Veteran portraits on display at Kennedy Center


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Visitors to The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., can see a collection of Veteran portraits on display through Nov. 15.

The collection is Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, painted by another Veteran, President George W. Bush.

President Bush painting.

President Bush painting. (Photo courtesy of the Bush Center)

The collection highlights 98 men and women out of the approximately five million post-9/11 Veterans. The exhibit showcases 66 full-color oil portraits and a four-panel mural painted by the former president, himself an Air Force Veteran.

Upon entering the display, visitors see a two-minute video by the 43rd president. Bush talks about the positive assets of Veterans, why he continues to serve Veterans, the courage involved in talking about post-traumatic stress and his painting history.

Alongside the video is a quote from the president on why he painted these Veterans.

“I painted these men and women as a way to honor their service to the country and to show my respect for their sacrifice and courage.”

Nearly all the warriors featured participated in one of the two wounded warrior sporting events hosted by the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The W100K is a 100-kilometer mountain bike ride on the president’s ranch near Crawford, Texas. The Warrior Open is a competitive golf tournament in Dallas.

The portraits are on loan from the Ambassador and Mrs. George L. Argyros Collection of Presidential Art at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a non-profit organization whose Military Service Initiative is focused on helping post-9/11 veterans and their families.

Portraits of Courage at The Kennedy Center.

Portraits of Courage at The Kennedy Center.

For more information

The paintings are on display until Nov. 15 at The Kennedy Center. More information is at https://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/ZURRA. The exhibit then moves to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, Dec. 21 through Jan. 20, 2020.

A Portraits of Courage app is also available at the Apple store and Google Play.

More information about the Military Service Initiative is available at https://www.bushcenter.org/explore-our-work/issues/military-service-initiative.html.

Author

Adam Stump

Adam Stump is a public affairs specialist with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. He is a retired Air Force Veteran who served 20 years, including two deployments to Afghanistan for detention operations and special operations.

Comments

  1. santd    

    How wonderful. He is a marvelous human being. Keep up the good work. & Pray for this great country that is in such a mess.

  2. Keri McBride    

    Thank you Mr. President for your beautiful tribute to our soldiers. I had no idea you were an artist! They are truly amazing and I wish I could go see them all in person. I am the wife and caregiver of an Army Veteran who fought hard in the first wave after 9-11. He was honored to serve under President Bush. He fought until an IED (roadside bomb for the non military reading this) ended his military career. Mr. President, you are a true American treasure, and we are thankful for your time and leadership while in office and all that you have done since leaving the office. May God continue to bless you and Laura!

    Sincerely,
    Keri McBride
    President of Healing Tools for Warriors Midwest

  3. J. Lane Cunningham    

    The government of the USA, and that of every other country on this planet, is not perfect. If it were, we wouldn’t need a lot of things, including the military. Politics and dredging up the past aside, these paintings are definitely worth viewing along with the other amazing works of art, in WDC. GOD BLESS AMERICA

  4. Ed Caf    

    Wow! Those are really well done….never knew he had that kind of artistic talent.

  5. Greegory Hott    

    I am a NAVY VETRAN (1972-1976) i joined the US NAVY to avoid the draft. I served in GUAM AND HS-6 aboard the CARRIER CVA 64 CONSTALATION all in the PACIFIC.. GEORGE W, BUSH was a very poor president WHO DODGED THE DRAFT BY JOINING THE (NATIONAL GUARD). HOW DID HE GET IN? The NATIONAL GUARD was dificult to get into and I know this because my father was in the NATIONAL GUARD (1950-1970). He was the COMMADING OFFICER in my home town in TEXAS from (1964-1970) . BUSH and CHENNY have so much BLOOD on their hands! In my humble opinion! BUSH W. AND CHENNY TRADED THE LIVES OF OUR SOLDIERS FOR MONEY AND POWER! TOGETHER they outed a CIA AGENT AND THROUGH HALIBURTON MADE BILLIONS THROUGH PRIVITIZING MANY FUNCTIONS OF OUR MILITARY AND GIVING THE NO BID CONTRACTS TO HALIBURTON.!!!!!!!!!! This much we know. They are good at spinning public opinion while they are alive BUT I believe HISTORY will show them for who they really were!

  6. Wendell McAdams    

    This really touched my heart. I’m a 21-year USAF veteran, with four years in Southeast Asia during the war. Most people know the type of thanks we received when returning from Vietnam, and it wasn’t very heart-warming. To see one of our former Commanders-in-Chief make this type of tribute to those of who served, in previous wars, and wars since, tells me what a true gentleman, leader, and decent citizen he is. Thank you Mr. President.

  7. Michael V Brothers Sr.    

    Thank you Mr. President for this passion from your heart and soul. You are truly a great American and I thank both you and Laura for your conservative decency and respect you have displayed as a past President and First Lady. I am now also a painter and understand the passion that you feel when painting. Thank you again for your giving to all.

  8. RICH PULIN    

    THIS IS A REPLY TO RON GRAHAM-BECKER & SAM BUNGE
    YOU GUYS ARE SPOT ON REGARDING ALL OF THE ALLEGATIONS THAT YOU WROTE ABOUT!
    MY GRIPE IS WITH ADAM STUMP WHO WROTE THE ARTICLE!
    AS MR. GRAHAM-BECKER CORRECTLY ASSERTED, BUSH IS NOT A MILITARY VETERAN, HAVING
    ONLY SERVED PART-TIME IN AN AIR FORCE RESERVE UNIT, WHICH HE ULTIMATELY QUIT!
    I WOULD ASK MR. STUMP TO PRINT A REVISION, REMOVING ANY AND ALL REFERENCES TO GEORGE BUSH JR. BEING A MILITARY VETERAN…HE WAS NOT A VETERAN, OR EVEN CLOSE TO BEING ONE…
    I AM ALSO GOING TO REPORT THIS ARTICLE TO PRESIDENT TRUMP, AS BEING GROSSLY UN-TRUTHFUL!

  9. Ralph McComb    

    As a Vietnam veteran I am appalled at the loving support for a president offered here by fellow veterans. I hope he is haunted by the spirits of all the men and women who died as a result of his unnecessary and fraudulent war. He can paint all the pictures he wants but it won’t change what he did.

    1. Gary Michaud    

      Agreed. He was partying during the war and had Daddy watch HIS 6. Daddy was a realmVet. Bush 2 had to get a qualified Navy Pilot to get his Carrier landing!

    2. Ed Caf    

      Say what you want about Bush….bottom line? We were wholly unprepared for the type of war handed to us on 9/11/01 and Bush, like him or not, put in place a defense that kept us safe since. Keeping us safe is a president’s job, not to determine whether or not a man can use a women’s bathroom or to second guess police or incidents where a victim “could be” his son. The guy did his job fighting a war off our soil, keeping the maniacs busy on their turf….we prefer to fight an away war….

  10. Ken    

    Raymond,
    Twenty-one gun salutes are not fired at veteran’s funerals, it’s a three gun salute.

    Nice that little Georgie has a hobby but he sure is a crummy painter of portraits.

    1. Big Sarge    

      Stop being a Dick… and just because you don’t like his paintings.. as I sure you would do so much better.. at lest he has the balls to follow his heart.. you on the other hand… not even worth saying it.

    2. Carl Platis    

      You are wrong Ken.

      Many confuse the firing of three volleys by seven riflemen at military funerals with a 21-gun salute. This is not a 3 gun or 21-gun salute, however. In battle, opposing sides would cease fighting to clear the field of the dead. Upon safely clearing the dead, each side would fire three volleys to signal the successful removal of the dead and the resumption of battle. All members of the military are entitled three volleys of rifle fire by seven riflemen

    3. Arthur Marsh    

      Funeral details vary. For an eight member detail, seven shots fired 3x.

    4. pRKs    

      Ken, having served on Funeral Detail at March AFB in the 1980’s I can indeed assure you it is a 21 gun salute that is given. Seven Military Personnel fire three times in succession.

  11. Bill Butler    

    I think it’s great that “W” is trying to honor veterans.
    But the way I look at it is that he lied us into the war in Iraq. 4,424 GI’s were killed in Iraq The Iraq Body Count Project documents 183,348 – 205,908 civilians killed.
    I was in basic training at Fort Knox in 1966. To get into the mess hall we had to yell out our service number. Whenever someone started their service number with ER for a Reserve trainee or NG for a National Guard trainee the drill sergeants had the draftees and enlistees holler out “Draft Dodger.” And for a National Guard trainee it was “No Good Draft Dodger.”
    And that’s what Bush was.In those days the National Guard and the Reserves didn’t go to Vietnam, and you had to know someone to get into the Guard or Reserves.
    Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard. The unit he was in was called the Champagne Flight. There were a number of rich kids in the unit and some Dallas Cowboy football players.
    I feel like this “No Good Draft Dodger’ lied us into a war. Painting pictures of veterans doesn’t quite cut it with me to make up for his war.

  12. John Scanlon    

    I was in Iraq Under President Bush. They say that a Soldier will follow a true leader into the gates of Hell without question. I would follow President Bush into Hell, without question and no thoughts as to getting back.
    Ron Graham-Becker, you need to one, get a grip, two, get a life, and three, grow up and try to learn.
    SFC (RET) John Scanlon
    US Army

    1. Sam    

      I also was in Iraq, under Bush.

      And I can say, certifiably – you’re an idiot. Or simply ignorant, which can’t be helped as you seem incapable of free thought.

      “They say that a Soldier will follow a true leader into the gates of Hell without question”

      First, quote your source. Who is “they”? Sounds more like the definition of an a priori logical fallacy.

      Is he a true leader? Have you met him? Have you seen him in combat? Has he directly lead you, so that you can speak on his ability? Is there some reason you’re blatantly ignoring his questionable service career and failure to fulfill his duties as an officer?

      No. You’re just a mindless drone.

  13. DONALD L. NORTON    

    Awesome Job President Bush. It was a honor to serve you while you were in office.

  14. Jerry Frisina    

    Dear Mr. President,

    I did not always agree with your presidency, however after reading your book I acknowledge you as a True Leader of the free world.
    Your expression of thanks to our wonderful and courageous military men and women is a tribute to you and the Bush family.
    Your father was a great inspiration to us all, as were those in your portraits. You have honored our fallen and those that sacrificed so much to keep our country free.
    Thank you so much for your art and faith in America.
    May God Bless you and your work it is inspirational !!!
    Jerry Frisina
    Sgt. USMC

  15. Marlin D. Scott Jr.    

    As a Veteran of the Vietnam war I salute you Commander in Chief President Bush for your art salute to those whose fought and died and those still living who were injured in that war. Your contribution as President to this country cannot be denied.
    God Bless you and God Bless the United States of America.

  16. Terry W. Mecklenburg    

    Thank you President Bush, it was an honor to serve.

    Terry Mecklenburg, Female US Army Veteran
    Regent, Pierre Menard Chapter, DAR
    DAR Service For Veterans Chairman &
    Vietnam War Commemoration Committee Chairman

  17. mary ellen lutak    

    How wonderful. He is a marvelous human being. Keep up the good work. & Pray for this great country that is in such a mess.

  18. Manny Colón    

    If you have not seen this great display of great Americans you need to take sometime to go and see it. I’m in both of the pictures above, I’m one of 92 service members that former President Bush painted. I’m to right of the only female on the art board he is painting on the photo. This event is one of a lifetime, so if you are near by, please attend.

  19. Thomas L MacDonough    

    Like President Jimmy Carter I believe George W Bush has contributed as much or more post Presidency than he did as President. He has dedicated his life toward honoring those who gave so much to their Country. I applaud George Bush for his tireless efforts to honor our true heroes. I say keep up the good deeds Mr. President you are a fine American!

  20. Bud Shay    

    As a veteran of 2 tours in Vietnam, I want to thank our post 9/11 veterans for their steadfast service to our Country and for keeping us safe during the ongoing war on terrorism. I also appreciate President Bush’s support of our veterans and his honoring them through the paintings he has done. In his role of Commander in Chief, President Bush demonstrated remarkable leadership and strength as he guided our Nation through the very difficult time in the days immediately following 9/11 and through the War on Terror.
    Thank You,
    Bud

  21. Ron Graham-Becker    

    I’m appalled that this war criminal is being honored the way. As a recent article at The Intercept states:
    George W. Bush was one of the most destructive presidents in modern American history; a man who has never been held to account for a long litany of crimes, misdeeds, and abuses of power committed during his two bloodstained terms in office. The reason he should be treated as a pariah is not because he is a Republican or a conservative, but because he caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people and tortured hundreds of others.

    Ask the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The so-called war on terror launched by Bush in 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, has since killed around 250,000 civilians in those three countries, according to a landmark Brown University study in 2018. Remember the 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians massacred by U.S. troops in Haditha in 2005? Or the Shinwar massacre in Afghanistan in 2007, in which U.S. Marines “tore down a six-mile stretch of highway, hitting almost anyone in their way – teenage girls in the fields, motorists in their cars, old men as they walked along the road”? Or the more than 100 Pakistani children killed by 51 CIA drone strikes authorized by Bush between 2004 and the start of 2009? Is it any wonder, then, that Bush’s own former counterterrorism chief accused him of committing war crimes?

    Ask the families of more than 4,200 U.S. troops who were killed in Iraq. Bush, who conveniently avoided serving in Vietnam, sent thousands of young people to their deaths in the Middle East in 2003, after he and members of his administration told demonstrable lies to make the case for an illegal war. The then-commander-in-chief falsely claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein was working with Al Qaeda. He has never apologized for these falsehoods.
    Ask the families of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. “People stood on rooftops waving their arms and pleading for help as the flood waters inundated their communities,” recalled USA Today on the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s worst natural disasters, and yet “day after day, George W. Bush continued a long-planned vacation at his 1,600-acre Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas. … When Katrina made landfall, Bush had been on holiday at his ranch for 27 days.” More than 1,800 Americans died and a Republican-led special Senate report later concluded that the Bush administration failed “at all levels to plan, prepare for, and respond aggressively to the storm.”
    The whitewashing of his manifest crimes, cannot be left unchallenged. He owes the world a prison sentence at The Hague.

    1. Donald Starke    

      I am a 7 year Navy Vet and want to thank President Bush for emulating his father George H.W. Bush. I’ve been reading his biography. And you clearly have your dad’s heart.
      Very disheartening to read this unwarranted criticism of you, especially since graham-Becker not once (apparently) considered that he didn’t have the responsibility to make the kind of decisions you had to make with the (albeit) faulty intelligence you were presented with. I believe you did the right thing based on the information available at the time. Graham-Becker probably would have made a much worse decision, if it was his to make. Thank you for your service President Bush.

      Don Starke ET1(SS) U.S.Navy Submarine Service

    2. Elsa Guerra, Military spouse and Military Mom.    

      It’s apparent you didn’t serve or didn’t mention. You have freedoms because of our Military. If your so unhappy, LEAVE!!

    3. Sam Bunge    

      Your detailed and specific comments are right on . If W. (who deserted from the A.F.) had not launched his unjustified invasion of Iraq for trumped-up phony reasons, then all these honorable veterans would not have been wounded at all. Plus his response to Hurricane Katrina was criminally. negligent (“Great job, Brownie.”). Sam Bunge. combat Infantry veteran of the Vietnam War.

    4. RICH PULIN    

      THIS IS A REPLY TO RON GRAHAM-BECKER & SAM BUNGE
      YOU GUYS ARE SPOT ON REGARDING ALL OF THE ALLEGATIONS THAT YOU WROTE ABOUT!
      MY GRIPE IS WITH ADAM STUMP WHO WROTE THE ARTICLE!
      AS MR. GRAHAM-BECKER CORRECTLY ASSERTED, BUSH IS NOT A MILITARY VETERAN, HAVING
      ONLY SERVED PART-TIME IN AN AIR FORCE RESERVE UNIT, WHICH HE ULTIMATELY QUIT!
      I WOULD ASK MR. STUMP TO PRINT A REVISION, REMOVING ANY AND ALL REFERENCES TO GEORGE BUSH JR. BEING A MILITARY VETERAN…HE WAS NOT A VETERAN, OR EVEN CLOSE TO BEING ONE…
      I AM ALSO GOING TO REPORT THIS ARTICLE TO PRESIDENT TRUMP, AS BEING GROSSLY UN-TRUTHFUL!

      1. Adam Stump    

        Gentlemen–Thank you for posting your comment. U.S. Code § 101 says the following: The term “veteran” means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable (https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/comp2/D-USC-38.html). You can read about President Bush’s service to our country at the Air National Guard website (https://www.nationalguard.mil/Resources/Image-Gallery/Historical-Paintings/Presidential-Series/George-W-Bush/). The article is correct, so there will not be any revision to the story. Thank you for asking this question. Have a great day.

    5. pRKs    

      Ron, Thank you for telling the truth. I liked the man, I’d have a beer with him anyday, but he was no leader and I couldn’t vote for him. I will say he’s a hell of a lot better than the freak we have in the White House now.

      1. Ed Caf    

        Yeah, the “freak” we have in the white house is running circles around all those Ivy League geniuses who preceded him, isn’t he? Maybe we should elect more “freaks”?

    6. Ed Caf    

      Get off your soap box and go to another country if it’s so awful here…

  22. Joe Collet    

    I am proud of President Bush. As a partialy disabled Vietnam veteran, I am both humbled and inspired by his effort and his devotion. He sets a high standard for other veterans to live up to and I’m thankful for his oft repeated and thoughtful actions toward veteran causes.

    To repeat Jordan Fisher’s comment: “Good job President Bush and all those involved in this noble project!”

    1. Ronald Arm    

      Ron-Graham-Becker, Thanks for speaking up about the elephant in the room. Smo any like to go rah rah yeah, we love our veterans. It’s much easier to pretend we’re all heroes than face the facts. To me President Bush is a veteran only in the sense of a veteran at avoiding serving as others had to, chose to, and just did, n I hope you find painting soldiers therapeutic in dealing with what s/b a tremendous guiltfor the lives you cost and for which many are still being killed or disabled. Both US military and civilians, foreign and domestic.

      Ron Arm
      US Army Veteran
      Viet Nam

      1. Jeff Marshall    

        Nice pic of your buddy Che Guevara, Ronald Arm I see what Vietnam did to you you communist !!!!!!

  23. Carol Mueller    

    What a very personalized and heartfelt way to honor our veterans. Well done.

  24. Bill    

    Bush needs to honour the vets that he sent into war on lies that his administration told the American public. He and Cheney both need to be put in prison. He served his time in the Air Force drinking in bars while true patriots served in war.

  25. Homyk, Raymond Sr.    

    As veteran of the Vietnam era (1963-1966), I did not serve overseas and applaud and thank those that did serve in Vietnam and total sincere remorse for those that gave their life’s in Vietnam.
    I was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3d US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Military District of Washington.
    First assigned to the Honor Guard Company and assign to the Firing Party, which gave those that gave their lives in Vietnam and others, the honor of having the 21 Gun Support over there American Flag draped covering their coffin at Grave Site that they and their family truly and thankfully deserved.
    Then I was selected and volunteered to try out for the Honor Duty of Sentinel, Tomb of The Unknown Soldier and humbled to say I made it. I feel this was and is a humbling Honor for All our dedicated and distinguished Sentinels to Stand a Vigilant watch, 24hours a day, 7 days a week in all weather, inclement conditions or otherwise, Never failing our post to giving our Sincere Respect over the WW1, WWII and Korean Unknown Soldiers Interned in this Hallowed Ground, location in Arlington National Cemetary.
    I feel we that served here, we’re also serving our Country in another way then those that served distinguishably and dedicatedly in their service to our country, serving in Vietnam.
    I feel our picture should also be Honored and Celebrated along with these Deserving Honorees.
    This is just a Veterans, that’s served the USA Honorably, Opinion.
    Sincerely,
    Raymond Homyk Sr
    Tomb Guard, Badge #027
    ”A Tomb Guard Never Forgets”

    1. Phil Matous    

      Thank you, Raymond. Thank you.

    2. Sam    

      This has nothing to do with the paintings done by George W Bush.

      Way to toot your own horn, though.

    3. Tammy McIntyre    

      Thank you for your service and for honoring those who died during Viet Nam…

    4. Stacy McCollum    

      Thank you for the memory, Raymond. My step dad also served in the Honor Guard during his tour in S. Korea. This was one of the highlights of his career and he cherishes it to this day.

  26. Jordan Fisher    

    Good job President Bush and all those involved in this noble project.

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