As I walked through the halls and up the stairs of the headquarters building for my husband’s battalion for the first time, I was in awe of the artwork on the walls. The whole stairwell was painted with scenes from the battalion’s various endeavors as well as medals earned and their respective conflicts since the battalion’s inception in 1940. The scenes from Iraq and Afghanistan were a beautiful, yet a somber reminder of why I was there and what my husband and all service members alike have had to sacrifice to ensure that the smoke and fire never comes closer than paint on the walls. I would pass these paintings often on my way to family readiness meetings and other similar gatherings in the classroom upstairs. No matter how many times I passed through that corridor, the shear effort that went into each brush stroke was never lost on me. As the years passed I found myself climbing those steps to visit our wonderful Family Readiness Officer who also occupied a space at the top of these stairs. I will never forget that on his door hung a white board, which for a long time hung blank or with a simple scrawled message reporting his whereabouts for anyone who came to his door looking for him; that was until our resident artist came along.
I met him as a Marine who like many enlisted, experienced his fair share of challenges within the Corps before he finally ended up painting the walls with the encouragement of the command once they discovered his talents. Remember the white board I mentioned? After he got a hold of the dry erase markers the boards were always filled with a new comedic rendition of our family readiness officer. It got to the point where people would come by the office with the sole intention if seeing what new drawing he’d come up with. At Christmas parties we enlisted him to draw caricatures of family members, a long way from the warrior he’d been trained to be, but the smile on his face as he drew conveyed that he was at home with his pencil and paper.
Since I met him three years ago, he has taken his art beyond the walls of our CP and has been featured at the National Museum of the Marine Corps and multiple media outlets, including a print that was presented to Gary Sinise. This December he hopes to be able to return to Afghanistan as part of a project endorsed by a national radio station. He is less than a week from the end of his fundraising campaign and still needs the funds to buy the gear necessary for his trip. Unlike his previous trips with the Marine Corps, he has to cover his own expenses, which total $5000.00.
I have seen his work in many mediums and have been truly touched by his depictions of the realities of war. He takes topics that are difficult to discuss and sometimes hard to look at, and gives them a face and an emotion that can be better translated than the photographs we see in the papers or on the news. With pencil or pen and paper, he is able to take something often gruesome and taboo, and create a bittersweet beauty that can be discussed and shared. This is a talent that should be nurtured. My hope by writing this is to use writing as my artistic medium to help him share the depiction of the drawdown through his artistic forte that manifests in his sketches. He still needs our help; just as we all need his images to help make real and public the story of those who are fighting and what they’re fighting for. His art is a dying tradition and this is my call to you to help keep it alive. If you could please take a moment and visit his fundraising site and learn a little more about this talented artist it I promise your efforts would touch the lives of countless. Even if you are unable to give to his cause, simply sharing it would be sufficient. Let’s support him in this endeavor, just as he’s been there to support so many others.