AUGUSTA — Service has come full circle for local artist Alan Brooks this week. The former Marine had a chance to serve in a different way and to help bring the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II to life at the Kansas Museum of Military History.
“It’s just a way to give back to veteran’s and their families and to make sure that people who come here, kids especially, to remember the war and the sacrifice it took and what people like these Marines here give up for us,” Brooks said. “Out of the six men in this photo three were killed, one an hour after this photo was taken, one was wounded and only two survived the battle unharmed. People don’t see that in the photo.”
Brooks, who is an Andover resident, said he would often drive by the museum and notice the small murals that used to don the outside of the building. Noticing they were in disarray, he stopped and volunteered to touch them up. Museum staff told Brooks they intended to paint over the murals because of the rotted wood they were painted on. However, they welcomed Brooks to utilize his talents elsewhere. He toured the museum with staff and Mayor Matt Childers to pick the perfect location for a community work of art.
All week, a small group of local kids and adults have been bringing the famous six soldier flag raise over Iwo Jima alive.
“We’ve been working since Tuesday a couple of hours a day,” Brooks said. “First we painted the sky and then we used a projector to project an outline drawing on the wall.”
At the end of the project, each artist signed their name to the bottom right corner. It’s a part of the painting that will memorialize their contribution to their community for decades to come. Helping with the project were Wilena Tuschhoff and her daughter Lola, Emily Webster, Haylie Brainer, Johnna Smith and Kat Alexander. All of their styles seamlessly flow together to create the mural. It’s something all participants said Friday they were proud of.
“It’s exciting when your kids and maybe grandkids can come in and see your name on the wall,” Wilena said.
For Webster, she hopes the painting will bring some people to the museum.
“The museum is in desperate need of a new roof,” Brooks said in a follow-up. “Hopefully the mural will inspire people to come to the museum and then hopefully they will donate.”
For the former Marine, the photo showcases everything the war was about. He took the chance to educate painters about WWII, the Marines, and the Pacific Campaign.
“We had a small history session on the battle and talked about why that image was so important,” Brooks said. “We looked at a vehicle the museum has that may have been part of the Pacific Campaign.”
By Friday afternoon the team had finished their work of art. Once completed the 8X16 mural, which features a real American Flag can be seen by guests in the northwest corner of the building. The team left the mural abstract enough to let guests project their own or loved one’s faces on the Marines, yet witness the damage and workings of the military campaign as they came by land and sea into battle.
The Museum is located on Highway 77, south of Augusta.