Our nation is faced with increasing numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan OIF/OEF Veterans separating from military service with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and often Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Homelessness risk and suicide rates among our nation’s heroes will continue to rise without more effective coping mechanisms for use as trauma healing interventions.

Trauma healing interventions begin with the four connected components of our Mission Statement that help prevent homelessness and suicides among Veterans and can lead to successful reintegration into civilian life.

  • Camaraderie – While serving, our military develops a built-in, tried and true social network that is often lost and missed by Veterans after they exit military service. Therefore, building a new social network is paramount to a Veterans successful reintegration into civilian life.  We have workshops and instructional classes that bring together Veterans and their families for support through camaraderie.
  • Mentorship – Leaders in the military guide service members through whatever they might have to face in battle and in life. We strive to provide leadership through our mentorship program for our Veterans and their families in Workforce Development, Holistic Mind-Body healing, life skills, self-advocacy, and resource location and access.
  • Family Healing – As a Veteran, our families experience the highs and lows of military service along with us, especially the traumas associated with war and sexual assault. Our Expressive Arts and Holistic Healing Programs provide alternative ways of healing our Veteran Families’ Mind, Body and Spirit to avoid leaving collateral damage behind, which can derail a successful transition into a healthy and productive civilian life.
  • Economic Stability – A major reason for homelessness and suicides among Veterans is attributed to their sense of economic stability. Unless a Veteran’s employment is fulfilling, rewarding and enjoyable, it may exacerbate issues with mental and physical health to a potential detrimental point of homelessness and/or suicide. We provide workforce development workshops and programs to teach Expressive Arts Industry skills that can lead to enjoyable employment or entrepreneurship.

CDS Staff utilize Trauma Informed Care Practices to help our Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and other mental and physical issues. At our academy, veterans and service members will find themselves in a safe and positive environment to strive towards healing themselves and their families. Healing lives one at a time to create more cohesive units through Expressive Arts coping skills, life skills and Holistic mind-body philosophies for successful reintegration into civilian life.

Veteran Owned and Operated
501(c)(3) Non-Profit

Research shows Expressive Arts is effective at augmenting traditional trauma interventions because it provides creative outlets that enhance attention and awareness in productive, corrective ways. Learning Expressive Arts skills promotes healing while mitigating trauma potentials that commonly occur during the reintegration process back into civilian life.

The CDS Expressive Arts Instruction Outreach (EAIO) Programs not only promote healing and teach self-advocacy but also translate into positive economic changes for our EAU Members who gain valuable knowledge from our mentors. Participants in the Operation Enjoyable Employment Program increase their capacities for career success within the Arts industry and help to eliminate barriers — such as the negative stigmas associated with mental health issues and disabilities – which will ensure their post-service success

Through creative expression, a plethora of Arts Instruction, the development of employment skills and healthier life skills, along with Naturopathic philosophies and Trauma-Informed Care, our staff supports clients to lessen the negative impact from trauma-related reintegration issues. In addition, they will learn how to build networks, gain practical work experience, start new careers and earn extra income by participating in our Mission Support Program (MSP) Veteran Artist Employment Project (VAEP).

#cdseaa4life, www.creativedrillsergeants.org

Why We Do Expressive Arts

We believe that expressive arts work as a supplement to traditional psychotherapy because of its potential to impact our veteran families in more memorable ways than traditional interventions. We choose to use expressive arts interventions with veteran families to provide opportunities to become active participants in their own treatment and empower them to use imagination in productive and corrective ways. Whether through art, play, music, movement, enactment, or creative writing, expressive arts stimulate the senses and facilitate self-discovery, as well as increased self-esteem and confidence.

CDS Programs serve our Veteran Families First

but are open to Our Military Families
(OMF; active duty, reserve, and their families).

Expressive Arts research shows it to be effective at augmenting traditional trauma interventions because it provides creative outlets that enhance attention and awareness abilities in productive, corrective ways to promote healing, thus mitigating trauma potentials during reintegration into civilian life. CDS Expressive Arts Unit (EAU) Members learn Expressive Arts skills that lead to enjoyable employment and increase their capacities for career success within the Arts Fields. Our EAU Members learn valuable industry knowledge from our mentors to build networks, start new careers, gain practical work experience and earn extra income by participating in our Mission Support Program (MSP) Veteran Artist Employment Project (VAE). Expressive Arts Instruction, employment skills, life skills, Naturopathic philosophies and Trauma-Informed Care assist CDS and our EAU Instructors to support our EAU Members suffering from trauma and reintegration issues by eliminating barriers — such as stigmas associated with mental health issues and disabilities – through creative expression to achieve post-service success.

#cdseaa4life, www.creativedrillsergeants.org

  1. Economic Stability by Learning Experiential Expressive Arts Skills
  2. Comradery by Interacting with other EAU Members, EAU Instructors and CDS Staff
  3. Mentoring from EAU Instructors and CDS Staff for Employment and Life Skills
  4. Learning Naturopathic Philosophies and Alternative Healing Methods
  5. Trauma Informed Care for Healing OMF suffering from Trauma and/or Reintegration Issues
  6. Healing as Cohesive Family Units by Employing Visual Art, Play, Music, Movement, Enactment, Creative Writing and More as Coping Skills

#cdseaa4life, www.creativedrillsergeants.org

  1. Learning about Self-Advocacy Skills and Available Additional Resources for Help!
  2. Learning Valuable Industry Knowledge from Mentors to Build Networks, Start a New Career, Gain Practical Work Experience and Earn Extra Income.
  3. Employment through Our Mission Support Program (MSP) Veteran Artist Employment (VAE) Project.
  4. Increased Capacity for Career Success within the Arts Fields such as: Graphic Design, Videography, Media, Music and Sound Production, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Literary Arts and more!

#cdseaa4life, www.creativedrillsergeants.org

  1. Learning Effective Expressive Arts Coping Skills for Dealing with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and Other Mental and physical Issues
  2. Expressive Arts Instruction for Emotional Validation, Enhancing Imagination and Creativity, Improving Mind–Body Connections and Employable Skills
  3. Providing Creative Outlets that Enhance Attention and Awareness Abilities in Productive, Corrective Ways to Promote Healing
  4. Mitigating Trauma Potentials During Reintegration into Civilian Life.

The founders of Creative Drill Sergeants, Mitch Caviness and Gina Ruggiero are both are 100% disabled Veterans with PTSD, as well as multitudes of service-connected physical injuries and limitations. “We use Expressive Arts to rise above circumstantial adversities to find joy in producing something beautiful as artists. Expression through the arts reignites a passion to embrace the moment, the here and now, as it is all we truly get in life. We live each moment to the fullest through arts expression and want to pass along the blessing of expression through the arts to our veteran families.”

#cdseaa4life, www.creativedrillsergeants.org

Mitchell Caviness-President/CFO and Head Expressive Arts Instructor

As a legally blind 100% disabled Army Veteran my disability doesn’t hinder my creative talent. My artwork is a spiritual expression released in wood, wire, stone and mixed medium sculptures. God blessed me with talent and I want to share that blessing with others. Graduate of ASU with Masters in Art Ed and Bachelors in Fine Art. Graduate of NJCSU with a Bachelors in Studio Arts and Ottawa UniversitY. AZ State Certified Teacher in Art History.

#cdseaa4life, www.creativedrillsergeants.org

Gina Ruggiero-Senior Vice President/CEO and Expressive Arts Instructor

Artist/Vocalist and Musician. 100% disabled veteran with TBI, PTSD and MST. My personal mission is to help other veterans Live in Solutions and Not Die in Problems to overcome disability adversities through expressive arts to remain active, productive and hopeful in life. Associate Degree focusing on Art and Art History, but am mostly a self-taught artist and CPD accredited in Introductory Expressive Arts Therapy. Shared Hope International Ambassador. Speaker for Eve’s Place Domestic Violence Shelter.