The first section of the mural at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center shows proud mounted soldiers of the Revolutionary War, while the last panel portrays a beaming service member tightly hugging his young daughter as he is welcomed home.
"We wanted to pay tribute to their service and thank veterans," said one of the mural's artists, Vietnam veteran David Watling of Pleasant Prairie, Wis.
"We also wanted to build pride in the different military units and what went on in each conflict, and build camaraderie between the services."
On Feb. 1, the public, patients, volunteers and Lovell Federal Health Care Center staff had the chance to see the progress veteran artists have made on the mural since they started on the project last summer.
The three-section mural measures 32-by-7 feet. It is being created by volunteer veteran painters, most of them outpatients or volunteers at Lovell FHCC. The project, sponsored by the Koziol Family Foundation, depicts significant military conflicts -- and the sacrifices of veterans and their families -- from the Revolutionary War to present-day operations.
"The mural is both a respectful tribute and bold statement of the healing power of expressive art," said Christine Krumsee, mural project director. "The mural also raises public awareness of the cost of America's peace and freedom."
The mural will be on permanent display in the mental health clinic after the official unveiling this spring. On Feb. 1, it was moved to the second floor breezeway of the ambulatory care clinic, and while, they painted, artists talked to onlookers and posed for photos.
Long before they started painting, the artists met for several weeks of "brainstorming sessions," Krumsee said. Many of the same artists created pieces for a panel art fair last summer at Lovell FHCC, and those panels served as templates for the mural. The panels, too, will be permanently displayed in the mental health clinic.
"It's been a really rewarding experience working with the veterans on this project, and I'm really proud of the work our veteran artists have contributed," Krumsee said. "I'm very excited for everyone to see it."
Dozens of veterans helped with the project that entailed 10 focus groups, 40 hours of sketching images and approximately 100 hours of painting so far. The scheduled unveiling of the completed mural is set for April.
An overarching guideline for the painters was to create images that would be considered "healing" rather than disturbing to veterans who may suffer PTSD and other mental health conditions from their combat service.
Therefore, weapons are downplayed, and no bloodshed or subjects that could be considered "triggers" are depicted.
The Koziol Family Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) private foundation. The mural project is an example of private civilian and Veterans Affairs/Department of Defense cooperation.