Oil on Canvas by Ellen Rice
In At Ease, a young man who recently returned from active duty overseas walks down the beach in Rehoboth apparently deep in thought - finally "at ease" after a long deployment. I was walking thirty or so yards behind him and wondered what was going through his mind. Feelings of pride mixed with an understanding that no one who comes back from war returns unscathed
For four years I'd been searching for the image for a painting whose name had come to me in prayer after I heard about the horrendous conditions wounded soldiers were facing at Walter Reed. I wanted to help, and the most successful fund and awareness raising I've done has been with my paintings.
In preparation, I was fortunate to be able to get my U.S. Marine niece-Goddaughter and her Marine brother-in-law to pose for me in uniform on the beach. But none of the images had the feeling I sought.
Now, on a casual walk, it was all laid out in front of me, a poignant contrast of beauty and peace juxtaposed against the vast energy of the sea and Delaware's cement reminders of wars past.
I'd wanted to paint something beautiful that people would want to bring into their homes for all the right reasons, while telling a story with purpose. This was my painting.
Sunlight shone through sea spray and made rainbows over the waves, a symbol of hope. A lone seagull looked on as this young veteran of the 21st Century walked toward wartime watchtowers from the 20th. The only thing I added when painting At Ease was an often-seen vapor trail from an Air Force jet -- a tiny bright speck in the sky carrying precious cargo to war.
As a child the watchtowers meant to me that I was at the beach and there happy days ahead! Today, after watching Ken Burn's World War II history and living 60 years, they also remind me of how almost 70 years ago, more than any other time in Earth's history, so many different people from all walks of life in one nation came together in so very, very many ways to support our ways of life and the men and women giving their all to protect our freedom.
I was against the war in Iraq. I felt then and still do, that it was a Pandora's box. Regardless, our volunteer servicemen and women deserve the very, very best care modern science and medicine can provide to these brave, self-sacrificing sons, daughters, husbands, fathers and in some cases, grandfathers.
Partial proceeds from every print of At Ease will go directly to a program I learned about some months ago that is helping soldiers who have suffered devastating disfiguring injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. The help is both physical and psychological and costs about $500,000 per soldier -- and gives them back what is possible of their lives.
I've printed copies of one of countless news reports from around the globe listed on the Operation Mend web site. You can look into the program and donate directly at http://operationmend.ucla.edu
. They're doing almost miraculous work.
I intend to go nationwide with this release to raise more awareness. Every step in the right direction helps, no matter how small. This is another pivotal moment in time for our country. We must join hands and move forward together in so many ways - as many people and cultures in one people. That
is the American way. Helping our returning "wounded warriors" is one positive step we can take together.