LAKE IN THE HILLS – As an Army veteran, Don Ryan understands the hardships of returning to civilian life after serving his country.

As an artist, he knows that getting lost in creating a painting helps to ease that burden.

Ryan’s latest piece will be on display at this year’s Summer Sunset Festival, together with works of other artists who have served in the military. In late September, the artwork will be auctioned off to raise money for the Veteran’s Memorial Wall slated for construction near the Lake in the Hills Village Hall.

``When you open up your creative side you have to let down some inhibitions, and at the same time you get lost in your art and you’re not dwelling on whatever is wrong,’’ the 57-year-old Carol Stream resident said.

Being creative is one way veterans can try to deal with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, said Navy Veteran Michael Woods, organizer of the veterans art show and auction.

``These men and women are taking such a terrible part of their lives and turning it into something creative,’’ the Lake in the Hills resident said. ``They use it a lot in recreational therapy.’’

While raising money for the memorial wall, the event also is designed to raise public awareness about the effects of PTSD, Woods said.

The public knows the dramatic effects of PTSD like murders and suicides committed by veterans, Woods said, but they may not think about the smaller effects that impair their daily lives.

``The extreme negative effects of PTSD are very present,’’ Woods said. ``[The public] possibly doesn’t understand the negative effects that people face that are smaller.’’

Effects like not being able to be in crowds or, in Woods' case, not being able to stand with his back to a door in any room.

``I’ve dealt with it from the veterans side in terms of trying to transition back into life,’’ he said.

``It’s hard to understand something you haven’t gone through,’’ Ryan said. ``It’s hard as a society to have the compassion when you haven’t gone through it.’’

Some of the artwork in the show will depict what the veterans went through and what they saw during wartime, Woods said.

The Summer Sunset Festival will be Aug. 29-31 at Sunset Park, 5200 Miller Road, and Woods said he still is looking for artists to participate.

``We’re using Sunset Festival as a launching pad for the auction,’’ Woods said.

To donate artwork for the Sunset Festival veteran art show and auction, call Woods at 305-395-0036 or email him at michael.woods@edwardjones.com. The date for the auction, to be held at the Lake in the Hills Village Hall, has not been set.

The fundraiser will help the village realize its dream of constructing the memorial wall, with the ground-breaking set for Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11, said Russ Ruzanski, Lake in the Hills Village Board member and chairman of the veterans memorial wall committee.

With an estimated cost of between $250,000 and $300,000 to complete the project, so far nearly $70,000 has been raised, Ruzanski said. The village donated $40,000, with other donations totaling about $30,000 so far, he said. The Lake in the Hills Rotary Club plans to give $15,000 a year for three years toward the project, and Castle Bank will donate $5,000 this year and next year, Ruzanski said. The Rotary Club’s RibFest this summer netted $1,300 in donations.

To be built in three phases, the memorial wall will be made of five granite slabs, each representing a branch of the military with the insignia of each branch stamped on them.

A walkway and benches will be constructed around the wall.

``It’s time we do something to honor everybody who’s served,’’ Ruzanski said, calling the memorial setting a ``peaceful, serene place’’ where visitors can sit on benches and ``pray and meditate and think about that vet.’’

Donations to the memorial wall can be made at the Lake in the Hills Village Hall, 600 Harvest Gate, or at the two Lake in the Hills Castle Bank locations on Algonquin Road.

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