SANTA ANA – Four months after putting the final touches on a wall mural honoring World War II veterans, artist Carlos Aguilar is back at his sketch pad, preparing to expand the piece that touched a community and consumed him for two years.
Aguilar unveiled the “Among Heroes” mural – which features war scenes and the faces of more than 60 Orange County veterans – on the side of La Chiquita Market in the Logan neighborhood in July.
He spent Monday, Veterans Day, sketching on an adjacent wall and greeting visitors who stopped by to pay their respects to loved ones and the artist who immortalized them. BY THERESA CISNEROS
Angela and Manuel Roa of Santa Ana brought their two daughters to view the image of Angela’s grandfather, Army veteran Henry G. Castro, in the initial 24-by-30-foot mural.
“We miss him,” Angela Roa said of Castro, who died on Father’s Day at age 89. “And it’s important that they remember their great-grandfather and know about the sacrifices he made for us, for our community and for our country.”
“It’s really amazing to see how many people pass by and get to remember him in a very special way,” added her daughter Alexis Roa, 12.
Army veteran Johnnie Martinez, 88, who grew up in the Logan neighborhood and is pictured in the mural next to his brother-in-law Augustine “Gus” Martinez, also visited the mural on Monday with his family.
Together, they viewed the mural quietly from across the street, then moved in closer to take photos with it.
“This will be a lasting testament to my dad after he’s gone,” said his son John Martinez Jr., 66, of Highland, who also served in the Army during the Vietnam War.
Aguilar, 33, spent six months laying the groundwork for the “Among Heroes” mural and another 1½ years painting it. He lived mostly off public donations so he could concentrate on painting. But as 2013 progressed and his bills mounted, he put the last strokes on the piece that he says captured his soul, then searched for full-time work.
Although he finished the mural, he continued to visit it daily and aimed to save the $3,000 he would need to purchase more supplies and expand the mural. When his job with a housepainting crew fell through last week, he decided to start work on the second part of the mural.
The new mural will take shape next to the initial mural, on a 20-by-34-foot section of the market’s exterior wall. Aguilar said that while he can fit about 30 new faces, the bulk of the mural will depict scenes from World War II. The intent, he said, is to show why the veterans left their homes and families and traveled halfway across the world to fight for freedom.
He lacks the finances to finish the mural, which could prove more difficult than the last (he must contend with pipes and electric wires). But he’s excited by the thought of climbing on his scaffolding again.
“This is my contribution to these men, to these families and to this community,” he said. “It’s also a chance for me to take this big challenge and see it through to the end.”
Carlos Aguilar can be reached at 714-914-5324.