A Tracy veteran has transformed the struggles he experienced after leaving the military into a mural he painted as part of the Tracy Arts Commission’s Civic Art Program and the Downtown Tracy Mural Project.

Will Watts of Tracy served in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2016 with two deployments to Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. He broke both legs in a motorcycle accident after his second deployment, which ended his military career, and he became depressed, angry and paranoid, ultimately falling into suicidal thoughts.

He sought help through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and he also found a website discussing a medicinal plant called ayahuasca, which is used to make a powerful psychedelic tea.

Watts traveled to Peru and participated in ayahuasca ceremonies that he said had a life-changing, emotional impact on him. He has since helped other veterans and friends travel to Peru.

“In my healing I met God and the devil. They were both shadows of myself who taught me many lessons about myself, and the universe,” Watts wrote. “I came to understand that anger was useless, and that the meaning of life was about love and understanding.”

As his mental health improved, Watts confronted his fears and mistakes and learned new skills, including playing the piano and painting.

His recent mural is on the side of the West Side Market building facing Jackson Alley and the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts, 715 N. Central Ave.

“Painting has been a wonderful outlet for my mental health, and has helped me channel many of the negative feelings that I have into something positive and creative,” Watts wrote. “This mural that I have created is dedicated to all of the service members out there who have gone through depression, anxiety, PTSD, and trauma, and urges those who are lost to research the plant medicine Ayahuasca. It saved my life and transformed me into a person that I now love. Though we may feel lost at times, we are never alone.”

The Downtown Tracy Mural Project, established in 2015, includes several works on the Grand Theatre’s Seventh Street side and both sides of Jackson Alley. The most recent is a 2019 painting by street artist Hector Covarrubias of a Mexican rag doll on the north wall of the Grand Theatre’s box office. Later in the year, Covarrubias was commissioned by a downtown property owner to paint a larger mural with a patriotic theme on the south-facing wall of the building at 619-631 N. Central Ave.

Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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