Visitors to the Feb. 9 Phoenix Veterans Creative Arts Festival (VCAF) will not only experience the immense artistic talent of Phoenix area veterans, they will also have the opportunity to meet a special visitor: American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) National President Mary E. Davis.

Davis, of Lacey, Wash., was elected to the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization during the organization’s 96th National Convention in Cincinnati this past August. A 40-year ALA member, Davis is from a military family - both of her parents served in WWII, her husband is a Vietnam-era veteran and her son served in Desert Storm. She has also been an accredited service officer through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for 20 years.

“The power of expression and healing through art can be a beautiful and therapeutic journey for those who create, and I am lucky to bear witness to these veterans’ talent,” said Davis, who added that she is looking forward to her time in Arizona.

The Veterans Creative Arts Festival, which features more than 150 categories in art, music, dance, drama and creative writing, is sponsored across the country by local Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers and the American Legion Auxiliary. The competition is part of the VA’s recreation therapy program designed to further rehabilitate inpatients and outpatients. VCAF recognizes the progress and recovery made through art therapy, and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our nation’s veterans after disease, disability or life crisis.

“Winners of the Phoenix competition go on to compete nationally, so we are excited to have a distinguished national VIP like ALA National President Mary Davis at this year’s event,” said Margaret Ellis, ALA program coordinator for the Phoenix competition and Gilbert, Ariz. resident.

Last year, a Phoenix veteran won two awards for his leather craft at the national competition. The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival will take place Oct. 23 to 30, and Davis is also expected to attend that event.

Any veteran who is enrolled at the Phoenix VA Medical Center or outpatient clinic is eligible to enter their art in the festival. Applications, available through the VA’s occupational or recreational therapy department, are due Jan. 26.

The public is invited to view the veterans’ talent and vote for the “People’s Choice” award at the event held 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 650 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix.

In addition to attending the Phoenix VCAF while in Arizona, Davis will also tour the state capitol, have dinner at Mary Ellen’s Place (which provides affordable housing for women veterans), and visit the Phoenix National Cemetery and State Veterans Home. Surprise, Ariz. resident and Department of Arizona President Jan Cushing will host the national president’s visit.

For more information about the Veterans Creative Arts Festival, visit www.creativeartsfestival.va.gov.

American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) members have dedicated themselves for nearly a century to meeting the needs of our nation’s veterans, military, and their families here and abroad. They volunteer millions of hours yearly, with a value averaging $2 billion each year. As part of the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, ALA volunteers across the country also step up to honor veterans and military through annual scholarships and with ALA Girls State programs, teaching high school juniors to be leaders grounded in patriotism and Americanism. To learn more about the ALA’s mission or to volunteer, donate or join, visit www.ALAforVeterans.org. To contact the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Arizona, email ALAdeptAZpr@gmail.com.

Marge Christianson is a Public Relations volunteer with the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Arizona.