Volunteers paint with their hearts to salute America’s veterans

Members of the community gathered at Fort Hamilton Athletic Field on the afternoon of Sunday, November 3 to begin work on a mural which is dedicated to true heroes, the nation’s veterans,.

From 1 to 4 p.m., volunteers of all ages were given a brush, a can of paint and a picture which displays what the majestic mural will eventually look like. Groundswell artist Esteban del Valle gave out specific assignments to each individual to paint on the already outlined mural. No artistic experience was required to volunteer.

Councilmember Vincent Gentile came up with the idea from a personal feeling of sadness.

“I think many in the community were disappointed a couple of years ago when our veterans were returning from the Middle East and they weren’t being honored with a parade in New York City,” recalled Gentile. “And that’s what got me thinking about a way that we as a community can honor our veterans. It struck me that one of the ways we could do that was by having a mural honoring veterans, and asking the community to come and help paint the mural.”

The work of art aims to depict all types of veterans, including the wounded, the elderly, minorities, females, a soldier in salute pose and the tragedy-stricken families of fallen heroes. Several military operations are represented along with a large American flag. “Aim high,” and “This will defend” are a few of the only phrases written on the mural.

Co- founder of not-for-profit organization Bay Ridge Cares, Karen Tadross volunteered her time and discussed the significance of remembering our troops in the local area. “For Bay Ridge especially, we hold our veterans close to home and this is a real nice visual display. It’s because of them we are able to do this and have our freedom to do this. It also brings awareness to our service members,” Tadross said.

The goal was to finish a bulk of the work during the day, with del Valle putting the finishing touches on it subsequently. The target date for completion is Veteran’s Day.

“I met with veterans from the area. It’s a great thing to do. There’s a sense of pride and I want to do it justice. The inspiration was from talking to them,” said del Valle.

In the middle of the event, Gentile addressed the dedicated volunteers. “So now it’s coming to life and you’re all a part of it, so I wanted to thank you all and certainly we’re going to do a ceremony, if not on Veteran’s Day, we’ll do it a couple of days later,” he said. “I want you to all come back for the ceremony that we have because you’re all a part of making this happen so thank you very much and keep going.”

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