Columbus Veterans use art to honor Vietnam Navy Pilots

Two Veterans from different eras forge a friendship through Art

WRBL Staff - COLUMBUS, Ga. – Retired Sgt. First Class Jose Torres and military veteran Jeremy McCrary both served in the United States Army, but during different eras. Torres served in Vietnam, and McCrary who is also an artist served 10 years in the military during the Iraq War. Both are now Columbus area residents who were recently brought together by an art project to honor a fellow veteran.

Torres who was wounded in April 1970 in Binh Thuy was rescued from sniper and mortar fire by a Navy helicopter medevac pilot. Thirty-five years later during a chance encounter, he met Denny Holmes of Atlanta who also served in Vietnam as a navy pilot during the same time and in the same location where Torres was wounded and rescued. Realizing that Holmes may have been the pilot who saved him, Torres decided to honor all Vietnam Navy Pilots through art.

"They put their lives on the line to get soldiers out of there," said Torres. "And I wanted to find a way to recognize them for their service."

After contacting the CSU art department, Torres was connected with veteran, Jeremy McCrary who is an art student there. Torres commissioned McCrary to create an artistic vision that would recognize the sacrifice of all navy pilots in Vietnam. Relying only on an old black and white military photo and stories from Torres, McCrary created a 36" x 48" oil painting that vibrantly illustrates a war scene from Vietnam.

"Both art and the military have played a major role in my life," said McCrary.  "I am so honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to use my talents to pay tribute to a fellow veteran."

Earlier this month, Torres presented the portrait to an emotional Holmes, the Navy Pilot in Atlanta.

"I knew that Jeremy was a godsend when I saw the first draft of a black and white sketch of the painting," said Torres. "This artwork really captures the story of what happened."

McCrary and Torres have now forged a new friendship that goes beyond art and their common background in the military.

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