MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Students and staff members of Southwest High School in Jacksonville, N.C. showed their appreciation to the Marines of the Wounded Warrior Barracks with a painting of the Purple Heart award, Dec. 19.
The painting is a tribute to the Wounded Warriors, Marines and sailors that sustained injuries during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Tim Foster, assistant principal, Southwest High, addressed the Marines and sailors here during the presentation of the students’ patriotic artwork.
“Personally, I feel inadequate to stand before a group of men that have sacrificed and served in the manner that you have. You are the next great generation, and like those before and after you, our way of life rests with your ability to defend this great nation and what it stands for,” he said.
Renee Otero, visual arts teacher, Southwest High, described how the art project came to be.
“We began the project in spring, 2006. It began as an idea from Gunnery Sergeant Kenneth Barnes of the Wounded Warriors and Mrs. Maria Gordon, a community liaison for us throughout the process,” she said.
Otero described some of the materials used to complete the piece.
“A large museum quality 3-by-4 canvas was donated to us, and our students used acrylic paints to create the painting. A local frame shop graciously donated professional framing for the painting, worth 400 dollars,” she said.
Additionally, the subject used to recreate the Purple Heart was none other than the real thing. Otero keeps her father’s medal, one he received during World War II.
“The Purple Heart featured in the painting belonged to my father, 1st Lt. Mack Winter. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his actions in Okinawa, Japan with the 6th Marine Division. I think he would be very pleased and proud that his medal was used as a model for the painting that now graces the Wounded Warrior Barracks,” she said.
Foster expressed how he and the students make up a continuance of the Marine Corps family, and how Marines and sailors are essential to the Jacksonville community.
“I see fathers hug their sons and daughters and say goodbye in our (school) hallways. That is a heartbreaking sight, however, I have seen those same fathers come back and hug their sons and daughters upon their return, and that is heart-swelling,” he said.
This heartfelt token of the school’s appreciation was matched only by words of Foster, who enlightened the young wounded heroes with a bit of history-for-thought.
“Poet Eve Merriam wrote, ‘I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, ‘Mother, what is war?’ I answer that statement with this: I dread the day when a mother gives birth to a child that asks, ‘What was freedom like?’.”
“I believe that is an issue that you, the Marines, will keep from ever taking place. Because freedom is spelled, U-S-M-C,” he said.
Barnes thanked the school members for their gracious donation, and mentioned that the painting might find its home above the fireplace.
The painting is complete with an inscription in the frame that reads, “When words fail, art remains to express our deepest emotions.”