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Native Warriors

I would like to introduce you to a rather exceptional artist, J.D. Challenger.  His work is stunning.  I was first introduced to his work in a gallery in Sedona.  I walked into this beautiful gallery and was drawn to the left.  There was this enormous painting of a Native American warrior.  His eyes were focused, intense, and soulful.
I went right to the painting and couldn't take my eyes off of it.  I went around the display to find several more paintings with the same kind of intensity.  There was a book on the table that I began to flip through with more of his work in it and what I found took my breath away.

Spirit Walker
JD Challenger and His Art
by E. Dan Klepper

Exposures Fine Art Gallery
Sedona, Arizona

In the book, he talks about the Native American contribution to
America's wars and the overseas conflicts.
He created paintings to depict this and talks about how they helped us to define the meaning of a hero.  He was asked to do a piece of art for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and took this responsibility very seriously.  He wanted the depiction of courage, bravery, heroism, and spirit to be correct. 

There are many more photos of his work, much like the one to the left.  I recommend looking him up and learning about the great work he does. 

Why is this important?  Well, when I exited the east side of the Grand Canyon and entered the Navajo Nation, I saw U.S. Army flags flying from the tents where they sell their handmade jewelry.  They are our veterans, as much as our troops who are serving right now.  I had the great honor of meeting several of them and learning about them.  When you are part of a military community in one capacity or another, there is something about feeling at home when you run into others who are a part of it, whether you know them or not.

A day later I was off to explore another area of the state when I found myself on the Yavapai Apache Nation.  There was just one tent this time where they were selling their goods and I pulled in to see what they had made.
Sure enough, as I walked up to the tent, I saw the U.S. Army hat the gentleman was wearing.  I knew I was about to be in good company.  He and his mother were selling the goods they and their family had made.  I stayed with them for about an hour, had some of their fry-bread and learned from them.  I bought a piece of their artwork because as I held it, I was looking at the symbols trying to discern the meaning, when he instinctively began to share the meanings of the symbols with me.  I looked at him wide-eyed and asked him about the hat he was wearing.  He very proudly shared with me that he was a Gulf War Vet, happy to be doing what he is doing.  I shared my story with him and we talked for a bit.  I shared with him that there is an ounce or two of Apache blood in my extended family, so it was good to learn a little of their wisdom.  I thanked them for their time and for what he had shared and went on my way. 

On my way back from the site I was going to see, I realized I had one of my business cards in my pocket.  I felt compelled to stop and give it to him.  I pulled in and he smiled and said, "Back so soon! You going to be here Saturday?  I'm making tacos."  We laughed and I said, "Darn, not this week. I'm heading to Texas next."   I told him I was glad to see that he was healthy, whole, and enjoying the work he's doing with his family because it isn't that way for a lot of vets.  He seconded that and said that he had some friends who suffered from some illnesses post-Gulf War.  I said, "Me too."   I shared with him the work that I do and gave him the card.  I said I'm on the  East Coast, but maybe there is something on my website that can help someone you know.  He shook my hand. I felt I had made a very fast friend. 

Thank you to all of our Native American Veterans.
It was an honor to shake hands with you.

*image: Google Images

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