July 4th has always been a very special day. In my childhood, it meant fireworks, hamburgers and late night sparklers waved in the air against the warm violet sky of Summer. But as an adult, and a guy who has made a career of being an artist, there was a very touching experience I had that will forever be in my memory on this Holiday.
It was in 2009 and I was doing one of my shows and print signings at the Pearl Harbor Navy Exchange Mall. I have a pretty good following of military families that collect my fantasy art when stationed in Hawaii. There were also a lot of soldiers that would be on leave or "R & R" in the Hawaii military bases while on active combat in the Middle East. I met some incredible men and women who served our country and always wrote special Thank You’s for them on the back of the prints they bought. One soldier touched my life forever.
I was sitting signing prints as usual, and this very young Marine hands me a matted print of a military art painting I did called "The Humma Hummer." The story about it is here on my website. It's a fantasy painting of what I thought a group of soldiers could do to have a luau and Tiki party in the middle of the desert. Even the "camo" on the Hummer vehicle was changed to look like Hawaiian print. Anyway, this kind of tired, skinny "kid" says to me, "Hello Thor! Could I ask you to sign this print for me?" I asked his name and started to sign, and he then continued with 4 other Marines’ names. The last was a Sergeant and as he spelled his name for me, I could see his eyes were glassy. I still wasn't really sure what this was about and asked him, "So... are you and these other guys all going to hang this some place in your tent?"... and I sorta laughed.
The young Marine looked at me and forced a little smile. He then explained, "No Sir, you see this is for us all, but I will be the one hanging onto this. I’m here on rest leave from Afghanistan. I used to ride in a Hummer like this on patrol there with my buddies. One evening there, a few weeks ago, my Sergeant had us all draw sticks to see which one of us 5 had to stay back in the boring tent while the rest got to go on patrol. I drew the short straw...and lost. A few hours later I received the report that my fellow Warriors ran over an explosive mine in the road. All 4 were killed instantly. So, this little picture is for all of us. We did have a few times when we all tried to pretend we were back home, or in Hawaii on the beach, and your painting reminds me of something we might have tried to dream of....this will remind me of them."
The Marine shook my hand and walked away. I tried to get up to give him a hug, actually. I just couldn't function for a moment. It was all so crazy. This kid’s face was on my mind for weeks to come, still is. That Fourth of July was a day later. I sat on the beach in Waikiki that night, alone, and as the fireworks lit up the tropical sky and the evening was full of people celebrating, I gave my respects and prayers to those Marines that paid the ultimate price, so that I could sit there with my feet in the cool sand. I hope one day that Marine contacts me again. I would like to let him know how he touched my life, and made me so very proud to be an American.
~~ Happy Fourth of July my friends, THOR