Sleeping Giants: Pearl Harbor Veterans Then & Now

My name is Aaron Burks. I am a veteran of both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army (retired), turned professional artist. My decision to serve was greatly influenced by two mentors I had as a teenager, both of whom were Pearl Harbor Survivors. They help mold me into the person I am today, and as a result I feel I owe a debt to these men to help continue their stories. Our Pearl Harbor Survivors will all be gone soon. Many of them have done so much to keep this history alive, visiting schools, talking to younger servicemen and women, informing politicians many times up to within weeks of their passing. My goal is to paint two portraits of every living Pearl Harbor Survivor I can find and meet. The idea is to travel to the Survivor, interview them, and paint two portraits, one of the veteran in 1941, and the other as a current portrait. Incorporating their experiences in their own words in the artwork, this will be a visual and literary representation of each veteran. This will continue to tell there stories for future generations through art. Why paintings? The goal is to bring the human experiences of the attack to the front, going beyond the clinical dryness of textbook history. I believe that we think of Pearl Harbor as so long ago and in its veterans we see elderly people. Even when we see a photo of them, the photo is black and white, or old color which builds a psychological barrier between them and us. By bringing both of them together in the same color medium with their stories, I think it will at least poke holes in the barrier. The viewer will be confronted to reflect on the fact that these men who are elderly and leaving our world were young -just kids really- when they were thrust into the most destructive war in history. Once this project is finished, I hope to show it around the country. Why I need your help: To date I’ve met with 13 survivors. I’ve driven back and forth to San Diego from Northern California 5 times on my own dime, requiring rental cars, hotel rooms etc. Unfortunately I cannot keep this up, and my hope is to travel to other veterans to get their stories as well. I’m asking for donations to fund the travel to meet these amazing veterans and get their experiences and get reference photos for paintings. Thank you for your consideration!

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  • Temmie Chambless 
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Organizer

Aaron Burks 
Organizer
Gridley, CA
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