JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - “It’s a gift to Soldiers in the Guard and their families,” said Springfield native John Fulton, creator and artist of a watercolor painting presented to the Missouri National Guard during a ceremony Dec. 13 at the Missouri Military Museum commemorating the National Guard’s 370th birthday.
The painting is titled “Our Legacy is Freedom.” It is currently on display at the museum.
“The painting is a series of small vignettes of Guard stories since 9/11,” Fulton added. “The collage technique tells the big picture – the heart and soul of the Guard and its history.”
Represented in the 26-inch by 41-inch watercolor are events from Iraq and Afghanistan, including an image of women voting indicated by the purple ink on their fingers, to Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, shown by Soldiers providing fresh water and supplies to victims. Other significant events and support operations around the world are also portrayed. There are also 54 patches in the painting, representing the National Guard’s joint headquarters in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Washington, D.C.
“The scenes are interwoven which, to me, is really how the Guard functions. Everyone is trained specifically, but they work together to accomplish the mission. It just flows,” added Fulton.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Gary Gilmore, former Missouri National Guard state chaplain, is shown praying with a fellow Soldier in the painting.
Fulton said he and his wife Billie came up with the idea during a casual conversation with a Guardsman while flying to New Mexico. Fulton decided he could use his artistic abilities to help honor Guard members and their families.
“They deserve the recognition and to be thanked for their help in natural disasters and overseas. The sacrifices made by the families deserve to be recognized as well,” Fulton said.
Brig. Gen. Larry Kay, Missouri National Guard assistant adjutant general, offered many words of thanks to the Fultons during the unveiling ceremony.
“It’s a wonderful compilation of recent events. So many stories told. You can clearly see all the different actions and events of the Guard,” said Kay.
The Fultons worked on the painting for about 18 months. Fulton said he put in approximately 300 hours of actual painting. His wife was instrumental in gathering the information, he added.
“She was very involved. She gathered the information and images, got the stories and met with Lt. Col. Les’ Melnyk for details,” Fulton said. Melnyk is chief of Command Information at the National Guard Bureau.
“I want this to be a way for Americans to see what Guard members are doing and how they support and protect the nation,” said Fulton, “This isn’t about the artist. It’s about the Guard.”