CAMP PENDLETON — A local painter unveiled her newest portrait of a fallen warrior during a small ceremony here, May 16.
Caroline Carlson presented the painting of Sgt. Cole, who was killed in action in Afghanistan, to Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, the deputy commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force. She painted the portrait to help comfort the grieving family and friends of the fallen hero.
And while Carlson has done several of these types of paintings, this portrait might be her most unusual.
Sgt. Cole’s full name is actually Bo’s King Cole JH, and was a military working dog killed in action. Sgt. Cole was on a patrol when an improvised explosive device detonated and killed him.
While this was Carlson’s first portrait of a military working dog, the Mountain Center, Calif., native has been painting portraits for 20 years. It was not until 2006 that she started painting portraits of fallen service members. Since then she has offered her artistic skills as a way to help comfort grieving families. She does it for free.
Carlson first decided to start painting these portraits after she heard former military pastor, Ryan Krause, on the radio talking about his book describing some of his experiences on the battlefield. Krause also spoke about how he counseled soldiers during and after their time in combat.
Carlson spoke with Krause and his stories and passion for helping service members inspired her to do something.
“I thought painting would be a good place to volunteer my services because I’ve been a posthumous portrait painter for many years,” Carlson said.
Carlson said all the portraits she paints are meaningful and unique in different ways. However, she said some of the portraits affect her a little more emotionally than others.
“The pictures where you see the soldier in their environment in Iraq or Afghanistan are very hard because that’s where they died,” said Carlson. “You know that it was taken very close to their death, and it can be more difficult to paint those (portraits).”
While Carlson has only done a handful of portraits she usually spends 12 to 20 hours on each painting depending on the size and the paints used.
Carlson said she will continue to look for people she can offer her art to.
“To me it is a calling,” she said.