Marylhurst student Joe Ballard accompanied WWII veterans traveling to Washington, D.C. with Journey of Heroes in Oct. 2017, documenting the veterans’ stories.
Joe Ballard knew his summer internship at the Geezer Gallery would be memorable, but he never thought it would lead to this opportunity of a lifetime.
It all started when Joe, an Iraq war veteran and creative writing student at Marylhurst, connected with Marylhurst alum Amy Henderson ‘09, founder of the Geezer Gallery. Marylhurst internship coordinator Lori Geres knew Amy was looking for an intern to help at her art gallery for mature artists, and Lori knew Joe would be perfect for the assignment.
One special Geezer Gallery project Joe joined in August was the Spirit of ’45 event, a joint project with Vital Life Foundation of Marquis Companies. Joe and Amy worked alongside WWII veterans, helping them create collages that told their individual stories through art and artifacts, to be displayed at the Spirit of ‘45 event in Aurora, Ore.
Joe met many people through the Spirit of ‘45 event – it was even attended by Senator Jeff Merkley – but it was Joe’s introduction to the Vital Life Foundation that led to his next assignment, as a writer for Journey of Heroes.
Journey of Heroes, a joint program of Wish of a Lifetime and the Vital Life Foundation, sends veterans who have never seen our nation’s memorials to Washington D.C. so they can experience the honor in person. That alone is quite an accomplishment, but Vital Life Foundation wanted others to hear the stories of these incredible war veterans.
That’s where Joe Ballard came in. He traveled to D.C. with these men and women, writing and sharing their stories on social media, such as this quote from Stan Wryn, a teenager at the time he enlisted: “We had the weight of the war on our shoulders, us kids. And would you believe it? We didn’t screw things up too bad.”
Documenting the inspiring life stories of our veterans is work that never ends. Joe Ballard is likely to be engaged in this storytelling for some time to come – in part due to connections made at Marylhurst University.
Joe Ballard studies creative writing in the B.A. in English Literature & Writing program at Marylhurst University. The artwork he helped veterans create will be on display at Marquis Tualatin Assisted Living on Nov. 14, 2017.