The West Point Class of '95 Painting Project "On the High Ground" began sometime in 2004, a particularly difficult time for the Class. We lost a number of Classmates, and, with two wars raging, many had lost other friends and colleagues. With the success of our first big reunion, it became clear that we had the momentum to do something to commemorate those who had so recently served and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. The concept and inspiration came almost immediately.
"On the High Ground" comes from a well known saying spoken between departing comrades. Hiding our own emotion with a mask of command and bravado, we usually say, "I'll see you on the high ground." When that reunion actually happens it is an extremely emotionally charged event. No matter the location, or the situation, the pure joy of an unexpected encounter with an old friend in a far flung land is unmistakable and something all of us have shared. Whether it is two West Point classmates in the streets of Baghdad, or two Non Commissioned Officer Academy graduates in Afghanistan, or two college mates in Kosovo, or even two high school friends in Korea, meeting the familiar in the environment of the unfamiliar is a powerful emotion indeed. Mark Churms is working hard to capture that very spirit.
Military prints by nature have to have a context. The theme of the painting is one that seeks to be very inclusive. It is in this spirit that the context was especially chosen. The two classmates meet somewhere in the Middle East. Many might see themselves in Iraq, others in Afghanistan. The two are meeting while linking up for a partnered operation between U.S. and local forces. This is not a battle scene like so many recent paintings; this is a scene of activities performed thanklessly a thousand times a day by thousands of soldiers: the difficult and often monotonous complex missions of today's Counter Insurgency wars. A the time of the project, members of the Class of '95 were new Majors in the Army and were participating in a unique role in this conflict as combat advisors, something not seen in combat since the Vietnam War. Some of the Soldiers in this painting will be serving in this role. Others will be more conventional troops. Blackhawk helicopters will be flying overhead, a careful nod to our fallen classmates. Seeking again for inclusion, the painting takes place in 2005-2006, so some soldiers will be in the older Desert Combat Uniform, while others will be in the newer Advanced Combat Uniform; still others will be in a mix of both as the supply system tried to catch up to the soldiers' needs. Whether one served as a company commander, an advisor, a pilot, a squad leader, you will see yourself and your experiences in "On The High Ground."
This painting will also be one of the first to prominently feature indigenous forces in a prominent and positive light. Additionally, one of the main character's interpreter will also be clearly seen; another careful nod to the thousands of men and women that risked their lives to help us achieve our missions. Many of us have served with an interpreter, perhaps in Iraq, or Bosnia, or Germany, and we remember their support and friendship.
For the Class of '95, the cost is only $40. This gets you your signed and numbered print with the exclusive '95 seal. It will be one of 500 and be sold only to the Class of '95 with the seal. The original painting will be given to the Class of '95 when all 500 prints are sold. The oil painting is set to be donated to West Point, and hopefully be placed in the new '95 Reading Room as a permanent mark of our Legacy. In addition, there is a separate effort being led by our Classmate Brent Brown to purchase and donate a framed print to each of the families of our 10 fallen Classmates. Prints will be first come first serve and you may purchase up to five.
This is not a fundraiser, it is not meant to be. It is an effort to put a marker down in history and give each of us a piece of it for our own homes. The Class of '95 was here.
With Honor We Strive,
Michael D. Jason '95 Class President
P S For those who don't know Lew from Vladimir Arts, his framing prices are the best in the industry. Check out the retail prices in the order form and what he is selling them to us for. You can't beat them.