This video was created by Michael Caniglia-Robiolio, at the artists’ reception for the 52 Reasons to Love a Vet gallery show held at New Jersey City University on February 18, 2016. [Read comments that were provided by the attendees (.PDF of Guest Book) when the show was on display at The Hunterdon Art Museum.]
My son, Justin Eyet, served two tours of combat duty: one in 2008 in Iraq and one in 2011 in Afghanistan. He was a 20-year-old National Guardsman when he was assigned to the Army’s 25th Infantry, fighting insurgents in northern Iraq. He saw and experienced things no mother would ever want her son or daughter to see or experience, and returned home with baggage he found great difficulty in handling. When he returned home he was a different person. He was withdrawn and kept to himself. He has made multiple attempts to complete his education but has had difficulty staying focused. At some point, and we are unsure where, when or how, he contracted MRSA, a blood infection that if left unattended could be deadly. He bounced in and out of the VA (Veterans Affairs) hospital and on his 26th birthday, while still in medical quarantine, the VA hospital released him suggesting that he find a private rehab to assist him. They instructed us that since they could not ascertain that his condition was related to his military service, the VA was not responsible for his treatment. The fact that it was his birthday is of great consequence, as this timing also coincided with the rolling out of the Affordable Care Act, and that he would be removed from my insurance. We were certain there would be no private rehabs that would accept him without insurance, and at that time he hadn’t secured coverage.
At that time I was serving on the Board of Trustees here at Rarity valley Community College. Bob Wise, CEO and President of Hunterdon Healthcare also serves on that board. I did what any mother in my situation would do. Without shame or hesitation I asked Bob if he would help my son. Upon hearing of the situation, without a second thought Bob said he would be happy to have his top infectious disease specialist care for Justin. We would sort out the coverage later. Thankfully, Justin is now fine and will be fine, as he has parents who have the resources to ensure his health and well-being. Once Justin’s MRSA was in remission it occurred to me: “What of all the other ‘Justins’ who may not have a parent with a connection to a CEO of a medical facility? Who will help them? What of all of the other enlisted men and women who return home and are simply denied services? Who are they to call on for help?” And thus 52 Reasons to Love a Vet was conceived. I returned to Bob Wise’s office yet another time, this time no longer in a panic, but instead excited and eager to pitch a project with the hope that he would see merit in the idea and support it. I had already done a call out to many of my artist friends asking if they would create and donate a piece of original art to be used for a deck of cards, limited posters, and limited books for selling, with the originals being shown at receptions such as this one, and gallery shows to help raise awareness with the ultimate hope of policy change. I was truly humbled by their responses. Artist after artist responded with a resounding yes, telling me they would be honored and proud to be involved with such a project.
All too often veterans return home and are unable to find or simply denied these services. As a society, we should feel compelled to rectify this situation. “52 Reasons to Love a Vet” restricted fund housed in the Hunterdon Healthcare Foundation.
This is a a fund solely benefitting veterans by financially assisting them in furthering their education and/or assisting with medical, dental or mental health resources. This fund has been supported by many world-renowned artists and illustrators who each created and donated an original editorial visual statement illustrating their thoughts on either war or veterans.
Limited edition playing cards, prints and books will be available for sale, with all sales going to benefit this fund. Additionally, if you would like to host a fund and awareness raising reception, where we can display the original artwork, please feel free to contact Ella Rue at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be dispersing funds not to exceed $1,000 per veteran annually. Or donations can be mailed directly to The Hunterdon Healthcare Foundation, 9100 Wescott Dr. Suite 202, Flemington, NJ 08822.
Please be certain to designate “Love a Vet” on your donation. 52 Ways to Love a Vet is a 501(c)3 fund.