At the Marine Corps Museum: Norman Rockwell's "THE WAR HERO"
One of the exhibits at the National Museum of the Marine Corps that sticks in my mind is the Norman Rockwell painting THE WAR HERO.
The museum itself is an excellent example of the modern trend of museums having well organized and detailed historical information provided in an engaging and informative manner. I’d put it right up there with Washington DC’s National Museum of the American Indian and the spectacular National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The Rockwell painting is a surprise especially if your knowledge of his work is limited to his Saturday Evening Post covers. It shows a young marine, back from WWII, telling a group of men and boys about his experiences. The boys are respectful and maybe even horrified. The men are also respectful while their postures and faces reflect an appreciation of what he has experienced.
The young marine’s face illustrates the impact of the horrors he has witnessed. The medals on his chest and the flag he holds quietly reflect on his performance. The implication: he is telling the truth, not boasting.
The painting is not a flag-waving example of blind patriotism but a deeply engaging illustration of the relationship between what happens when citizens, for good or ill, must implement national policy because it is their duty.
It reminds me that it is the duty of all citizens to elect leaders who understand and appreciate the responsibility they have to engage the military only as a last resort for implementing national policy.
Copyright 2019 by Dennis D. McDonald