VERO BEACH — Local veterans showed off their artistic skills by writing and reciting poetry and unveiling a colorful ‘peace’ mural they painted to honor those who served in the military.
Some veterans read their pieces during the “Poems from the Veterans Community Mural Project” event held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Vero Beach Museum of Art. The sound of bagpipes could be heard as residents, veterans and their families gathered for the event at the museum, located at 3001 Riverside Park Drive.
“The opportunity for veterans to get together and work with our community gave us a once in a lifetime chance to come together and share our experiences,” Vero Beach Vice-Mayor and veteran Tony Young said. “When you come together with people to make something, it creates a sense of belonging. This is education for our heritage.”
The Veterans Council of Indian River County and the Vero Beach Museum of Art collaborated to initiate the project. The five-week program, which began Oct. 3, allowed the veterans to gather at the museum to share their stories through writing, and identify elements of art and design to be painted onto a fabric canvass.
“One of the key elements to the project was building a community. We talked, we laughed, we cried,” said Dawn Miller, VBMA Art’s for Health Sake Program Manager, who coordinated the program. “The vets felt it was important to inspire young people to serve their country.”
Young said the classes help veterans suffering from loneliness, anxiety and trauma along with those who may feel isolated. He said there are more than 20 veterans who commit suicide each day across the nation.
“This is an incredible opportunity,” Young said.
The veterans who participated in the program served in different military branches, including the Army, Navy and Air Force, Young said. Some of the veterans served in the Vietnam War and Korean War.
After several introductions and poetry readings, the audience was moved into the auditorium for the mural unveiling. Bagpipes were played as the veterans stood on each side of a projector, elevated to reveal the 5-foot tall and 15-feet long painting.
Unveiling of veterans memorial at Vero Beach Museum of Arts ahead of Veterans Day. The mural was painted by 12 veterans living in Indian River County. What do you think ? #VeroNews pic.twitter.com/vTUGl5yYfj
— Nicholas Samuel (@JournalistNickS) November 9, 2019
On the mural was the American flag, which could be seen behind the word ‘peace.’ An image inside each letter depicted a story of history and honor.
The ‘P’ shows an image of ‘We the People,’ which Young said notes veterans’ vows to protect the constitution. ‘E’ has a man with dog tags standing in front of a headstone paying tribute to the fallen.
‘A’ has an eagle and shield with colors of the American flag, symbolizing service to the nation, Young said. ‘C’ shows a man, woman and child saluting with camouflage colors in the background.
The final ‘E’ has the silver star medal, which depicts valor and courage, Young said. A dove right next to the letter symbolizes “the fruit of our duty,” Young said.
“They started with words and ended up with a work of art,” said Vero Beach Councilmember Laura Moss, who was elected as the first civilian to serve on the board of directors for Veterans Council of Indian River County.
The VBMA Circle member donors funded the program, and each class for the veterans was free of charge. Those members are Diane Hughes, Lisa O’Brien, Louise Schmitt and Suzanne Bertman, according to museum officials.
There are about 15,000 veterans living in Indian River County. On Monday, Veterans Day, several services will be held throughout the county to pay tribute to those who served in the military.
The mural project was the first activity held under the partnership between the museum and veterans council. The painting will be displayed on the courtyard wall south of the museum near the circle.
Two more projects, involving photography and art education, are planned for early next year.
Here is a list of veterans who participated in the mural project:
- Joseph Gomez, Sergeant, U.S. Army
- Carlos Halcomb, Colonel, U.S. Air Force
- Tom Little, Captain, U.S. Army
- Jim Newman, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army
- Joe Parisi, RM2, U.S. Navy
- Dr. Genaro Pisano, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army
- Jacqueline Reynolds, Staff Sergeant, NJ Air National Guard
- Charles Ringgold, Colonel, U.S. Army
- Yvonne Steere, Daughter and Mother of Veterans
- Terry Treat, Major, U.S. Army
- Tony Young, Colonel, U.S. Army
- Marty Zickert, Colonel, U.S. Air Force
Photos by Nick Samuel and provided by Tony Young