Nine Utah veterans, all members of the Salty Dogs musical group, performed at the 2005 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Denver last month. They joined nearly 100 other veterans from across the country.
Local group members include Barton Allan, 72, an Army veteran from Draper; Paul Boruff, 54, a Navy veteran from Salt Lake City; Lewis Garret, 71, an Air Force veteran from Highland; James Lee, 45, an Air Force veteran from North Salt Lake; Tom Hollingsworth, an Air force and Army veteran from West Jordan; John Prather, 61, a Marine Corps veteran from Draper; Ray Ross, 57, an Army veteran from Midvale; Raymond H. Ross, 82, an Army veteran from West Valley; and George Simmons, 66, a Navy veteran from Draper.
During the annual stage performance on Oct. 23 at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, the group performed "Man of La Mancha." Several members also had solos in the 2005 Veterans Ensemble chorus. Simmons said, "The Salty Dogs' hard work has paid off. The American dream can come true. I really can make a difference in a peaceful way in this world. If we can make someone smile or feel good each day, then that day is well spent. Participating in the festival has made me feel more worthwhile and a little more confident."
The festival showcases the talents of America's veterans who have participated in yearlong talent competitions in music, drama, dance and art. The competition is open to all veterans receiving care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities.
There were more than 2,700 participants nationwide vying for an invitation to this year's festival from 101 VA facilities. Invitations to participate were sent to 130 veterans who are medal winners in national music, dance, drama or art contests. The Salty Dogs won first place in three categories of the national music competition: vocal group (Broadway); vocal group (religious); and a tie in vocal group (country/folk/bluegrass).
Other Utah veterans attending the 2005 festival include Army veteran Don Gibby, 63, from Ogden, who won "Best of Show" in the artwork competition for his pottery entitled "Native Cutthroat Trout and Salmon." Nina Mincarelli, 59, a Navy veteran from Salt Lake City, won first place in the national drama competition in the solo (interpretive performance) dramatic category; and high honors in the national music competition in the vocal solo (religious) category. Mincarelli performed as part of the chorus in the stage show production.
VA medical facilities incorporate creative arts into their recreation therapy programs. Many of the veterans who participate are facing significant physical or emotional challenges. This annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery made through creative art therapy and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our nation's veterans after disease, disability or life crisis.
The program demonstrates how creative expression helps facilitate successful treatment for a variety of health problems.
The festival is presented by VA, the American Legion Auxiliary and Help Hospitalized Veterans. It was hosted this year by the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System in Denver.