Maria Mia Salazar, a United States Marine, found peace and purpose through art and helps other veterans battle PTSD with her nonprofit, Claymore Vets.
When many people hear about PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder and combat, they often envision a young male infantry soldier running through gunfire with explosions all around him. But PTSD is not reserved for just young males. It can equally impact female servicemembers.
And that’s exactly what happened to Marine, Maria Mia Salazar.
Maria enlisted in the Marine Corps following the tragic events of 9-11. She spent the next ten years of her military career as a United States Marine at the height of the Global War on Terror. Marines undergo some of the most challenging training found anywhere in the world, and they don’t give any slack to females.
Maria Mia Salazar & PTSD
After boot camp, Maria spent the next few years deploying to different parts of the globe, including Iraq. It was no surprise she returned to civilian life diagnosed with PTSD.
Maria had always been an artist and used it to cope with her struggles. But she knew the moment she hit a new roadblock.
“I’ve always been an artist. I know that art is the one of the things that centers me, it helps me process life. Even when I was in Iraq, I had a schedule where I was
always going somewhere for art,” Maria said. “But it wasn’t until one of my ‘po-po’s’ [battle buddy] completed his life, that really hit me. We worked closely for years, and I spoke to him a week before he completed his life. And now I miss him.”
That terrible experience added to Maria’s already heavy plate. She was going through other personal challenges that started to pile up. But being a Marine, she fought through it and carried on with her day-to-day business despite knowing the burden she carried.
But everyone has their limit.
“I kept making excuses for how I was really feeling without addressing the issues. And it wasn’t until I ended up in the ER, thinking I was having a heart attack. The doctor said my heart was fine and asked if I heard of panic attacks. I was like ‘I’m a Marine, I’m a mom, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ It [the panic attacks] happened three more times. That was my body telling me ‘you need to address this, or we’re gonna shut you down completely.’”
She knew she needed to do more for herself – so she decided to help other veterans. Maria took her passion for art and creativity to a new level and founded
Claymore Vets, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. She knew exactly what other veterans go through and wanted to make a difference – with art.
“The military trains you for 13 weeks on how to be a warrior. But after active duty, there’s no retraining back on you how to be a human. Clay brings you back to that child-like state that reconnects back to humanity,” Maria said. “We do clay and more. Our primary medium is clay because I’m a sculptor. I found a lot of healing through clay but we also do visual arts, writing… any kind of creative expression.”
Maria found more peace and a new purpose with Claymore Vets. But she still knows there is more work to do. And as a Marine, she’s prepared to continue the fight against PTSD.
You can learn more about Maria Mia Salazar by visiting www.claymorevets.org and follow her on Instagram @claymore_vets
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