Heroes of Freedom, a local non-profit organization that helps disabled veterans, is holding a veteran-themed art showcase at the CityArts Factory in Downtown Orlando.

The showcase, which is open for viewing until April 11, features about 30 pieces. A portion of the sales will go to support the nonprofit's programs, which aim to aid, counsel and comfort the wounded veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

"My goal is to help as many people come out of the darkness as I can," artist and co-director of Heroes of Freedom's Healing Program Vanness Johnson said. Johnson's art piece, "MIA POW," paid homage to his friend, Palin Perez Jackson, who suffered from PTSD. He was shot to death in a standoff with cops.

The Heroes of Freedom housing program helps veterans with minor house renovations including cleaning and handicap accessibility. The healing program also focuses on offering therapeutic activities for veterans, such as yoga, reiki energy and music.

Senior print-making and drawing major Jose "Chepe" Henao contributed two pieces to the showcase.

Henao, who was 19 years old when he enlisted in the Army three months after the Sept. 11 attacks, contributed two untitled pieces to the showcase. He said he leaves his works untitled because art means different things to different people and he doesn't want to lead anyone in any direction.

Henao's piece with the skull in front of the dark background with writings represents his reflections of his time in the military, which consisted of: chasing women, playing cards and the mortality surrounding him at war. The number 22 in the same piece is written in the background, representing the estimated number of veterans that commit suicide every day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"I wouldn't feel right not calling attention to the 22 suicides daily," Chepe said. "It's my job to let other veterans know that we feel their pain."

"We just want to let those guys know that we didn't forget about them and we appreciate and thank them for their service for the freedom that we have here in America," said Deangelo Hill, president and founder of Heroes of Freedom.


Esteban Garcia is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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