Navy veteran Michael Woods, 32, knows how difficult it is to transition from the military back to civilian life.
After serving in the Navy for 13 years, Woods of Huntley left the military just last year. And the adjustment, he said, hasn't been easy.
"There were so many things that I wasn't prepared for," he said. "I don't feel that I had a lot of organic support or understanding from the community."
To bring awareness to what many soldiers experience during that transition, Woods partnered with Veronica Juncer of Mount Prospect to jump-start a project that showcases veteran-related artwork. Juncer came up with the idea after her brother, a U.S. Marine, returned home from two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The project, Juncer said, will especially focus on educating the public about post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I wanted to create a program that brings awareness to PTSD," she said. "The goal is really to have the community understand what these veterans are going through when they get home from war, and how (PTSD) not only affects these veterans but also the families."
The project will make its initial debut on Saturday, Aug. 30, at the Lake in the Hills Summer Sunset Festival. A booth will be set up to display the donated artwork, which will have a military theme or will be made by veterans themselves.
Various forms of information about PTSD, including brochures and pamphlets, will also be available to educate visitors, Woods said.
Veterans who return from the military with PTSD can experience it in various ways, Woods said. Many soldiers experience anxiety, and some don't want to talk about their experiences. Many find it difficult adjusting to a civilian lifestyle, he said.
"I know what that's like, and the transition is tough," Woods said, adding that he feels responsible for making the general public more aware of topics they should avoid when talking to veterans.
"Certain questions or (statements) could bring back a lot of bad memories," Woods said. "Our job is to get out there and get in touch with people so they understand what a lot of these veterans are going through."
The project has received support from the Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Chamber of Commerce, which is focusing its efforts on helping nonprofit organizations, chamber President Katrina McGuire said.
"This is a project that is kicking off the idea of the chamber participating with a nonprofit project," she said. "We're helping (Woods) develop some strategies to fundraise and bring awareness for PTSD using art as the focal point."
The artwork will not be for sale at the Summer Sunset Festival, McGuire said. Instead, the festival serves as an opportunity to inform and educate the public about the group's efforts.
"(The artwork) is something positive, something beautiful and something that speaks with a lot of emotion," she said.
Woods is also working with the chamber to put together an art show, where veteran-related artwork will be displayed and sold.
Because the project is in its initial stages of development, the show's details are still in the works, McGuire said, though it will likely take place this fall. Proceeds will go toward the Lake in the Hills Veterans Memorial.
"We're just starting out, so we thought we'd use the Veterans Memorial as a way to launch our idea and see what we can make out of it," McGuire said. "I'm hoping to see it grow into something bigger and better."
The project won't stop there, Juncer said. Her long-term goal is to open a studio where veterans can "use art as a way of therapy."
"This is going to be an ongoing project," Juncer said. "I eventually want to rent out a space where these individuals can come and … talk about what they're dealing with and draw and paint -- something that will allow them to let out these emotions they're having."
For more information or to get involved, call the chamber of commerce at (847) 658-5300, or email Veronica Juncer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Michael Woods at email@example.com.