An original oil painting depicting the deeds for which Ernie West of Wurtland received the Medal of Honor is poised for unveiling Monday.
The big reveal is scheduled for the most appropriate of days — Monday is National Medal of Honor Day. Further, it is the 150th anniversary of the awarding of the first Medals of Honor on March 25, 1863.
The painting will be unveiled and presented to West at a 10 a.m. public ceremony at the Wurtland Volunteer Fire Department.
Greenup Junior ROTC members and members of county AMVETS and American Legion posts will participate.
The painting, by Greenup County High School art teacher Bryan Mosier, has been kept under wraps, but some on the committee organizing the event saw the nearly finished canvas three weeks ago. Organizers did give some verbal glimpses in a meeting Thursday, however.
“The artist captured the scene and the intensity of the scene,” said Soc Clay, who first came up with the idea of a commemorative painting and collaborated with West and Mosier to make it happen. The painting depicts West, then an army private, braving enemy fire to rescue wounded soldiers.
Atmospherically, the nighttime scene “has a mostly coal-dust aura,” he said.
The painting will be mounted in a blue metal frame; crafted by Greenup County High School welding instructor Julius Blair and his students, the frame is reminiscent of the ribbon that suspends the medal from the recipient’s neck.
Clay, a noted regional outdoor writer and photographer, first met with West and Mosier in October 2012 to discuss the painting. The ultimate goal was to recreate a battle scene conveying all the action and emotion of the October night in 1952 when West rescued three or more soldiers, including his lieutenant.
Organizers of the event also have commissioned 11 high-quality prints of the painting, autographed by West, which will be for sale for $500 each. Proceeds will endow a scholarship fund. Criteria for the scholarship have not yet been worked out, but the awards will be made to deserving Greenup County students.
The committee plans another campaign to commission a painting of John Collier, Greenup County’s other Medal of Honor recipient. Collier, an Army corporal in the Korean war, received his medal posthumously; he was killed in action in September, 1950.
That effort will require more research since Collier isn’t around to provide an eyewitness account.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.