ESCANABA - When AMVETS Post 123 of Escanaba hired a local artist to help renovate its basement, the organization had no idea the transformation that would occur with the stroke of a painter's brush.
Retired Escanaba art teacher Harry Nelson, of Escanaba, painted murals on two walls in the basement of the AMVETS center where local members meet and the public congregates each Friday for country music and dancing.
One large mural depicts the five branches of service with an Army tank, a Navy boat, an Air Force plane, the Iwo Jima Marines memorial, and a Coast Guard helicopter. There is also a painting of the fallen soldier symbol of a firearm set inside boots with a helmet placed on top.
John Anderson, local AMVETS Post 123 commander, left, and artist Harry Nelson, right, pose for a photo recently in front of a mural Nelson painted in the basement of the AMVETS center in Escanaba.
On the second wall, Nelson painted an eagle flying with an American flag in the background. A portion of the wall also has a silhouette of a female soldier facing a male soldier.
"Everybody that comes through the door can't believe it's a painting," commented John Anderson, the local AMVETS commander.
"Everybody has good things to say about it. It's nice to see all this about the veterans," added the Navy veteran.
Air Force veteran Dean Warner, AMVETS adjutant, commented how the room previously had a typical bar atmosphere with wood paneling and beer signs all over.
"It was so dark in here all the time," he said. "The theme had nothing to do with the veterans at all. Now it's more of a military atmosphere."
Nelson's paintings spruced things up by making the room brighter and more meaningful to the veterans, said Warner.
First Vice Commander Mark List, an Army veteran, said the murals were part of an overall renovation of the bar and meeting area. The remaining walls were painted and new carpeting and new blinds were also installed in the room, he said.
Nelson, the artist, commented, though he never served in the armed forces, he has great respect for those who have.
"I'm a military supporter and an admirer of the military," he said. "I wanted to make something that would be appreciated for a long time and not be boring."
Nelson painted the murals during a two-week period in July, he said, explaining how he first produced sketches for the veterans to decide what they wanted painted on the walls.
"I did the sketches and the AMVETS decided the general approach. I created each panel individually then tied them together," said Nelson.
Warner noted the murals and renovations were done to make the place look better and be more fitting for patrons, but also to encourage others to join the organization.
Any veteran wanting to become a member of the local AMVETS can fill out an application form at the hall, he said. Currently there are 168 members, not including the Sons of Veterans and the Auxiliary members.
"The Escanaba AMVETS Post 123 is an organization that was developed by a group of veterans who had common threads from their military service," said Warner.
The national organization started in 1948 to help veterans returning from World War II to readjust back into civilian life, a goal which has continued to this date, said Warner.
In addition to assisting veterans, sons of veterans, and auxiliary members, the AMVETS also supports many area activities through charitable donations and services, he said.
"All veterans are encouraged to be a part of the club to not only enjoy the camaraderie but to be a part of an organization dedicated to helping veterans and those in need in our community," said Warner.
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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, firstname.lastname@example.org