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Leslie Elsasser - Introduction
Christian Cortes

Crimi Arrieta - Relative of US Army Veteran
Patricia Colbert - US Army
Gail Cross - US Air Force
Dr. Charlie Ferrer - US Army
Janine Hargrett - US Army
Valerie Larson - US Air Force
Kevin Lipton - US Army
Dolores Matteo - US Army
Karidad Ramis-Hartman - US Army
Roger St. Julian - US Army
Monika Sutton - Spouse of US Army Veteran
Viana L.M. Tavares-Fischer - US Army

Manfredo Bobadilla - US Army
Agustin Collazo Jr. - US Marine Corps / US Navy
Amanda Dodd - US Army
Evan Fountain - US Air Force
Derek Hopkins - US Air Force
Mikko Maki - US Marine Corps
Alicia Morales - US Army
Chris Smith - Spouse of US Army Veteran
Kimberlee Nicole Smith - US Army
RaeAnne Swanson - US Air Force


Derek Hopkins, I Can Still Be of Service, 2023.

Derek Hopkins, I Can Still Be of Service, 2023.


I Can Still Be of Service 

We ran to the bunker having just finished chow when the mortars came in. I nervously readied my rifle while small arms fire hit around us. I was not a hero but for those who were I dared not complain. I slept best hearing air support overhead with thunder in the distance, there was a fight, but not for me, not that night. On base it was a humanitarian effort, we offered up food, water, medicine, and cots. I bought trinkets from locals with paychecks I might never get to spend. What machinations of old had brought me here I couldn’t say, but I found purpose in my duty to others. 

Light creeps into my bedroom and I hear the distant hum of the morning commute. My body recalls before I do and a family member stares at me from the dresser. At home war is depression, addiction, and crime. Friends lost on these front lines let one think it’s easy to join them. I’m older and slower, but I have found purpose in service. If there is another soldier “down range” I will never give up and I get out of bed. 

On a hot August day, I am sitting on a bench when a young man begins talking with me. He likes my hat and says that he is a veteran and an artist. When he asks for my picture, I am glad I can still be of service to another brother in the fight.



Derek Hopkins, I Was a Soldier Once, 2023.

Derek Hopkins, I Was a Soldier Once, 2023.

Derek Hopkins, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, 2023.

Derek Hopkins, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, 2023.



For more information:
Email Leslie Elsasser at

Breaking Barriers is a program by USF Contemporary Art Museum in collaboration with the USF School of Art & Art History, is supported by the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, USF Office of Veterans Success, Community Arts Impact Grant of the Hillsborough Arts Council, Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, Love IV Lawrence, USFCAM ACE (Art for Community Engagement) Fund Patrons, and the Florida Department of State, Florida Arts & Culture.