During his 18 years in the Army, Michael Matthews deployed to Iraq twice, Afghanistan once and Bosnia once. After each deployment, he drank to cope. In 2013, after the death of his son his drinking intensified. “I never grieved after my son died. Just numbness.” In October 2015, Michael returned to the States and felt all alone. He didn’t want to live anymore. Things began to pile-up on him, and he took the brave steps toward treatment. He broke down in tears talking to a doctor at the medical facility at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, where he was stationed. “I felt as if I hit the bottom and I just couldn’t Soldier through anymore.” He ended up at Walter Reed, where he found community and began painting while going through substance abuse and PTSD treatment, finding a new identity. He remembers the first time he was introduced as an artist, when he came to one of Community Building Art Work’s community programs. “[Seema] said, ‘This is Michael, he’s a great, great visual artist.’ That made me feel so good about myself. It uplifted me and gave me confidence.” It was a turning point in his resolve to build a life for himself beyond the military.

Today Michael is retired from the Army and lives in Rockville, Maryland. He is a proud, present, and loving dad, and a Junior at Catholic University, where he is studying Architecture through their Integrated Path to Architecture Licensure program. Though he doesn’t have a lot of time to paint in his intricately detailed style, he uses his creativity with geometry and designing and organizing space through architecture. Once he graduates from school he envisions combining architecture and artistic painting. “The direction of my life is a defined path now. If I didn’t end up at Walter Reed involved in the writing and art groups, I’m not sure what path I would be on.”

Michael is currently seeking an internship under a licensed architecture firm. Let’s work together to help him achieve that. If you have a connection, please reach out.

Michael Matthews, Acrylic on Canvas