President George W. Bush“I painted these men and women as a way to honor their service to the country and to show my respect for their sacrifice and courage.”
President Bush has a uniquely personal way of paying tribute to our troops. His traveling exhibit at the The Reach – a Kennedy Center Expansion opened last month – displays the President’s oil paintings and panel murals of our Country’s brave men and women. Each portrait represents a person who has served with honor since 9/11 and is accompanied with the person’s story; narrated by the President. The portraits and their stories are available on a downloaded app that you access as you walk from portrait to portrait; story to story. The downloadable app also has information about other services by the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a non-profit organization whose Military Service Initiative is focuses on helping post-9/11 veterans and their families.
This Exhibit will Affect You
As you walk through the exhibit and listen to the stories, you’ll confront waves of emotion when you realize…
- Awe at the bravery displayed in battle and recovery – individual and in total – and hear their stories of those who lived and died
- Shame at the lack of understanding for the cost they paid freely – especially from those who have never served
- Strength – they needed facing others – including family and friends – upon return
- Hidden Pain felt during difficult transitions – overcoming visible and invisible scars
- Gratitude for the personal link between these individuals and the artist; told in his words; visible in each painting
Only the Photos are Lit….
As you enter the exhibit all is dark….only the portraits are lit…helping the visitor to focus on each one as they play the audio (from the app) about what happened and how their life have permanently changed but also serve as an inspiration for them and for others.
Some are photos of individuals and others are grouping or murals. Each individual has a unique personal message for the listener. I won’t repeat the stories here….in respect for their privacy….and my wish that you will find each one on your own.
Some Important Facts I Learned from the Exhibit
Some key take-aways to remember as you support them upon return.
- 71% of American say they have little understanding of the issues facing post-9/11 veterans. And veterans agree: 84% say hat the public has “little awareness” of the issues facing them and their families.
- While there are tens of millions of veterans in America, including veterans off the first Gulf War, conflicts in Vietnam and Korea, and WWII, less than 1% of the total population of the country served in the U.S. military in the years following /11, resulting in a civilian-military divide, or gap in understanding the issues veterans face today.
- There are lots of resources available to assist veterans, from non-profit organizations, to corporate hiring coalitions, to leadership training and resume building programs. Sometimes, the sheer number of resources available can be daunting. That’s why organizations like the Bush Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have come together to build the Veteran Employment Transition Roadmap (see app).
- There are 5 million post-9/11 veterans. More than 2 million have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, often for multiple deployments. On average, this generation spent one of every three years of service deployed overseas.
- 60% are under the age of 35. 83% joined the enlisted ranks. Most are male, but post-9/aa servicewomen make up close to 17% of the military population — a rate unprecedented in history.
- Some warriors come home from fighting in the Global War on Terror with visible injuries, like limb loss or burn, and some return home with invisible wounds, like post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
- 71% of veterans say that their time in the military helped them get ahead in life. 611% say it gave them self-confidence, 65% say it taught them how to work with others and 41% say I prepared them for a post-service career.
- Barriers like embarrassment or hare can make it challenging for warriors to tackle the barrier their injury presents to meaningful transition to civilian life. Stigmas ad stereotypes exist within and outside of the military community, and warriors are often reticent to ask for help because they believe that it will make them look weak, that their families and friends won’t understand, or that it will negatively impact their employment opportunities.
Tips for Seeing the Exhibit
The traveling exhibit will be in Washington, DC until November 15th and tickets are free. You can reserve a date/time at https://cms.kennedy-center.org/festivals/reach/schedule under Portraits of Courage. And while you’re there you’ll see many other great events that The Reach is or will be offering.
Parking is under the building and you take the elevator up to Studio K. It’s very convenient but you will pay for that convenience at $23. Or you can try and find street parking but as the locals know you’ll walk quite a ways in that area of town.
You can download the app before you get there or use their public unsecured WIFI to download on site.
Please take time from your busy schedules and see this while you can….the exhibit is open from 10 AM to Midnight.