Tom Lea Combat Warrior Art exhibit opens at Old Bakery and Emporium

The Old Bakery and Emporium, along with Austin Veteran Arts Festival, kicked off the Tom Lea Combat Warrior Art exhibit.

The exhibition highlights twelve giclée prints of Tom Lea’s works and photographs from the Tom Lea Institute in El Paso, Texas. The Tom Lea Combat Warrior Art exhibit focuses on Tom Lea’s "Life Magazine" WWII series. The exhibition also includes U.S. combat veteran and Director & Founder of AVAFest, Glenn Towery.

It also features work from combat veterans Peter Buotte, Lorenzo Quinonez, Kurt Ritterpusch, Franklin Mendez, Raphael Melis, Ben Freeman, and Patrick Redbird.

The opening event featured speakers and performances from the Traditional American Indian Veterans Association and Central Texas Philharmonic.

FOX 7 Austin anchor Mike Warren was the moderator.

Glenn Towery served in the Vietnam War.

"When I first came out of the military, life was very difficult for me. I didn't know that I was sick, because in 1972 when I got out, PTSD didn't exist," he said.

He was diagnosed about ten years later.

"When I first discovered, I was like, 'wow, I'm sick?' I'm glad to know that because I thought I was crazy," he said with a laugh.

It's something Bruce Hodge, who served in the Army, also went through.

"I was in dark places, and I've lost friends and relationships as a result of the conduct that I displayed as PTSD," he said. "Once I was diagnosed with that, that put a lot of the puzzle together as to why I was that way because everyone just thought I was some kind of knucklehead or whatever.... I do struggle sometimes, some days I win, and sometimes I really lose, but you have to get up and say there's hope and there's people and there's help that I can seek in order to help me with my condition."

He says he can relate to the exhibit.

"I really feel like to me personally, it's kind of a connection, because a person with PTSD, if there's something with this much meaning and purpose, I just really felt like I wanted to be a part of it," he said.

Patrick Redbird, who served in the Oklahoma National Guard, is one of the featured artists.

"Mainly mine is about the spirit and the history of our culture and people. I do a lot of waterbirds, I do some other things that are dealing with drops, prayers, and what the symbolism means within all of our artwork," he said.

"Art is a non-pharmaceutical way of healing," Towery said. "If a combat veteran can do art to make themselves feel better, practice art for healing, anyone can, any veteran."