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Monday, October 13, 2008
CRAIG BONE MURAL IN USA
BY JACI CONRAD-PEARSON
Black Hills Pioneer
CARY, NC - The Big & Rich smash hit '8th of November,' inspired by the true story of purple heart recipient and Vietnam veteran Niles Harris of Deadwood, a survivor of the Nov. 8 Operation Hump ambush and battle has, in turn, inspired world renowned ultra-realist artist Craig Bone to craft a 10 foot by 18 foot original painting titled '8th of November' to be unveiled Nov. 8, 2008 in Cary, N.C. during a concert celebration at Koka Booth Amphitheater. In attendance will be Harris, Bone and possibly 'Big Kenny,' himself. The event will also feature live performances by the 82nd Airborne's All American Chorus, headliner Billy Ray Cyrus and country music artists, Rockie Lynne, Bo Bice and Josh Gracin.
In addition, the 8th of November Celebration & Awards Presentation will include a ceremony recognizing the missions of the American Red Cross and the National Veterans Freedom Park, while honoring the nation's veterans, military personnel and their families. “Our organizations are excited to bring art and music together to celebrate our veterans and honor our active duty military for their service and sacrifice,” said Barry Porter, American Red Cross Regional Executive Director Triangle Area Chapter, Raleigh, N.C., and event organizer.
A giclee print of Bone's '8th of November' will also be presented to the 173d Airborne Brigade on Oct. 24 in Vinchenza, Italy and will be unveiled at a military tribute to be attended by John Rich and Niles Harris.
Background on Bone
Bone is regarded as one of the top naturalists in the world and widely known for his realistic portrayal of African wildlife through precise pen and ink drawings and finely colored oil paintings. His painting 'Earth, Wind and Fire,' sold for $106,000 and is the only Vietnam era painting currently on display in the Pentagon.
A wounded veteran himself, formerly fighting in the Rhodesian army during the country's civil war from 1975 to 1980, Bone was inspired to craft his new original painting, 8th of November, the largest he's ever created, after hearing the highly moving story of Harris, a retired 25-year U.S. Army Veteran and wounded survivor of the Operation Hump ambush and battle of Nov. 8, 1965. Harris' story was set to music by Big & Rich and poignantly told in the music video performed by Big & Rich and narrated by Kris Kristofferson.
Bone remembers Operation Hump and the Nov. 8 battle. “Believe it or not, I remember that ambush. I heard it on the radio. There were bombs going off and they called for help. The Australians rescued the American soldiers that day and captured everyone there. It's hard to paint an entire war, but if I could pick an incident that was representative of the Vietnam War, the Nov. 8 battle is what I would choose,” said Bone.
Asked to pinpoint why he made that choice, Bone points to Harris and his commitment to his 'brothers,' or fellow soldiers. “Just watching that video and seeing the photos flash by of the men who died that day, it's clear to me that Niles has never forgotten about the men who fell around him. He's a true American hero. He's never forgotten his friends; he's a biker, a true American. And that is what I wanted to paint,” said Bone.
'8th of November' is one more step toward military reenactment work that Bone has always enjoyed doing, but has grown increasingly dedicated to in the last two years. “I had my leg blown up by a mortar shell and while I was recuperating, I began getting more serious about art. I decided that painting could be part of a soldier's rehabilitation. While I could not do many of the things I had done prior to my injury, I still had my art to continue fighting, just the same as I did in the front line. Now I fight with a paint brush,” said Bone.
“I have great respect for the American soldier,” continued Bone, who left Zimbabwe because the support he gave democracy made Africa “an unsafe place for the white man” and his ideology. “I have a very strong love of democracy. America opened up its doors to me and gave me the chance of having a second home. Fighting alongside some of the Vietnam War Veterans in Rhodesia, I admired their commitment to democracy. I share their enthusiasm. I believe the world owes a thank you to the American soldier for all their blood that is in foreign soils and for supporting the democratic ideology I, too, support and fought for.”
Bone began his '8th of November' painting on Jan. 27, 2008 and is still putting the finishing touches on the canvas, after meeting Harris recently and working out the historically accurate specifics that he requires of the painting.
Along with Harris, Bone will paint in other images related to the 173d and Big & Rich, using his talent to hide in his paintings objects not easily visible to the eye. “There are scars in the heads of these soldiers that will take a lot of time to heal. Maybe this will help them toward a bit of closure in their minds,” said Bone. “It's important that they know we haven't forgotten.”
Upon completion of '8th of November,' Bone plans to begin working on a painting depicting the Iraq/Afghanistan war and conflict.
Niles Harris has a look
Hey, how does that larger than life painting that Mr. Bone is painting on scaffolding look, anyway, Niles? “It's so��-big. Lawrence Joel really looks like Lawrence Joel. He painted him kneeling over a wounded soldier,” said Harris when asked for his first reaction to seeing the painting. Harris added that the173d Airborne Brigade Medic and Medal of Honor winner, Joel's wife and daughter, are also invited to the 8th November celebration, as the event is being held near Joel's home town of Winston Salem, N.C. “Lawrence patched up most of the guys on the 8th,” said Harris, who explained that Joel was the main medic scrambling to save lives that fateful, hellish day.
Not only was Harris impressed by the painting, but also by the painter. “He has a big commitment to Vietnam Vets,” said Harris. “So far, his military paintings have raised a lot of money for Vietnam Veterans. Most of what he's done so far have been give-aways to raise money,” he continued.
Harris will once again formally go down in history, this time as part of the painting depicting the November 8 battle and the Vietnam War era, as he is pictured in the painting with his radio equipment, similar to the black and white photo that appears in the video. “He asked me questions about my uniform, weapons, just wanted to make sure that everything was correct,” said Harris of his conversation with Bone on a recent trip to his Ft. Myers, Fla. compound.
Perhaps most encouraging for Harris, is the fact that he may be joined by his brothers, the other four living survivors of the 8th battle, this Nov. 8. Harris, of Deadwood; Sonny Barto of Augusta, Ga.; Mr. Don Lockhart of Fayetteville, N.C. and Mike Lovelace, a silver star winner, all served with C/1/503 Unit of the 173d Airborne Brigade, while Craig Ford of Edmonton, Wash. served with HHC/1/503 Unit. “They were all there that day,” said retired Master Sergeant Harris. “And I hope they can make it. We'll see.”
How the '8th November' painting came about
Barry Porter, American Red Cross Regional Executive Director Triangle Area Chapter, Raleigh, N.C. has connections. Connections that proved valuable in establishing a relationship with renowned painter Craig Bone and his managing partner Don Binns, owner of IAG Galleries and Fine Art Publishing.
Bone painted his first formal military painting, entitled “Earth, Wind & Fire,” originally for a fundraiser to benefit wounded veterans through Safari Club International. He ended up gifting a print to Porter to raise money for veterans in North Carolina as a thank you for Porter's introducing Bone to Michael Durant of Black Hawk Down.
“The original ended up selling for $106,000 at auction and the winning bidder donated 'Earth, Wind & Fire,' to the Pentagon, where it hangs today. It is the only Vietnam era painting displayed there today,” said Porter.
From there, Bone expressed interest in portraying the Nov. 8 battle that Big & Rich immortalized with the story of wounded survivor Niles Harris of Deadwood, whom they met several years ago, formed a friendship with and later told his story through the country music song and video titled '8th of November.' Knowing that the American Red Cross and National Veterans Freedom Park were due for a celebration this fall, Porter got to work and got creative.
At the urging of Bone, familiar with his desire to complete more work to benefit U.S. Veterans, he began by attempting to contact Niles Harris. Googling Harris, he came upon the most recent article written on Harris, which commemorated his heroic efforts made more than 40 years ago, and published in the Black Hills Pioneer on Nov. 8, 2007, written by Deadwood correspondent Jaci Conrad-Pearson.
After being contacted by Porter, Conrad-Pearson went about hooking up Harris and Porter, who added Bone to the mix, and the rest is history, so to speak. On Nov. 8, 2008, Harris and the 173d will once again receive the recognition they so richly deserve for fighting for the red, white and blue.
Since the initial contact date, St. Patrick's Day of this year, March 17, when Harris agreed to attend the event and help with Bone's rendition of the Nov. 8 battle, the event has continued to snowball and will now feature several well known country acts, Harris himself and possibly Big & Rich.
8th of November bash in Cary, NC
Joining the celebrity line-up, Prisoner of War Medal Recipient and Bataan Death March Survivor Robert Marshall Shrum will also be on hand for the all-day 8th festivities. In addition to the concert, there will be a sneak peek “Diamonds and Leather” cocktail social to be held at the home and Harley Davidson dealership of motorcycle speed record-holder Ray Price, which will include meeting Niles Harris and artist, Craig Bone and viewing a giclee copy of the painting before it is unveiled to the public on November 8th.
“This will be an opportunity for guests, event sponsors and dignitaries to watch Craig add a few special images and brush strokes to the giclee. Patrons will also have the opportunity to witness his passion for the wildlife and scenery of his native Zimbabwe in other paintings that will be on display at this exclusive showing,” said Porter.
Nearly 2000 tickets to the 8th November Concert Celebration have been sold thus far, and more are still available until the event is sold out. For more information on the 8th Celebration, Niles Harris, Craig Bone, the American Red Cross or the National Veterans Freedom Park, visit www.8thNovember.com. Tickets are available now and can be purchased for $42.50 for lawn and $62.50 VIP by visiting www.ticketmaster.com.