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Artwork celebrates the student-veteran experience

Alan Flurry

Art majors and student veteran Eric Martin recently completed a commissioned painting titled “We Came by Land, Sea, Air and Space” for the University of Georgia Student Veterans Resource Center:

Martin, who enlisted in response to the 9/11 attacks, was on active duty in the Army for almost six years and went on a 15-month tour of Iraq. He served as a mortarman in the infantry, operating with 81mm and 121mm mortars, with the large bombs regularly exploding near his head.

“There are a lot of people who don’t experience what I experience. They come out of the military, and they’re just fine,” he said.

Martin was knocked unconscious in a vehicle rollover. “The vehicle caught fire while we were inside. We lost a soldier,” he said. At least two improvised explosive devices went off next to his vehicle. Once, he walked a route clearance in the middle of a field—and walked right over a tripwire. The wire was set up to trigger an ice cream truck full of missiles. But the wire was faulty.

“The threat of death was so close,” he said. “Just going outside the wire every day and having pop shots hit right next to you, to know exactly what it sounds like to have a bullet coming straight for you, it’s a very distinct sound.” 

Journey to UGA

After military retirement, Martin, who grew up in Conyers, knew he wanted to go to art school on the GI Bill. UGA had the most expansive art program he could find.

But he couldn’t just apply to UGA with his portfolio. Because he dropped out of high school in 10th grade and got a G.E.D., he had to take 30 hours of classes at Athens Technical College before he could transfer to UGA. And that’s what he did. In 2015, he moved from New Hampshire to Georgia with his family.

At UGA, he’s taken studio art classes. He’s in a live figure painting class now.


Image: Eric Martin poses with the painting he did for the Student Veterans Resource Center.

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