In 35 minutes, Denise Gula, artistic director and founder of Ohio Dance Theatre, takes viewers on a moving glimpse into the heartbreak that follows so many veterans home from combat. It’s an art-imitates-life tribute to her daughter’s struggle to care for her warrior husband, who came back from Iraq with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Blood Stripe” is inspired by the story of Megan and Jeremy — as they are known in the piece — who fought an eight-year battle against demons they didn’t know how to identify. Jeremy was finally diagnosed and started receiving help for his TBI and PTSD, but only after a family crisis catapulted them into the capable hands of Tim DeWolf, head of the Ghost Rider Foundation, who works with combat veterans on a daily basis. 
“At that point my daughter started getting education and learning more about it and understanding what they were going through. What her husband was suffering in his behavior wasn’t his fault,” Gula says. “This was more like a disease that he couldn’t control. But it is something that they can and she can learn to manage. [She can] support her husband, help reduce the stresses and see the signs when they are coming – instead of being angry and going into a war in their own home.”
A mother first, Gula decided to validate what her daughter was going through and to tell the story through dance. She checked everything with her daughter along the way — the music, the storyline, the choreography. 
“I’m hoping that through the piece we can [create] that awareness and provide some hope to these spouses and their families who are basically living in a hell,” she says. “The war has never ended for these vets who return and have TBI and PTSD. It’s not fixed, and it’s never going to go away. But there is hope.” 
“Blood Stripe” will be performed at 7 p.m. on Nov. 4 at Lorain Palace Theatre as part of a free program presented to veterans by Valor Home of Lorain, a facility that provides beds for homeless veterans. Tickets are $10 for general public. (Box office: 440-245-2323.) 

About ODT 
Now in its 25th year, Ohio Dance Theatre has a school and professional company of dancers. 
In addition to its holiday tradition of performing “The Nutcracker” every year at Stocker Center, the theater hosts other pieces throughout the year. 
Located in Oberlin, the school offers classes for 3-year-olds to adults. The school’s 120 students have their choice of tap, ballet, jazz and pointe, says founder and artistic director Denise Gula. 
“We’ve had many students go on to professional careers in dance,” says Gula, whose mother was a dancer, and she grew up in dance. “I danced with a local ballet and, when I returned back to this area, I had started choreographing. I had always taught, and at the time I was adjunct at Lorain (County) Community College, and then I became the director of dance there. Now there are many, many dance studios around, but 25 years ago there was a need for a school that could provide high-quality dance training. Ohio Dance Theatre evolved out of that.”