Article Date: 4/1/2012

A Brush with Greatness
reflections

A Brush with Greatness

A wall enabled me to show my gratitude for those in the military.

Don Vanderfeltz, O.D., CALIFORNIA, MO.

When I bought the local VFW building, I had no idea doing so would lead me to honor those in our armed forces.

Beginnings

My practice, which was housed in a 3,600 square-foot former general store in California, Mo. (yes, there is a California, Missouri), began busting at the seams with patients in 2002. This prompted me to first lease and then buy the adjoining VFW building and use half for two exam rooms, two pretesting areas and abundant office space. (The local VFW continues to rent and meet in the remaining space.)

Some 100 years ago, a building on the other side of the VFW burned down, exposing an outside adjoining 40-foot x 10-foot wall. California, MO. has a population of roughly 4,000. I have seen in other like-size communities murals on the sides of buildings germane to the area. Since the building, in which part of my practice now resides, has been the VFW building for as long as anyone in the area can remember, I began thinking about commissioning a veteran's memorial mural. One of my biggest regrets is never to have served in the military. I felt the mural could be a way to honor those who have given of their time, life and limb to keep us free.

Dr. Vanderfeltz worked with a local artist to come up with a concept for a wall mural dedicated to the military. He revealed the final product (above) in December.

From idea to action

Last summer, that exposed wall started deteriorating, making it a safety hazard. So, I hired a concrete repair expert to refurbish it. Upon its completion, I thought: “Now, is the perfect time for a mural.” The concrete repair specialist recommended a local artist, and the artist and I began discussing ideas.

We decided that the Pulitzer Prize-winning Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima image would be the mural's centerpiece. Surrounding it: an Army Jeep loaded with artillery, a Black Hawk helicopter, a Stealth Bomber, the USS Missouri battleship and six flagpoles. Five of these flagpoles would represent each of the five branches of the military. The sixth flag would be the Missouri state flag, which represents the Missouri National Guard. Finally, as the mural fades out, we wanted a view of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, from Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Va.

The artist started the mural in July and completed it in November. I unveiled it in early December. Shortly thereafter, I received hand-written notes from veterans thanking me for the mural. I was beyond touched, as, again, it is these brave men and women who deserve the thanks.

I dedicate this mural to all the veterans from Moniteau County (my local county) who have served in any capacity, to the grandfather I never met who served in World War I, to my father-in-law who served in World War II and Korea, to my great uncle who served in World War II and to all my peers who served in Vietnam. OM

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Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: April 2012, page(s): 64