“As I prepared to go to TAV’s 21-day Trauma Resiliency Program, I debated about whether to take my guitar. I was anxious about traveling for the first time with a service dog during the pandemic, and only wanted to travel light,” said Figueroa.
In the months before TAV’s program, the veterans are paired with mentors who work with the veterans before and during the program. Figueroa was paired with Kim DeFiori (and her dog, Thor) and they quickly connected.
“Kim talked to me about the importance of self-care, especially during the course, so I trusted her and brought my guitar. It was then I realized music as an important self-care tool that helps me stay in the moment. On the night I graduated, and was officially paired with my service dog, I wondered, “What would it be like to Create With Valor?” This thought was like a coin, because it had two sides. (What would it be like to create with him physically by my side, but also with bravery or value?),“ said Figueroa.
After her graduation from TAV’s program, Figueroa was selected to be an artist in residence with WMAI.
“My residency ends in June with a final show that will run for three months. It will combine music and visual art. The title I’ve given it is “Together.” It’s about strength and growth, and what happens when there’s connection, service, and support. I consider TAV to be a huge contributing factor to the path I am currently on with my art,” said Figueroa.
Figueroa says that through TAV’s dog training and the 21-day Trauma Resiliency Program, she now has the tools to take over after Valor has stepped in.
“I belong to a strong pack not only with myself and Valor, also with my peers, and with the staff that I can turn to and lean on in time of need. I can now say my life and focus, as a result of TAV and Valor, are about the ‘This-Ability’ instead of the ‘Dis-Ability,’” she said.
Figueroa would highly encourage other veterans suffering from PTSD to apply for TAV’s Trauma Resiliency Program.
“It took me a very long time to apply. My belief was that I didn’t have it as bad as other military members, so I didn’t rate a service dog. I am grateful I took that step and sent in my application. I could never have imagined living a healthier more connected life,” said Figueroa.
Since Valor has been in her life, she has experienced so much joy with him.
“There are two amazing moments that rise to the top for me. One, is having been a mentor; and two, having played at Kim’s wedding. It was so amazing to have shared that moment with her and her wife, with all of our service dogs, and to meet their extended families and close friends.” she said.
Figueroa has created a website, creatingwithvalor.com, with the intention to pay it forward through art sales and commissions, and to highlight the organizations that have given so much to her and others. This Able Veteran highly encourages its readers to visit and see photos of Figueroa and Valor along with her artwork, and blog. She also has listed This Able Veteran and Victor Pet Foods as organizations she supports.
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