Marine veteran finds “new path” and helps others heal through art

Jessica Rambo, a Marine veteran and artist, struggled with depression and anxiety after her service. However, she found solace in her passion for art, leading her to enroll in art school where she discovered the healing power of art.  

Her experience inspired her to start the Paint Can Project, a mission to bring ammo cans filled with art supplies to veterans across the United States. Through art, she believes that veterans can find a way to release and heal. 

Rambo and her son Liam traveled in an old school bus named the Painted Buffalo, hitting 38 states and helping hundreds of veterans through art projects. They use social media to connect with communities and encourage them to create their own art-making spaces, helping veterans tell their own stories. 

“I think it’s just, you know, being able to create something or tell a story without the communication part. They can be alone in their safe place, and it’s just another tool in a toolbox. I call it creating your own mental healthcare package,” said Rambo.  

Rambo’s love for her artwork and the armed forces was ingrained in her from a young age, having been born into a big military family. Despite her creative inclinations, she knew from an early age that she wanted to join the military and do something bigger than herself. 

In 2006, she enlisted with the Marines and became a combat cameraperson, traveling the world and experiencing the adrenaline rush that came with the job.  

But only four years into her dream job, Rambo was forced to retire early due to a car accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury, internal damage and eventually an addiction to alcohol and painkillers. As a result, she struggled with a failed marriage and her relationship with her children was greatly affected. 

After becoming sober, Rambo pursued her other passion and enrolled in art school, where she realized the therapeutic value of art. Through her art, she was able to overcome her struggles with depression and anxiety. 

“That really kind of changed the trajectory of my life and gave me a new path, a new way to serve my community,” said Rambo. 

The positive impact of their work was evident as Shawn Allen, a veteran with PTSD at the American Legion Post 245 in Adairsville, Georgia, shared that he has been struggling but that participating in these activities has helped him cope. 

“I’m kinda nervous, just because I’m not used to meeting a whole bunch of people, and I don’t really get out much. So yeah, I’m doing all right though,” Allen said.  

Currently, Rambo is conducting workshops for veterans in her newly established studio located on her property, and she is also organizing regular events outside of Atlanta. 

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