When Andrea Martin moved back to the small town she grew up in, she wanted to change her life. Her marriage had ended, leaving her a single mother, and she had lost her house and her job. She decided to return to Hendersonville, North Carolina, to "get back on my feet again."
She found the evenings, after her son, Brayden, had gone to bed, especially difficult. The solitude didn't suit her and she didn't quite know what to do with herself. She'd tried to reconnect with old friends, but they were busy with their own families. Andrea was grateful to have a steady job—she designed houses on a computer—and thankful that Brayden was happy in their new home, but she had no hobbies or interests that would allow her to meet new people and she felt the need for a spark, a new activity—something to which she could devote her free time. She could not have guessed what would happen next. (She told her story in the November 2016 issue of Guideposts.)
One night, Andrea received a text from her friend, Marti, who told her that Marti's father, a veteran, wanted a picture of Arlington Cemetary painted on the tailgate of his truck. Why ask me, Andrea wondered. Her mother had been a painter, but Andrea hadn't picked up a paintbrush since childhood. But her grandfather had been awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart after serving in Korea, and her father had taught her to view veterans as heroes who were to honored and revered.
Marti's father, Charlie, was an intimidating, opinionated figure, and, as Andrea puts it, "If he thought I could do the painting, I wasn't about to tell him no." After Charlie came by to drop off the tailgate, Andrea prayed for God's guidance and inspiration and began to paint.
The project gave Andrea a chance to talk with Brayden about the sacrifices veterans make on behalf of their fellow citizens and what it means to love one's country. Charlie called from time to time, to check on Andrea's progress, so she continued to work, praying before every session.
When Charlie saw the finished product, his response was brief: "It's beautiful. Thank you." Andrea told him it was a honor to have painted it for him, and young Brayden shook Charlie's hand and thanked him for his service.
Andrea's evenings were empty again, but not for long. Charlie's best friend, Tom, soon called, asking Andrea to paint his tailgate with images that would commemorate his experiences in Vietnam and pay tribute to the close friends he lost there.
Upon completion, Andrea texted Tom a photograph of his newly painted tailgate, and he was moved to tears. "I haven't really slept since I got home in the seventies," he said. "I get maybe two, three hours a night. I'm always on that battlefield." Andrea was touched by how much Tom had sacrificed, and so was Brayden. "You can't charge him money," Brayden said. "He's done so much for our country."
Andrea has continued to utilize her newfound artistic talents to pay tribute to our nation's veterans. She painted this mural to inspire the people of Hendersonville to show their gratitude for the sacrifices area veterans have made on their behalf.
Andrea poses with Rufus ‘Pooch' Pace, who served in both World War II and the Korean War. Pace is well known in and around Hendersonville for his tireless work in honoring local veterans and educating area residents about the sacrifices these men and women have made. Andrew painted Pooch the Bear in Pace's honor.
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