TROY — A visual timeline of the hard-fought days of Miami Valley veterans has recently been completed for public viewing.
With the support of the Troy Foundation, a 42-foot mural, “Veterans Marching Through Time 1775-2016,” has been placed in the Miami Valley Veterans Museum, a non-profit museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of Miami Valley veterans.
Tristan Weis, president of the Miami Valley Veterans Museum, said the project is a tremendous asset to the museum and the community.
“Far too often do we think about the currently serving or recently serving members of our armed forces with little thought to all of those men and women who gave so much to our nation, and the mural encapsulates that by showing a timeline of events throughout our national history as experienced by members of our military,” Weis said. “As the painting is viewed, it will serve as a reminder to the community that veterans and service members have played an integral role in maintaining the freedoms and privileges we enjoy. At the museum, we pride ourselves on honoring, preserving and perpetuating those sacrifices and contributions and know that this mural is in line with our philosophy and mission.”
Troy artist Karen Purke was commissioned to complete the two-year project.
“It is a true honor to have been asked to create such a major project on behalf of the Miami Valley Veterans Museum and the Troy Foundation,” Purke said. “I hope that visitors to the museum who view the mural will find a renewed respect for all of the men and women who have served our country.”
The nine-panel mural hangs as part of the museum’s collection in the main hall and features reproductions of original full-color pen-and-ink watercolor paintings and black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings created by Purke, as well as historical photographs in the public domain and photos that are part of the museum’s collection.
“The concept was to create images that would reflect veterans from 1795 to present day,” Purke said.
Each of the military branches throughout time, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines, is represented throughout the panels. Purke said there also are reoccurring themes throughout, including military veterans maintaining their equipment, preparing their food and taking care of the wounded.
“All of the things veterans have done for hundreds of years,” Purke said.
Every panel also has a president from the time period painted in the left-hand corner to help viewers better understand the time frame. Purke said a descriptive card also is available at each panel.
“You can learn a lot from just reading those cards,” she said.
She said the project took massive amounts of research to properly depict the military situations as well as the uniforms and weapons of each time period. Her husband, local history Terry Purke, aided her in the research, and she looked to local veterans for help. A local man, a Vietnam helicopter pilot, even brought his uniform in for her to use to recreate that time period.
“It was invaluable to be able to ask him questions,” she said.
Purke worked with a local print shop, Characters Inc. of Troy, to bring the panels to fruition. She said she did the layout of each of the panels and they were then printed on a wide-format printer, like ones used to make signs for semis and train cars.
The overarching image of the mural is that of an American flag, Purke said. She said as you stand at one end of the mural and look down the hall, you will see a traditional 50-star American flag built into the overall layout.
“I really wanted to create something that had a double-image concept where you could look at each panel separately, but you could stand a few feet back and see an overall image that ties the time periods together.”
Purke said after speaking with a number of veterans, the answer was clear.
“Veterans said it has to be the flag. That is what we fight for. It has to be the flag,” she said.
Since the murals have gone up, Purke said she has received a lot of positive feedback.
“One gentleman said, ‘I served in Haiti and no one ever features Haiti related to service. Thank you,’” Purke said, tears welling in her eyes.
Weis also said he has heard great things about the mural.
“Since the completion of the first panel, we have heard many great things about the project. From people like Sen. Bill Beagle to World War II veterans, all have had positive impressions,” Weis said. “We fully expect that as we continue to have it on public display and through our traveling outreach and education efforts, more positive comments and effects will be seen from the mural.”
Small reproductions of the various time period panels from the mural will be used in traveling educational displays as well, Purke said. The tabletop exhibit will be taken to different functions throughout the area to honor the service of local men and women, she said.
“Our goal is to raise awareness of veterans throughout the years and the sacrifices they have made for our country,” said Purke, who said the exhibit will also raise awareness about the museum and what it has to offer.
“I feel like it’s probably the best work I’ve ever done throughout my life as an artist,” Purke said, wiping tears from her eyes. “I am very, very proud I was chosen.”
Reach Melody Vallieu at (937) 552-2131