WRENS, Ga. — With the swipe of a paintbrush, colors appeared in downtown Wrens that gave life to Hammond McTier, a Marine who fell in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Gold for the skin. Blue for the eyes. White for the peaked cap.
In the foreground, five Marines and a Navy corpsman re-enact the iconic raising of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi.
The painting was the work of artists Lucy and Jace McTier, a mother-and-son combination who were commissioned earlier this year by Wrens Better Hometown Inc. to design a mural that complemented the town’s existing Veterans Memorial Park.
Hammond McTier was Jace McTier’s great-uncle. The Marine died four days after the historic raising of the flag at Iwo Jima in 1945, which was captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press.
“We live in the blessed hope of freedom because of those who are willing to fight for it,” Lucy McTier said.
The mural is scheduled to be dedicated next week by U.S. Reps. Paul Broun and John Barrow during a ceremony outside the Wrens post office.
The McTier family said every image captured in the mural is based on family photos and letters from local military veterans who served during the Vietnam and Second World wars.
Lucy McTier, who spent two months designing the mural, said that in envisioning the artwork she wanted to focus on how far the U.S. has come in “communication and tactical advancements” while “appreciating the passion the homeland gives to her servicemen and women.”
On the far left, the mural contains historical and agrarian images of a girl sitting cross-legged by a mailbox, crying while reading a letter. Next to the woman are the old Wrens flour mill; two horses that represent the payment the city’s founder made to local American Indians to purchase town land; and an image of a man teaching a boy to plow a field with a mule.
To the right, the painting depicts a dark sky filling with cloth as paratroopers land on D-Day, the Coast Guard’s first black pilot, an Air Force enlisted man with the reflection of F-22 jets in his glasses, Navy SEALs and the USS Cofer.
In the middle is Hammond McTier and the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. Along the bottom are the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who dared to die that freedom might live.”
“There’s a lot of local history involved that speaks to the many struggles soldiers faced – past, present and future,” said Jace McTier, who handled much of the paint work with help from his brother, Ty; father, David; and about 30 residents.
Though the McTiers have completed public murals in Memphis, Tenn., and Charleston, W.Va., through the World Changers Organization, the family said the Wrens mural was the most challenging because of its size and the level of graphic design and portrait detail it required.
Thet had to repaint several areas of the 70-by-11-foot mural to get the light and dark colors to complement each other. The two designs in Memphis and Charleston measure 20 feet in length and height.
The mother and son are in the early stages of designing a 20-by-80-foot mural that will be painted along the side of the Rosa T. Beard Memorial Bridge in Augusta this summer. The 15th Street project, paid for with federal funding, will honor the late civil rights leader and include images that inspire community growth, said John Paul Stout, the sustainable development manager for the city of Augusta.
The McTiers said that Americans need to honor veterans and that anyone who views the mural should be compelled to stop and remember “the victory we share in freedom and its supreme sacrifice that soldiers and their families make.”
While painting, the family got their wish. Near the mural’s completion, two men reflecting on it were brought to tears.
“It meant so much to them that someone was taking the time to remember,” Jace McTier said.