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CENTCOM mural thanks fallen troops

by 2nd Lt. Erin Dorrance
Chief of Internal Information
Artist Stewart Wavell-Smith shows Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, U.S. Central Command commander, some of the images portrayed in the 8-foot-tall by 28-foot-long Enduring Freedom Mural he was inspired to create while spending time in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. The Enduring Freedom Mural was unveiled at the USCENTCOM headquarters here Jan. 30.

Bayshore patriots wave flags, kindergartners write thank you letters and spouses send pictures, all in support of military members fighting Operation Enduring Freedom. Stewart Wavell-Smith took a different approach to show his appreciation to the military, especially those who give the ultimate sacrifice, life.

Mr. Wavell-Smith dedicated the eight-foot-tall, 28-foot-long Enduring Freedom Mural to Gen. John Abizaid, U.S. Central Command commander, Friday at U.S. CENTCOM headquarters which will permanently house the mural.

Mr. Wavell-Smith, who has been recognized for more than 30 years for his art, created the mural to honor fallen servicemembers, to give money to the surviving spouses and children of fallen troops and portray the complex role of the U.S. military throughout the world.

Mr. Wavell-Smith called (ret.) Gen. Tommy Franks, former U.S. CENTCOM commander, several months ago and asked him if the mural could hang in the CENTCOM headquarters building. General Franks, who owns a piece of Mr. Wavell-Smith's artwork from Vietnam, said that he would be honored to have this artwork displayed at U.S. CENTCOM headquarters.

Mr.Wavell-Smith is originally from England and moved to the U.S. in 1963. He was drafted into the Army during Christmas of 1964 as a combat photographer.

"I take all of the images from photographs I have taken during times of war to create art," he said. "My art is simply flashbacks from what I have seen through life."

Mr. Wavell Smith can recall the second when he was inspired to create the Enduring Freedom Mural. He was on his way back to the U.S. in a C-17A Globemaster III April 16, 2002.

"There was a casket on board and I felt a terrible sense of loss," he said. "I knew the troop's family had been notified and was mourning. I had to thank him."

Mr. Wavell-Smith said the mural represents the eminence of danger, the partnership of people in Afghanistan to regain old dignity, the strength of a coalition and to remember those who served.

Mr. Wavell-Smith's mural represents the work of several volunteer artists who worked in an airplane hangar in Palm Springs, Calif.

John Durst, an 82-year-old who spent several hundred hours working on the details of the mural, said the mural was that important to him.

"I wasn't the smart one," said Mr. Durst. "I would volunteer from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. when temperature would soar well above 100 degrees. Most of the volunteers would come when it was cooler, midnight to sunrise."

Mr. Wavell-Smith said the hard work was worth every second.

The mural inspired him to form a non-profit charitable organization called the Operation Enduring Freedom Killed in Action fund which collects donations, from $150 and more, to give direct monetary support to surviving members of the fallen military men and women. In return, those who donate receive color prints of the Enduring Freedom Mural.

Twenty families of fallen troops have received checks that range from $1,000 to $3,000 from Mr. Wavell-Smith's charity. The fund has set a goal to help 518 families of fallen troops. Log onto www.killedinactionfund.org, if you would like to donate to the charity in support of the military.




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