FMF Corpsman Rene Vincit’s service in the US Navy took him all over the world—from Afghanistan to Camp Pendleton. In 2016 while receiving outpatient therapy, he knew he was reaching a breaking point, and that the course of treatment he was receiving was not enough: if he didn’t get acute care, he would hurt himself. Once he took the courageous step of making that clear to his provider, he was transferred to an inpatient facility for a couple of days. This is where he first encountered alternative therapeutic techniques.

While creating has been in his blood since he was sketching abstract figures as a child in elementary school in Springfield, Virginia, it was a skill he put away after joining the military. He had toyed with writing, creating his first blog when he was 25 years old. “As with [visual] art, I developed a passion for it but put it away to focus on [military] training.” Vincit held no real expectations other than being excited to get away from group talk therapy, but experiencing the arts again in a group setting, his talent came back naturally. Exploring art and writing was difficult at first because he had never analyzed the emotions and questions behind what he created. “It was through the [art and writing] workshops that I learned to slow down and have a conversation with myself about what I was feeling” in those moments of pen to paper or brush to canvas.

When asked what value he got from the workshops, Vincit said, “You can’t place a value on interpersonal growth.”

Vincit continues to create and exhibit his art. Through a CBAW veteran Art exhibition he participated, somebody “discovered him.” After reviewing the pieces in his trunk, the artist asked Vincit to apply to the gallery she was part of to get juried in, and he hasn’t looked back. After gaining some confidence there, he explored larger exhibits and continues to do so. “My emotional breakdown and mental health journey within the broken military mental health care system re-introduced me to what I am most passionate about.”

Today Vincit lives in Northern Virginia with his dog. “I was on a self-destructive path with death in sight. If it wasn’t for the staff at the Navy Safe Harbor program and the workshops, I don’t believe I would have found the strength to consider the possibility of a positive outcome.”

Since being medically retired, Vincit has continued to participate in various exhibits with Community Building Art Works, and is still part of Arches Gallery (at Workhouse Arts Center). In January 2020 he will be exhibiting a solo show titled Under the Influence. Another fantastic skill he picked up through his participation in CBAW workshops was the art of storytelling through video and audio. This past February with a group of friends, Vincit launched the Squishee Sandwich podcast, which focuses on stories that help inspire by hosting guests in the veteran community, art community, nonprofit organizations, and anyone looking to make a difference.

Though he’s accomplished a great deal already, Vincit has lots to do. “I look forward to putting together all the years of pain, healing, and future schooling to really begin to make an impact on a much larger scale.”

See Rene Vincit’s artwork and hear him read at the January 30 reception for Internal Dialogue: Remembering Selves and be sure to follow The Squishee Sandwich Podcast on Instagram and listen wherever you listen to podcasts.