Meeting the kind of man that inspired "Visions Of Valor" May 11, 2016 12:41
"Greetings to all!" I hope the warm spring is bringing a much needed reprieve to the winter chili, giving us permission to pack away our gloves and scarfs for another year.
A PRICELESS EXPERIENCE
Back in mid January I received a call from the organizer of Redfeather.org, a non profit organization that raises money to build homes for Native American veterans. She had seen my painting "Visions of Valor" and wanted to see if I could present this framed lithograph to 94 year old Navajo Code Talker, Dan Akee at a ceremony celebrating his life and his newly remodeled home. In the span of six months Redfeather.org raised $80,000.00 and did a remarkable renovation of Mr. Akee's home that was originally built by Mr. Akee 60 years ago but had fallen in disrepair.
The day of the event I drove six hours from Albuquerque to Tuba City, Arizona and arrived to the warm greeting of Mr. Akee's family and friends. After a half hour of mingling we all gathered underneath a huge white tent to begin this special homecoming ceremony. Two hours quickly went by as person after person stood up, told stories and shed tears, all in Mr. Akee's honor. Eventually the moment came for me to present "Visions of Valor" to Mr. Akee. As he reclined in his red chair, he glanced a knowing look at me, received the painting and closed his eyes to nap. A full day of festivities capped off the way it should of been for the truest of American heroes.
We quietly left him to rest and walked into his new living room. With the help of friends and relatives I hung "Visions of Valor" on a newly painted blank white wall. It was the first thing to be hung in his new home. Looking back I think to myself what a great and humbling moment that was for me, that my art somehow captured the honor, dignity and spirit of Mr. Akee's life. As I shared with someone through the course of that memorable day "Maybe I painted this painting all those years ago for this very moment in time".
Sergeant Major Dan Akee served four consecutive tours of duty. Dan Akee is one of 10 Navajo Code Talkers left in the United States. He was one of the 44,000 Native Americans who served in the US Military during WWII and one of the 450 Navajo code talkers trained to code and decode secret messages. He is one of three code talkers still alive from his regiment. Dan Akee currently lives on the Navajo reservation with his wife, Margaret. He raised 12 children, nine who are still living, in the renovated house. At last count, he has 112 grandchildren, and he hopes they all will come home to visit. Dan Akee is in a wheelchair fulltime. Akee took part in some of the most difficult fighting in WWII including tours at Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian and two campaigns at Iwo Jima. During the war, the Navajo code was never broken by the Japanese, a key piece to eventually winning the war.
This was an honor and a blessing for me. Rarely as an artist do you get the opportunity to see your work connect so powerfully. I wanted to share this with you all.