OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The creative brilliance of Oklahoma City veterans was celebrated during the 25th annual National Veterans Creative Arts Competition.

The Oklahoma City VA Medical Center held the event this week.

“Today was a culmination of a year-long work,” April Reynolds, Recreational Therapist, said Friday. “This competition represents everything that they’ve been doing to get themselves here. And it’s a great way to celebrate who they are, not just the warrior that they want were, but the artist and individual.”

This year’s competition had 29 Oklahoma veterans participating, and featured 38 pieces of art, including paintings, drawings, wood carvings and more.

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Image from OKC VA

The contest also included nine musical pieces and three creative writing entries, according to OKC VA officials.

VA facilities nationwide use art and creativity as a rehabilitative treatment to help veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities.

“Recreation therapy, art therapy and music therapy, it allows a veteran to redefine who they are, especially after illness or injury,” Reynolds said. “This type of therapy allows a veteran to become a multifaceted individual. And we want to recognize that as they become whole again.”

Air Force veteran Victor Guillermo has participated in the competition since 2013.

“It helps me get out of my bubble,” Guillermo said.

Guillermo volunteers at the medical center, playing music in the halls for veterans as they head to their appointments. He played three solo musical pieces for the competition.

“I play around the hospital several places for the veterans,” Guillermo said. “I’m just trying to pay back the veterans.”

The art pieces submitted to the competition were on display for attendees to enjoy.

“All my life I’ve written, painted and performed,” said Army veteran Cornell Gallagher, who had three pieces of art in the competition. “I guess art has always been one of my passions.”

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Image from OKC VA

The competition gives veterans the opportunity to express themselves, according to Gallagher.

“It’s a really good way of showing the things that are important to you and that the public doesn’t usually see,” Gallagher said. “They get to see us expressing our talent and that everybody is able, even us veterans.”

All performances and artwork will be sent to the national competition level in October to be judged against entries from throughout the nation.

National competition winners will be judged in December. Winners will be announced in January.

Veterans qualify to participate in the competition if they are eligible to receive care through the Department of Veterans Affairs and are enrolled at a VA Medical Center, Outpatient Clinic or Vets Center before before the local competition.

“This competition is a good start for veterans to get their feet wet and grow,” Guillermo said. “Yeah, you do grow, there’s some really, really excellent work here.”

Veterans who want to participate in next year’s competition can contact Reynolds at (405) 456-3813 or Kristy Doyle at (405) 456-3488, or go to the VA’s Creative Arts Festival website.