In some paintings, the wounds are plain to see: an arm or leg lost to war. In other folks, the injuries that US veterans suffered are hidden from view.
But all of the functions by former president George W Bush – painted as a tribute to the males and girls he sent to war – reflect the human toll of his choices as commander-in-chief.
Command Sergeant Key Brian Flom was wounded in the face by a rocket attack in Iraq in 2007.
“That was the straightforward component,” he mentioned, standing beside a painting in which he seems with fellow military personnel, one particular of dozens of functions on show at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
“The difficult component was the TBI [traumatic brain injury] and the post-traumatic strain that accompanied a lot of time spent in a combat zone.”
Recovery is “nonetheless going on – it is an each day procedure, ideal, and some days are improved than other folks”.
Flom was chosen to go on a mountain bike ride with Bush in 2015 and has now met him “lots of occasions”, such as dinner at the former president’s home.
Bush “decided one particular day to paint men and women that he had a connection with and meant some thing to him, and right here I am”.
“It is a enormous honour,” Flom mentioned.
Bush ordered the US military into Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks and launched the invasion of Iraq to topple ruler Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Additional than three,500 US military personnel have been killed and about 32,000 wounded in hostile action in Iraq, although combat in Afghanistan – a war that turned 18 on Monday – has left almost two,000 dead and additional than 20,500 wounded.
Bush, 73, took up painting right after leaving workplace in early 2009 and has sought to support veterans who served in the wars that defined his presidency.
“I painted these males and girls as a way to honour their service to the nation and to show my respect for their sacrifice and courage,” Bush mentioned in a quote featured at the exhibition, titled Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.
‘Wish it was different’
“Everyone that was painted … has participated in one particular of two events that the president hosts each year with wounded veterans and their households” – a bike ride and a golf tournament – mentioned former US army sergeant initially class Michael Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, who is pictured in a standalone portrait by Bush, was deployed nine occasions through his 21 years in the military and wounded a number of occasions, “mostly traumatic brain injuries” from bomb blasts.
He met Bush through a mountain bike ride in 2014, and was later chosen for an advisory council on how to improved serve post-9/11 veterans and their households, obtaining to know him personally.
Rodriguez mentioned he has no anger towards Bush more than the wounds he sustained.
“Through my 21 years of service, I worked for 4 various presidents. I would by no means assume to … be that arrogant to consider I … had all the info to make the choices they created,” he mentioned.
He mentioned he has “by no means ever been upset at any of our presidents”.
Former US army sergeant DeWitt Osborne is a further veteran painted by Bush, like Flom appearing in a montage of military personnel.
He was wounded by a bomb blast close to Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, in 2006 that injured his ideal shoulder, ideal foot, fractured vertebrae and triggered a traumatic brain injury as effectively as post-traumatic strain.
He underwent 21 surgeries, spending 4 years recovering at the Walter Reed National Military Health-related Center, in Bethesda, Maryland.
Osborne mentioned he nonetheless follows events in Iraq, exactly where the US withdrawal was followed by a rise in violence, an armed takeover of swaths of the nation, and years of battles to push rebel fighters back.
Protests have not too long ago erupted in which additional than 100 men and women have been killed more than a week.
“It is a shame,” Osborne mentioned of events there, expressing hope factors get improved. “We as a nation [have] shed a lot of blood and tears and function more than there.
“I want it was various.”