Wisconsin American G.I. Forum
Milwaukee County Historical Society
Artist: David Wischer
Veteran: Arturo J., US Marine Corps
I was introduced to Arturo in an email and we exchanged hellos. The next email I received included a gripping story of fear, chaos, smoke, fire, life, death, and the smell of burning fuels. Marines were trained for these conditions during the Vietnam Era. After a routine lunch break, a loud trembling voice came over the intercom. An immediate emergency situation was in progress. In an instant, Arturo was commanded to save lives, which he did with tremendous courage. Spiritually, he saw a vision of his mother, and she told him, in Spanish, “lt’ll be okay, son.” And it was. Arturo was meritoriously promoted and was given Inspector responsibilities, but post-traumatic scars, unfortunately, are a part of life for veterans. Arturo is a perfect example of bravery and commitment, and I am so thankful for this collaborative experience. I learned a lot from Arturo, and I hope he’s proud of this work.
Artist: Matthew J. Bindert
Veteran: Guadalupe “Lupe” R., US Marine Corps
This print “Young Survivor” is in honor of the service of Corporal Guadalupe “Lupe” R. of the United States Marine Corps. It was an amazing experience and privilege sitting down with Lupe, hearing his story and looking through his photos from Vietnam. It was clear from our discussion that he felt if his and other Veterans stories were not told that less would be learned from War. The dark chaotic scene depicts his horrific experiences in combat, clinging to and looming over the portrait of a brave young Lupe. The composition opens representing a survivor who persevered through the disasters of war and was able to travel the world and achieve so much after. The subtle white on white portrait of Lupe wearing multiple medals he received is also meant to demonstrate that his sacrifice and courage while serving our country should not be forgotten and that there is much to be learned from him and others who have served.
Artist: Brittany Kieler
Veteran: “Nancy”, US Air Force
I have learned that Nancy’s strength is quiet, but that is not to say that it has any less presence or effect. She is humble, but steadfast in her beliefs, and she is trusting of herself. She served as a dental technician, and during that time, men in her unit tried to force her to have sex with them. When she didn’t allow them to use her body, they held back her promotions so that the Commanding Officer would think her a less than marginal airman. They also threatened to have her daughter taken away. Nancy did not give in. She reported the men to higher authority, but when no action was taken against them, Nancy realized that she could rely on no one but herself. She came to work earlier and left later than was required of her. She made her uniform and her actions pristine so that no one could report her. When she speaks of this time, I imagine that Nancy must be made of something quite sturdy. Those years are marked by a struggle, she says, that felt like combating a pack of wolves. Her long braided hair is the composure that she kept, a sort of exoskeleton. Her ribs, her spine, her bones, which held her in the straightest posture, hold her together now. Nancy is a very strong woman.
Artist: Jamie Gutowski
Veteran: Andres G, US Marine Corps
One main concept that stood out to me when talking with Andres was how much of his military service was related to the water. His strong swimming skills and mechanical sensibilities led him to be an Amphibious Tank Operator, a highly specialized position that involves transporting people and cargo from battleships to shore. In addition to serving two tours of duty in Iraq, he also helped provide humanitarian aid to tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka.
Lost in the Smoke
Artist: Jennifer H. Padgett
Veteran: Manuel “Jesse” T., US Navy
The story of Jessie, is depicted in a lithograph print, “Lost in the Smoke”, is a representation of a young man as a sailor seeking adventure. Finally training was done and the sailor was on board, shipped out, and settled into the daily routine, only to find a hard reality of a sailor’s life was not all red sunsets and swaying palm trees but smoke and fire as the business of defending one’s country commenced. Having to work strange hours in all sorts of weather, our sailor dutifully stands his post behind a light where he receives and executes his directives. Our navy boy’s world is filled with dots and dashes of the urgent Morse code messages written in lights, which flashes before his eyes; however, our sailor boy is lost in his memories. A mind swirling with images of home, laughter, promises, and final words of family and friends; cloak him and blurs his vision. In like manner of the smoke and fog, which circles about him in his duty station. It shields our sailor boy from the reality about him as he dutifully carries out his orders.
Artist: Yvette M. Pino
Veteran: Frank G., US Army
Frank’s story was told to me through his Daughter, Anna. I met Anna last summer and she shared with me the story of her father who died in Vietnam when she was a young girl. She had recently gone through all of his letters and military possessions. This print does not begin to capture the journey that Anna has been on to find out about her father. She showed me a book of combat assaults documented daily by her father. In trying to find out what these notes meant, she found a soldier who served under her father’s command. He was able to translate the military jargon for her and through this correspondence he was also able to share personal stories about Frank. This print captures a moment when, after a long and tumultuous day, Frank comforted the young soldier with a reassuring rub to the young man’s hunched head. “I will always remember your dad’s smile.” I thought it appropriate that the image be carved into wood because Frank and this particular soldier shared a common ritual of meticulously sharpening their buck knives. I really cherished the time I spent with Anna and her Mother learning about the man that Frank Gomez was.
Artist: Nicole Shaver
Veteran: Charles G., US Navy
Charles saw five major battles during his deployment of the US Navy. He began on the USS Mississippi in 1944 scraping the metal and paint off the deck while the ship sailed the Pacific. In an oral history taken from The Wisconsin Veterans Museum he described the discomfort of sleeping on his back in the ship’s hammocks and the decision of several of his fellow seaman to sleep on the ground. After two years of being washed around the seas, the Navy offered to send him any place he wanted to go, and all Charlie wanted was to go home to a bed.
Artist: Jay Wallace
Veteran: George B., US Army
A Particular aspect of George’s story that influenced the piece I created was a very specific moment during his service while in Vietnam on April 23rd, 1970. This was a very poignant moment for George, as this experience forever changed him. At 10:20 in the morning, enemy soldiers ambushed George and his group. After warding off their assailants and killing them, George came across photos of one of his attackers. The photos were of the man’s family, his wife and children. Upon further investigation, George discovered that the faith and belief of the deceased individual was quite strikingly similar to his own and George was struggling to make sense of the entire situation, even his own personal set of beliefs and values.
I decided to portray a snuffed out candle with dying ember as symbolism of a belief slowly fading away. The image in the center is George struggling to come to terms with the situation as he is surrounded with palms indicative of Palms Sunday creating a cruciform around him. The smoke is representative of the internal wrestle George had within himself and with his personal beliefs. My depiction of the entire scene is meant to be contemplative of how that brief moment and experience George had was forever life changing for him.