DALLAS — Since leaving The White House, former President George W. Bush has become an avid painter. He’s also made it his own mission to get to know the armed service members who served the country during his administration. Some of them did not survive their service. Others were wounded and some came home with lifelong memories that changed them.
The new exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, called Portraits of Courage, consists of 66 portraits and an entire mural of 98 service members who served the United States since 9/11. All were painted by George W. Bush.
“It was breathtaking. It was an amazing gesture and an amazing painting, but seeing it here this morning, hanging up is pretty awesome,” said 1st Sgt. Robert Ferrera, Ret. U.S. Army.
Each painting is paired with the soldier’s story of their time in the military and their journey with recovery.
“Healing is a process that takes a lifetime,” said Staff Sgt. Johnnie Yellock, U.S. Air Force (Ret).
“What he captured, as far as the pain, the guilt, it’s all in that picture. Seeing it now just reminds me of who I don’t want to become again,” Ferrera added.
All of the paintings were done by President Bush himself.
“To see my portrait there is pretty remarkable, considering the fact that President Bush considers himself an amateur painter,” Yellock expressed.
What did these vets think when the President asked to paint them?
“I was kind of scared at first when he said he was going to paint me,” Ferrera said, I was like, ‘Wow, this is going to be something different.'”
“Painting these vets was a fantastic experience for me,” President Bush said. “I’m a little nervous about what they think of their paintings.”
The paintings are also featured in the former president’s new book, also titled Portraits of Courage.
All proceeds from the book go to the Bush Center, to help support our veterans. The exhibit is open from March 2 until October 1.
Watch the video above to see how two injured service members reacted when they saw their portraits.