An art project honoring area Medal of Honor recipient Ernie West is close to completion and organizers are looking to the next chapter — choosing and implementing a philanthropic vehicle to benefit from the project.
Members of the Greenup County Medal of Honor Committee on Thursday got a sneak peek at an original oil painting depicting West’s heroic actions during a vicious night battle during the Korean war.
The still-unfinished painting by local artist and art teacher Bryan Mosier illustrates what West remembers about the October night in 1952 when he braved enemy fire to rescue three or more wounded American soldiers.
Unlike much military art, the picture portrays the action as directly remembered by West, Mosier said. “I’ve been thrilled. When you’re doing historical painting, you try to capture the action and the emotion and it’s hard.” Having West, with his direct recollection of the scene, makes it more accurate, he said.
Mosier will be completing the canvas during the next couple of weekends and the committee is planning an unveiling on March 25, which is National Medal of Honor Day, said committee spokesman Tom Clay.
Clay believes the painting is a treasure because of West’s participation. “We’re losing our heroes daily and this will be around 100 years from now,” he said.
West will receive the original and the committee will commission a limited edition of about 25 fine-art reproductions that will be for sale, Clay said. The price has yet to be determined and so is the eventual disposition of the proceeds, although the committee is inclined to endow some kind of merit-based scholarship, according to Clay.
Clay is the son of acclaimed regional writer/photographer Soc Clay, who engineered the meeting between Mosier and West, with whom he has been friends for years and with whom he had been wanting to collaborate for years on a battle-scene painting.
They have been working on the project since October. Clay urged West to talk about the fateful night when West, an Army private, found himself in a firefight with his lieutenant wounded and his squad under intense fire.
Shot in the eye himself, West ran through the gunfire and rescued the lieutenant and three or more soldiers, killing several enemy soldiers in the process.
The committee also has embarked on a second project, a painting commemorating Greenup County’s other Medal of Honor recipient, John Collier.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2652.