Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Portrait

I have always wanted to visit the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian in DC. I’ve been to DC several times but never made it to the Gallery – usually due to having others with me who couldn’t bear the idea of another museum.

I was browsing articles about the Gallery yesterday when I came upon a new portrait.

The artist’s work won a spot in the gallery after being selected from among 3300 other new portraits. You can read about the competition and the details of this portrait HERE and HERE

This is Army Sgt. Richard Yarosh …

Sgt. Yarosh was injured in Iraq in 2006. The vehicle he was in hit an IED and burst into flames. In addition to the articles above you can also read more about that HERE

What struck me about the portrait was the sense of dignity, quiet dignity.

Here is a real person who had a life before war and who, with an astounding amount of courage and work, has a life after war. Rich has gone through 35 surgeries. He did not look at his own face for 5 months and says it took many more months to feel comfortable enough to show it out in the world.

I really recommend reading the articles I linked. I took great comfort in the comments of those who were viewing the portrait for the first time.

The sacrifices made by soldiers and their families cannot be measured. The challenges faced by anyone who is disfigured or disabled cannot be described.

Those of us who sit on the sidelines of war need to do more. All the bumper stickers and flag waving and peace globes on earth don’t equal volunteering some time at a VA Hospital or helping a military family.

I have had many days lately when I felt I couldn’t face the world. On the next one I will think of this portrait and it will be easier to push forward.

Thank you Sgt. Richard Yarosh


bobbie said...

Your thoughts on this subject,and the simple thank you at the end say it all, Dianne. We could all do well to stop and think of this man from time to time, and whisper "Thank you".
And, of course, if we can do more as you suggest, that would be ideal.

Sylvia K said...

Terrific post, Dianne! Thank you so much for posting it and I will read the articles! I was so moved by his portrait and his story. Those of us here have not even a glimpse into what Sgt. Yarosh and so many others like him have suffered! And, yes, I'll remember this portrait the next time I'm having difficulty facing another day. It is easy to wave the flag, these are the men and women who know what the price of freedom truly is.

Thank you, Sgt. Yarosh and thank you, Dianne for bringing this to our attention.


Michael Manning said...

I am grateful for your sensitive post Dianne. I recently wound up a magazine interview with a Veteran from Vietnam and we discussed how we are very disturbed with the way our Veterans are treated after their service. "Thanks and have a nice day", that sort of thing. How I wish they had access to the finest medical facilities free of charge for life! Blessings for ringing this subject to light!!!

kenju said...

It takes only the misfortunes of another to make us realize how Blessed we are.

tattytiara said...

I can imagine how much it would mean to me if I were disfigured to see someone create a portrait of another person with similar scarring. Imagine how deeply this artwork has likely affected how people view themselves. It's truly awe inspiring.

Travis said...

I appreciate the service and sacrifice of Sgt Yarosh.

But I've said before and I'll say again, our own personal struggles and difficulties are not made any less by the different strugles and difficulties of others. Our issues and troubles and daily challenges are our own, and they are not to be diminished simply because someone else may have different experiences.

Sometimes we don't have the energy to deal with our own personal issues...that's ok. We can rest up, take inspiration from whatever inspires us, and try again tomorrow. But we shouldn't ever feel less because we're having a rough time.

We simply have to learn to forgive ourselves for just not being able to get it done today. It happens. It even happens to a soldier once in awhile.

Yes, what Sgt Yarosh and many others like him have endured is terrible. I am honored that there are people in the world like him who willingly serve and sacrifice on my behalf.

We must do our part, but we mustn't ever feel that what we go through on a daily basis is insignificant. It isn't. It's our challenge. And we must remember that there is honor in the act of service and not just in the type of service. We should all do what it is in us to do.

Dianne said...

bobbie - there was something about the art of the portrait that was so powerful to me

sylvia - the thing that struck me in the first article was the reactions of people seeing the portrait, they all saw the person and not the wounds and that made me happy

michael - I hear that from my VFW buddies all the time
thanks Michael

kenju - that is so true

tattytiara - the power of art, you make a wonderful point

travis - eloquent as always my friend
I do feel my issues are diminished by, in this case, Sgt. Yarosh's and I'm grateful for that
I do see what you're saying and I agree that all we can is what we can do but I can't rid myself of how mean spirited and selfish and lazy America has become - or maybe it always was and now they're just on TV more
hissy fits over teeny tax increases, spitting in the face of even the suggestion of sacrifice so someone more needy can have something
I could go on but I intentionally didn't add this into the post so as to not be negative or sound preachy

Jay said...

We talk big about supporting the troops and shit like that in this country. But, we as a society don't really support them that much. Just like so many other things that we talk big about, but don't really do in practice.

Dianne said...

jay - exactly!! and it seems to be getting worse
I wanted to say it just that way but I really wanted to just share the portrait and the comments of people who saw beyond his face to the person there
thanks Jay

Cloudia said...

Thank you, Sgt Yarosh!

Thank you, Sister blogger, for this worthy post today.

Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Linda Reeder said...

I think I will never really understand the kind of courage that it takes to be a soldier, or the courage that it takes to rebuild one's life after such a horrible injury.
I'm glad I don't have to know this kind of courage.
I wish no one did.

Hilary said...

Beautiful post, Dianne. Such a brave soul. The portrait is wonderful.

Jeni said...

Excellent post, Dianne! And so true -we do owe a huge "Thank you" to this man and oh, so many others as well for all they have done, tried to do.

Scott Oglesby said...

I’ve read a lot about Richard and other veterans who face similar struggles. The courage and grace with which they live their lives are absolutely amazing! That was beautiful and inspiring Dianne!

Arkansas Patti said...

Beautiful post Dianne and I so admire this young man who is putting his face front and center for all of us to see.
Don't know if you have seen J.R. Martinez on All My Children. He is a real Iraq burn victim who has a recuring role.
At first, yes his face shocked but the more you see him, the less you see his face and the more you just see him. Suddenly, one day you realize his face is beautiful, just different.
Sgt Yarosh is also beautiful, just different.

Bob-kat said...

This is a fantastic portrait. Not just because of the quiet dignity that positively exudes from it but because of what it represents. I also think it shows so much of the character of the person it represents - that kind f dignity does not come without a long struggle and many challenges and finally acceptance. This man has obviously risen to each and every challenge he faced and we can each take somethinh positive from that.

Thanks for sharing this. Like you I have been going through a tough time and sometimes you need to take a little strength from somewhere else. Hope all is well with you (or as well as can be expected). I am sorry for my tardiness with visiting and blogging in general. I hope to to get back to it soon.

Bond said...

A wonderful post Dianne - again you rock when you put your words to 'paper'

Sgt Yarosh is brave for sharing his struggles with the world.

I do tend to agree with Travis in his point that, the struggles I have faced over the last five years may be different from Sgt Yarosh, but at the same time, my life has been impacted gratley by my troubles.

There were many peopel who told me to just give it up and not take the responsibilities I was saddled with and it would have ben easy to go to the courts and do so.

But I took responsibility and it has been and will continue to be a struggle for the next few years.

Are my difficulties less than some, sure...are they more than some...sure..

We all cope in our own ways. I do think Peace Globes and words of encouragement in an airport help...There are many ways for us all to show our support..None are more important than the others...together they are WONDERFUL

Daryl said...

Once again an amazingly touching post .. Thank you Sgt. Richard Yarosh indeed, it takes but a second for a life to change completely...

You know I have a secret pleasure, its watching a terribly written soap opera called All My Children. Well for the last 6 mos or so they have employed a vet named JR Martinez. Initially he was just a short term role but he rocked the part and he's become a recurring character (in real life he spends his time giving motivational speeches to other vets who have had life altering experiences) .. did I mention Mr Martinez also has had many operations and skin grafts? Just wanted to share.

Nessa said...

I whine a lot and people like this man make me ashamed.

Book Review #4 - Drood

Akelamalu said...

Wonderful post Dianne. I admire Sgt Yarosh's courage and his service to his country. This reminds me very much of Simon Weston - a member of the Welsh Guards who was badly burned and disfigured on the Sir Galahad in the Falklands War in 1982. He has spent his time since his recovery doing charity work and was awarded the OBE by the Queen. You can read about him here

Lily Hydrangea said...

You are not going to believe this, I was just at The National Portrait Gallery this last weekend and saw this very same portrait. I love this artists idea of painting & documenting 100 soldiers who served in Iraq & Afghanistan, after which each one of these brave military personnel writes about their experience in their own words.
It was incredibly moving to see this man's portrait. So cool of you to share this Dianne.
I hope you are feeling better.

Cheffie-Mom said...

Wow, the portrait is beautiful -- and so is this post. Very powerful.

Dianne said...

cloudia - thanks Sister :)

linda - I wish the same

hilary - so many people there said it was beautiful and that made me happy for the Sgt.

jeni - I just think we need to be less gung-ho and more action, what Jay said

scott - thank you
under the portrait the Sgt. says that day started like any other and has never ended
that is something amazing to say and survive

patti - beautiful, just different was one of the most important points to me
thank you

bob-kat- no need to apologize
just know that I check in one your blog all the time and I always think of you
this too shall pass
right? ;)

bond - I guess the old 'walk a mile in my shoes' applies to us all, thanks for making the point
as for globes and airport greetings and other gestures, yes - they do have a place and I am trying so hard to not sound like a judgmental bitch but I am sick of gestures, so much time is going by and virtually nothing is getting done to make anyone's life better or safer and it makes me angry - very, very angry
if I was younger or at least if I was physically stronger I would be leading some form of a revolt by now

daryl - I watch AMC a lot :)
Patti above also mentioned JR
I have seen him, he is exceptionally sexy and a wonderful actor

nessa - no need for the shame
we all whine now and then
when I said we need to do more I meant society as a whole, and most definitely those people who beat the drums for war and wave the flags and send the kids and then look away

akelamalu - the link didn't post but I will look him up
thanks for sharing

lily - how wonderful that you got to be there!!
his portrait will hang for a year so I really hope I get there

cheffie - thank you so much

Ron said...

Hello Dianne!

sense of dignity, quiet dignity.

Yes...absolute. As soon as you said that, I saw it!

I don't know whether I ever told you this, but I use to volunteer with female burn survivors; teaching them how to apply makeup to help camouflage scars, apply eyelashs, and eyebrows after their surgeries.

I took a makeup seminar in Maryland, where the survivors all gave talks about their lives before and after their accidents. And what amazed me most, was the lack of sadness in their voices. It brought tears to my eyes, listening to them talk about how they eventually came to a point of acceptance; allowing them to continue living.

I came home from that seminar with a totally different understanding of what true healing means.

Thank you so much for sharing this, dear lady!

X ya!

Travis said...

Sometimes the gestures are what you see. And sometimes the asshats are what you see. But that's just a tiny fraction of what is really going on.

We see more asshats because for wahtever reason the media has decided that asshats make for better tv.

But for every asshat, I say there are 10 or 15 or 20 others who are actually doing positive things to help anyone who needs help. I just can't find it in myself to be cynical about this. I see people in my community doing what can be done to help people who need help.

If it's in us to do more, then we can do more. If you're doing all you can, then I salute you!

jennifer said...

Your post made me think. I've said so many times that the troubles that I have are the troubles that I would choose in the face of what some people have to deal with.

Like this post, action starts with a thought... it starts with making an impression on the hearts of others. Sort of like 'take it and pass it on' you know? That is why I think the peace globes and a thank you in an airport are good things - we've got to start somewhere. The key is to follow through once we start.

Thanks Dianne. This was powerful.

the walking man said...

Spot on babe. You show me a flag waver and I will show you someone too lazy or too clean to get their hands dirty with the real work of the nation.

Jackie said...

He reminded me very much of Simon Weston, who was a British soldier who got 46% burns in 1982 during the Falklands War. Again, very dignified. His website is

Linda said...

As always, Dianne, not only do you write a great post but you follow it up with a very interesting comment section! Sometimes I almost learn more from the comments than I do from the original post as I find myself nodding in agreement or perhaps not with a comment or two.

Travis definitely makes some excellent points about how we all have our own crosses to bear or burdens to carry and even though there are many, many people whose lives have been horribly affected in some way or another that doesn't change the fact that when something impacts us personally that it's hard to be thankful that we don't have the problems of "so and so" instead.

To be honest, when my back has gone out on me and I can barely breath it hurts so bad, it's hard to remember that there are people out there who are suffering worse than I am. I know that sounds incredibly selfish but it's all too true.

Sgt Yarosh is a true credit to not only the military but to humanity as he's taken the "lemons" that life gave to him and turned them into something useful. I've always admired people who can do that and wonder if I could do the same (such as my friend who has a severely autistic son) but I just don't know if I could. There are some people who are born to lead, some people who are born to make a difference in big ways, and some people who do what they can and hope that even if it doesn't make a big difference perhaps it will be one small thing that contributes to the greater good overall. I think I fall in the latter category.

Frank Baron said...

A brave man and a brilliant artist. I'm glad they came together.

And I'm glad you brought my attention to them. Merci Madame. :)

Raven said...

Beautiful post. I am foolish enough to watch soap operas. They have few redeeming virtues and are as annoying as they are entertaining much of the time, but... All My Children does have a history of doing things that I admire. They were the first to tackle AIDS in a way that was informative and for a long time had an annual AIDS day celebration. This year as part of one show we joined an actual conversation with real vets from the current wars. And one of those young men - scarred very much like this Sgt, is now a regular character on the show. His scars aren't make-up. They are real. Like this portrait, this does two things. It brings home one of the realities of war and it reminds us that the scars aren't the person. Teaches us to look past the instinct to avert our eyes.

And as you said, people who suffer this kind of wound are a good reminder on days when we are feeling sorry for ourselves.

And now I've written a mini book here. Sorry. You always have a lot of thought-provoking content to chew on. I love that.

Micky-T said...

Great post Dianne. Haunts the soul.

Louise said...

So well-said.

Mountain Photog said...

What a beautiful post Dianne. Very moving and very inspiring.

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