A female Navy officer commissioned a San Diego military artist to create a painting to celebrate the sacrifice of a dying Marine.
The painting, “Hero Ascending” by Todd Krasovetz, shows a badly wounded Marine being brought into an operating room. Faces of the surgeons are tense. In the upper corner of the painting is the outline of an angel carrying the Marine upward.
The idea behind the painting is to bring comfort in the face of a hero’s death.
The scene goes back to a poignant moment Lt. Melissa Wells, a retired Navy medical officer, remembered from one of her deployments to Fallujah, Iraq.
A group of Marines brought a wounded comrade out of a combat truck into a field surgical unit where Wells worked.
There were many days when the medical team could stop the bleeding, numb the pain, and save the limb and somehow the life. That was not one of those days, Wells said. “I felt acutely aware of the life force within this Marine, and I knew the instant he passed away.”
At that moment, she felt a warmth flood the trauma room, that came from the left upper corner of the room. “It was as if a wave of compassion spread through the once chaos filled space, and in doing so, removed the fury, sadness and grief. All I felt was peace — it was a hand of God moment,” Wells said.
“When I went on deployment, my family worried about me and when someone doesn’t come back, there is grief, but I wanted the painting to show the other side of that — the peacefulness — there is a glorious and compassionate ascendance into heaven for the soul of a hero,” Wells said.
Wells, who lives near Quantico, Va., served 17 years in the Navy and was a member of the Fleet Marine Force. She was medically retired six years ago because of traumatic brain injury from a mortar blast in Iraq.
Wells and Krasovetz plan to donate a print to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle. Va. with the possibility of donating the 24-by-36-inch original to the Smithsonian.
“The painting pays tribute to those who have given their lives for our freedom and disabled veterans who have been injured and been there in the painting, but have come back,” Krasovetz said.
“The piece is supposed to convey the feeling that something spiritual is happening — there’s something powerful going on there and you can see it in the eyes of the surgeon who is taken aback,” Krasovetz said.
Krasovetz is known in military circles for his painting, “Wings of Hope,” originally installed 15 years ago at the entrance to the old Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. The painting shows a Navy corpsman pulling a wounded Marine to safety on a sandy shore. In the reflection of the water, the corpsman has wings. Krasovetz, based in Point Loma, has been commissioned by nearly every branch of the military to produce works at 11 military installations across the country over the past 15 years.
“Wings of Hope” also caught the attention of set designers for the ABC Lifetime TV series “Army Wives” and several of his military paintings have appeared on the set.
Krasovetz started doing military paintings as a way to honor service members. His father fought in Vietnam and his brother, Scott Krasovetz, a Navy corpsman, was deployed multiple times to Iraq with the 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton.
The painting is as much a tribute to military members as it is to their families who stand behind them, Wells said.
EAGLES RISING’ WILL BE UNVEILED AT WO COHORT’S 100TH BIRTHDAY
On Jan. 5, 2018, renowned military artist Todd Krasovetz delivered the latest painting (the third in a series) commissioned by USAWOA.
Titled “Eagles Rising,” it will be unveiled in conjunction with the celebration of the warrant officer cohort’s centennial birthday, on July 9.
Ambitious in scope, the painting seeks to encompass 100 years of our history – from our humble beginnings as mine planters in World War I, and through every conflict since, as eagles rising to become the technical experts we are at today’s leadership table.
We sincerely hope all who view this work of art will see a part of themselves, or that it evokes a fond memory of someone they have counted on and perhaps loved in the past … a Warrant Officer – a Quiet Professional®.
The focal point of the painting intentionally seeks to capture the correct role of today’s warrant officers, as enumerated above.
Last month’s column primarily focused on the apparent erosion of critical Warrant Officer technical skills, and the need for warrant officers to “to reclaim [their] logistical, maintenance, and technical footprint, ceded in contracted sustainment plans over more than a decade.”
Army leaders such as Gen. Gus Perna, commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command, readily acknowledge that to a certain degree, this erosion of skills was an unfortunate byproduct of the OPTEMPO, character, and duration of recent conflicts.
Regardless, the overriding message from Army senior leaders is clear: Even as we continue to engage in counterinsurgency operations, we need to prepare for potentially larger (perhaps imminent) conflicts. Success in these will in part be dependent on a significant reset in warrant officer technical skillsets (and the price of failure could be measured in lives lost).
Having said this, warrant officers must not in any way interpret this as a shift away from their commensurate roles as trainers, leaders and advisors.
In a 2016 speech to graduates of the Warrant Officer Candidate School I stated the following:
“I usually refer to warrant officers as ‘technical leaders,’ because quite frankly the Army expects us to be both technical experts and leaders. The question over which is ‘more important’ is ridiculous on its face, because it is situationally answered differently, throughout any given career, depending on the demands of various given assignments. The Army expects you to hone your skills in both roles throughout a successful career, and at increasing levels of command and responsibility. The answer really is that plain.”
Army Senior Warrant Officer Council Chairman CW5 Richard R. Kunz Jr. pointed to the doctrinal codification of these responsibilities, in a recent article that underscored the paramount importance of consistent Warrant Officer self-assessment, stating:
“First, we must dissect the doctrinal definition of a warrant officer. Department of the Army Pamphlet 600-3, Commissioned Officer Professional Development and Career Management, defines a Warrant Officer as ‘… a technical expert, combat leader, trainer, and advisor.’”
Adding, “Getting past a simple list of qualities and reaching the heart of the definition will provide a lens to examine how well we assess ourselves, others, and the cohort as a professional segment of the officer corps.”
The challenges we face are daunting.
Nonetheless, with the guidance of our current team of senior warrant officer leaders, our cohort will undoubtedly meet these, and continue to be the collective force-multiplier the Army rightly expects it to be.