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Gregory Miller’s story didn’t start out much different from other high school gradates. He took a few classes at St. Charles Community College after graduating from Francis Howell High School, but he didn’t fully commit. Then, in 2003, he joined the Air Force.
He was attached initially to the 507th Civil Engineering Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), Okla., but subsequently transferred to the 932nd Civil Engineering Squadron at Scott AFB, located in Illinois, which enabled him to pursue a career in art when not performing Reserve duties.
In 2005, Gregory deployed to San Vicente, El Salvador, on a humanitarian mission for the construction of an education complex. He worked alongside El Salvadorian troops, ensuring foundations were correctly laid, masonry walls properly erected and 3,000-plus blocks were precisely placed.
In May 2008, his unit was called up to serve a six-month tour in Kirkuk, Iraq. The effects of daily mortar rounds and bombings quickly took their toll on Greg, especially when an officer was hit by a sniper on base and he witnessed the aftermath of several people injured by a gate bombing.
“When I came home in September of 2008 I was an angry person,” Gregory said. “By February 2009 I had attempted suicide for the first of many times. I was then diagnosed with PTSD and medically retired from the Air Force in 2010. That’s when I decided to come back to SCC and finish the classes I had started.”
During his service, he was often found graffitiing the base with art from the different squadrons. His detailed work in El Salvador also spoke to his artistic ability. Gregory has since decided to turn his longtime passion of art into more than just a hobby, and is now working toward an Associate of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art at SCC.
Greg works in many different mediums, from paint to woodcraft. He currently assists the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program with an art therapy program called “Painting with A Purpose,” which teaches Wounded Warriors the skills they need to paint a picture and, invariably, give them skills they need to aid their own personal recovery.
“As a wounded warrior myself, I was afforded the opportunity to share my talents and expertise to help bring healing through art,” Gregory said. “I currently attend six adaptive sports camps, at various USAF bases, where we provide art therapy in the evenings. The art projects consist of acrylic painting, in which the warrior can go freestyle or follow along as I guide them from beginning to end.”
Each November, during Warrior Care Month, the Wounded Warrior Healing Arts Exhibit is hosted. The exhibit chooses service members from each branch of service to display their artwork inside the Pentagon. The warriors are chosen by a committee and invited to attend a viewing, educating all in attendance. In April 2017, Gregory was chosen.
“Myself along with a few other warriors from each branch were invited for a special presentation as our work was displayed through a lithograph for an entire year.”
What’s next for Gregory? He plans to continue his education at SCC and broaden his abilities while continuing to bring healing through art.