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Veterans support group highlights work of Sanders County artists

by Valley Press
| August 3, 2022 12:00 AM

A major mission by Joint Operation Mariposa, a local veterans support group, will embark on a cross-country journey beginning Sept. 1.

The mission, which is billed as a veteran suicide awareness event, will get underway the first of next month in Neah Bay, Wash., with the goal of reaching the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

The entourage will focus on a major piece of art created by Plains artists David Williams and Hailee Steinebach which will be escorted to the nation’s capital where it will be donated to the country and accepted by leading political figures from both the House and Senate.

The artwork will make a stop in Plains on Sept. 3 at the Horse Plains VFW.

Along the way the artwork will be signed on the back of the painting by Green Star families and veterans in memory of those Veterans who have taken their own lives.

The artwork was created in 2018 to show support for the families who have lost Veterans to suicide. It is part of the 1,000 foot-long “Guardians of the Herd” artwork. The traveling piece of art is a six-by-eight foot painting on burlap that depicts a solitary green horse on a white background. The color of the horse is a tribute to Green Star families and is based on the line drawings of Moon Illusion, which can be viewed on Deviantart.com.

All of the artwork involved is being donated to Tribal and Veterans organizations in response to requests by Veterans from across the country.

Williams, whose artwork can be seen throughout the area, is a Navy veteran with a Traumatic Brain Injury. The self-taught artist is the founder of Joint Operations Mariposa, while Steinebach is a full-time college student focusing on art. Both artists live in Sanders County.

Their artwork has been presented to then President Donald Trump in 2018. They also have art on display at the VA Regional office in Helena. In addition, The two have been instrumental in helping students of all ages create more than 2,000 pieces of art as part of Joint Operations Mariposa’s Veterans in the Classroom program.

The traveling exhibit will make scheduled stops at military bases and Veterans service organizations during the journey. While at those stops, Veterans, their families and the families of Veterans who have taken their own lives will be invited to add their names to the back of the painting. Signers will also be allowed to write the name of their Veteran and place a green star by the names of their loved ones as a means of displaying the lives affected on one life leaving.

“We Veterans hide really well when we take off our uniforms but we are still here,” Williams said. “We are in every community and the lives of the men and women who served with us matter. I hope this journey demonstrates our commitment to those who are struggling and gives us this rare opportunity to show our communities who we are and express our commitments to them as well”.

JOM is a registered Veterans Outreach Organization based in Plains. The group’s mission is to bring basic services and quality referrals to the under-represented Veteran communities throughout Northwest Montana.

A major effort of JOM includes identifying and developing community-based projects designed to bring Veterans together and foster Vet-to-Vet interactions.

Through their art, education and therapy JOM aims to leave no one behind.

For more information about JOM and the traveling artwork, contact Heather Allan, vice president of the group, at: Heather@Jommt.org.

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