“On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.” – Dan Lipinski
Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, an immediate best-seller on Amazon once it hit the market, pays homage to the many men and women who have fought for our country. President George W. Bush humbly states he decided to “paint vets who were hurt as a result of my command.” 66 veterans, who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11, are honored in this book. Each soldier has a color portrait and his or her personal story, composed by President Bush. These accounts show how each veteran triumphed over setbacks caused from their time serving overseas.
After leaving office, the 43rd president took up painting as a hobby, owing his inspiration to Winston Churchill. He wanted to give a voice to the veterans and shed light on their plights. An exhibit, based on this book, is open March 2nd through October 1st, 2017 at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the SMU campus in Dallas, Texas. Here you can see the oil paintings of this group of Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen who were injured serving under President Bush.
This book is not merely a tribute to veterans in words, but also in action. Proceeds from its sales benefit the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Military Service Initiative. This initiative helps veterans during the difficult transition back into civilian life and focuses on employment and mental health. Veterans do not only bear the physical wounds that are seen, but deep psychological scars that they often carry in silence. President Bush feels that veterans are brave by speaking about their injuries, “including invisible wounds of war like posttraumatic stress.”
“When the peace treaty is signed, the war isn’t over for the veterans, or the family. It’s just starting.” – Karl Marlantes
Adjusting to civilian life after combat is often difficult for a soldier. They have sacrificed time with their families and often struggle with physical and psychological difficulties. Depression can ensue when a veteran comes home. It is imperative for soldiers to obtain counseling to talk about their experiences to help them move forward.
There is life after war, and many veterans in our country demonstrate this. Soldier Noah Galloway lost his left arm and left leg during an IED attack in Iraq. After battling with depression, he decided to take his life back. He created the No Excuses Charitable Fund, has appeared on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine, was a finalist on Dancing with the Stars, and is now sought after for public speaking engagements. J.R. Martinez, a veteran deployed to Iraq, also turned his life around. Martinez suffered severe burns to over 34 percent of his body when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb. He has gone on to be an author, actor, Dancing with the Stars winner and a true inspiration. Melissa Stockwell, one of the veterans featured in Bush’s book, was the first female American to lose a limb in Iraq during combat. Stockwell asserts that “there is life after disability,” demonstrated by her success as a Paralympian for Team USA.
Veterans have risked their lives to ensure our freedom. They endure countless dangers, feel the loss of comrades, and return to a world that cannot understand what they have been through. President Bush’s tribute through oil paintings will raise money for these important men and women. More importantly, this book will help continue to raise awareness about their struggles.