This idea started in my mind about twenty-five years ago but was only possible to express on canvas in 1993, at age seventy-two. My nephew, Bud, combat veteran of Vietnam and awarded the Silver Star and two Bronze Stars for gallantry in action as a forward observer, First Lieutenant, 25th Infantry Division, had told me, “The view from the St. Johns River bridge, where highway fifty crosses, looks just like Vietnam.” Thus the setting was assured.
My friend, Marijane, went with me to the river, as I really need an observer to watch for danger while I’m in another world photographing. Our first pullout off the highway was where fishermen launch their boats, but it was deserted with just a few parked trucks. As I walked away from my station wagon, with camera in hand, Marijane quietly cautioned, “Did you notice this van pulling in behind us? There was a man at the wheel, but he disappeared into the back!” The boatless van had turned around facing highway fifty. Although the back of it had windows, the driver wasn’t visible. We had that uncomfortable feeling the police warn us about, as an indication to leave. We left, finding safer places for background scenery. Since I was trying out a new camera for the first time, I needed more than the results from that session, so my brother Harry escorted me a week later to the location, where the van scared us off, and I photographed vegetation for foreground interest. The fishermen were at their trucks, probably thinking we were tourists.
To make this painting possible, Bud supplied the uniform, helmet, boots, canteen and phone. I asked him to give me an idea of the soil color he saw in Vietnam. Also, I suggested his taking a look at the soil I saw when concerned about my brother Harry (his dad) living on the brink of disaster when the Orange City sinkhole suddenly appeared March 7,1993, at 1:30 a.m. gnawing close to his home. After visiting Harry, here came Bud with enough soil for my still life! I’m happy to say that the sinkhole was successfully filled and all went well.
Bud and Jenny’s son Chris, at age nineteen, consented to model. He also is the little boy representing the Nordic people in “Christ Blessing The Children”, the little boy in “Mother Love”, and “In Grandma’s Chair.” The bandana served to cover his non-military haircut, which is authentic because some of the men wore them to keep sweat out of their eyes. By painting in the red poppy, recognition is given to all who have gone through the hell of war for the liberty every citizen should be alert to honor, improve and preserve with responsible living. The American flag and POW-MIA flag speak for themselves. I have to wonder about all the God-given abilities denied enrichment of civilization by tyrants warring against liberty loving people including their own. Those knowing to do good and not doing it, does that open ways for evil to gain ground?
Prayer is the spiritual strength of the whole. This strength shows in the fifth page of a letter from home tattered from reading and carrying it with him on the battlefield.
On seeing the finished painting, Bud said, “That’s Memorial Day.”
The video of Rear Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton Jr. and the artist,
Ann Barnes, is a history which contains messages of great
importance for all future generations of American citizens as well
as countries of the world. It features three* books with thoughtful
parallels keeping awareness of what True Freedom means. The
example influences all nations to prevent dictators from controlling
their governments (including ours) with responsible freedom for all
Retired English Teacher, Mother, Grandmother, my Christian friend.
WHEN HELL WAS IN SESSION. (revised).
MISS ANN'S ART.
MY CHRIST IS FROM HEAVEN.
Some Responses from My Demonstration Card Honoring Our Veterans
January 9, 1994
Dear Miss Barnes:
"Thank you for the beautiful greeting card you sent to me. As a Vietnam Veteran, it was especially meaningful and moving. I want you to know that as I read your card it brought back vivid memories of brave young Americans doing the right thing when the "right thing" was not exactly the popular thing to do.
Again, my sincere thanks for your thoughtfulness in sending me this card. Keep up your good work!"
Larry W. Rivers
Adjutant General (1994-1998)
Veterans of Foreign Wars of The United States
June 1, 1994
"Thanks for thinking of me.
I love not only your painting and The Prayer but also your historic statement under the letter defining our hope for the survival of America.
You seem to value most highly and to emphasize in your thinking the same things I do.
But I don't have your talent. Keep up the good work."
Rear Admiral, (Ret.) U.S. Navy.
(Former Vietnam POW and author of WHEN HELL WAS IN SESSION)
June 21, 1994
Dear Miss Barnes,
"My husband and I want to thank you for the 'Demonstration' card you sent to us. You are blessed with artistic talent and use it in a way that expresses what many of us feel. Your prayer reminded me of a Civil War soldier's prayer my husband read at the Andersonville Memorial services. So many years in between and all the sentiments are the same.
May God bless you in your dedicated endeavors. We appreciate your thinking of us."
Vice Admiral and Mrs. James B Stockdale
The Hoover Institution
Stanford University, California
(James B. is the oldest former Vietnam POW.)
November 28, 1994
Dear Miss Barnes:
"Thanks for your 'Demonstration' card and kind letter of November 5. It was obvious that you spent a great deal of time and heartfelt effort on your work. I really appreciate you sharing it with me.
I was touched by the poem 'Last Prayer of a Solider in Vietnam.' I believe the words expressed exactly what so many of us had difficulty articulating at that time. I am sure that the men and women in the American military, whose ranks still include many Vietnam veterans, appreciate your recognition of their past sacrifices.
Once again, thanks for the thoughtfulness you exhibited by honoring the men and women of the military in this manner."
Henry H. Shelton
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army
HQ, XVIII Airborne Corps
Fort Bragg, North Carolina