans Art Mu­seum in Chicago — pur­chases dozens of cans in dif­fer­ent col­ors.

“Let’s use this one,” Mr. Han­cock said in his back­yard art stu­dio, pick­ing up a yel­low can.

When he pushes down on the knob of his can, he not only re­leases paint but 10 de­ploy­ments’ worth of mil­i­tary mem­o­ries.

One of those mil­i­tary mem­o­ries was when he first killed a man, in Iraq.

“We were in Ra­madi in 2004,” Mr. Han­cock said. “I turned the cor­ner and he was there. He had [a rocket-pro­pelled grenade]. He was get­ting ready to sling up on his shoul­der, and I, just [fired] seven, eight rounds from the groin right to the neck.”

For eight years, Mr. Han­cock served as a Ma­rine, work­ing a va­ri­ety of as­sign­ments in re­con­nais­sance.

He said he even­tu­ally be­came an in­ter­roga­tor and source han­dler, work­ing in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.

Mr. Han­cock said his de­ploy­ments now serve as an in­spi­ra­tion for his art­work.

“I’m a huge fan of Van Gogh,” Mr. Han­cock said. “Art has al­ways just been re­ally cool to me, and I’ve al­ways en­joyed any­body that goes out­side the box with it.”

Like Van Gogh, Mr. Han­cock is plagued by his own de­mons, in­clud­ing post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and trau­matic brain in­jury, the re­sult of what he said was be­ing ex­posed to mul­ti­ple road­side-bomb ex­plo­sions and con­cus­sions.

“I have re­ally vivid and imag­i­na­tive night­mares, and they’re re­ally crazy,” Mr. Han­cock said. “Ev­ery night is a wake up in cold sweat. My sleep pat­tern’s off. I don’t sleep a lot. Maybe an hour or two a day.”

He joined the Ma­rine Corps in May 2001, but

Ever won­der what hap­pens to ex­cess cam­paign funds once the elec­tion is over?

The can­di­date com­mit­tees in this year’s statewide races had mil­lions of dol­lars left­over at the end of Oc­to­ber, ac­cord­ing to the Vir­ginia Pub­lic Ac­cess Project. Fi­nal ex­penses and staffer pay­checks will drain much of that — but prob­a­bly not all.

Legally, lots of things can hap­pen to that money, in­clud­ing spend­ing it for per­sonal use, so long as that com­mit­tee isn’t clos­ing its ac­count yet, thanks to Vir­ginia’s cam­paign fi­nance laws. That loop­hole be­came all-too clear when word broke that first lady Mau­reen McDon­nell had legally used money from Gov. Bob McDon­nell’s po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee for a shop­ping spree.

As of the last re­port­ing date, on Oct. 23, Terry McAuliffe had the most cash on hand. The Demo­crat had $1.6 mil­lion in the bank about two weeks be­fore he won the gov­er­nor’s race. Ken­neth T. Cuc­cinelli II, the Repub­li­can can­di­date, had just over $600,000.

Demo­crat Ralph S. Northam had nearly $1 mil­lion on hand when he filed his last cam­paign fi­nance re­port two weeks be­fore win­ning the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor’s race.

There’s no dead­line for can­di­dates and po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees to close their fundrais­ing ac­counts, ac­cord­ing to Nikki Sheri­dan, con­fi­den­tial pol­icy ad­viser for the State Board of Elec­tions. And once an ac­count is closed, no au­dit is con­ducted to make sure it was done prop­erly.

those painful mem­o­ries didn’t start un­til his sec­ond Iraq de­ploy­ment.

“Once you kill some­body, it hap­pens,” Mr. Han­cock said. “Af­ter­wards, you think about it, and what­ever you do that day stays with you your en­tire life, be­cause it’s such a raw en­vi­ron­ment. It’s so ab­so­lutely chaotic and vi­o­lent.

“… It’s just so bad that it sears it­self into your mem­ory, and that’s what hap­pens ev­ery time.”

Also seared into his mem­ory are the deaths of his brothers-in-arms.

“I never went to most of the graves of most of the guys, and that’s kinda how I dealt with it,” Mr. Han­cock said. “It’s sad when it hap­pens and you cry a lot. … And then you jus­tify it with, ‘He was at war.’ And you say, ‘He was a hero.’ ”

“I guess the mourn­ing process is con­stant. It’s an ev­ery­day thing for me,” he said.

Re­turn­ing home, Mr. Han­cock said he be­gan drink­ing heav­ily.

“I drink to sleep, and that be­comes a prob­lem be­cause I’m prob­a­bly an al­co­holic, but func­tion­ing none­the­less,” he said, adding that al­co­hol quells his night­mares and al­lows him to fall asleep. What saved him was his art­work. “I used to mourn by just drink­ing,” Mr. Han­cock said. “But I guess how I mourn now is through proac­tive ini­tia­tives to at­tempt to give peo­ple in­for­ma­tion about what a vet­eran’s go­ing through.”

When he does mourn, he cre­ates his master­pieces.

“I just al­low for the art to dic­tate where it wants to go, be­cause who am I to ques­tion what it is that I’m try­ing to say, when I don’t even know what it is I’m try­ing to say.”

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