Veterans mural is Fayetteville woman’s ‘Thank you’ to local vet group

How do you repay your employer for helping you defray the cost of your family’s mounting medical bills?

If you’re Shannon Duzan-Fowler, you give back by painting a 12-foot-by-four-foot mural depicting 100 years of American conflicts and wars. It’s a fitting thank you gift for American Legion Post 258 in Jonesboro where Duzan-Fowler is the night bartender.

Two years ago, the Legion raised $7,000 in a benefit to help Duzan-Fowler and her husband. Although the family has medical insurance, the proceeds from the benefit helped erase a lot of their out-of-pocket expenses associated with their soaring medical bills tied to their son Sam’s medical condition. The 13-year-old has a rare bone condition known as Cranial-Orbital Fibrous Dysplasia. The disease is similar to one depicted in the 1985 movie “Mask.”

“I was greatly humbled,” Duzan-Fowler, 46, said. “My husband and I had never been in a position to have to need help for bills. So it was hard being on the other side.”

Duzan-Fowler spent two years thinking of a way to express her gratitude and finally turned to her background as a painter. She has bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Georgia State University and had years of experience painting murals especially before the 2008 housing crash.

Initially, she thought of depicting American conflicts back to the Revolutionary War. But the Legion’s wall was too small. She settled on World War I, around the time the American Legion was founded.

She estimates she spent 200 hours researching the project to make sure the soldiers and scenes depicted in the mural were authentic, down to the bluish-grey color of the World War II F4U Corsair fight jet. The mural is done in acrylic.

She spent six weeks painting on her days off as well as the hours before she was scheduled to start work. In the end, she created a scene for each conflict - WWI, WWII, Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Gulf War and the War on Terror, using iconic images associated with each period. She calls it “Hundred Years of Sacrifice.”

“The mural embodies the entire concept of the American Legion and what we stand for,” the Legion’s adjutant David Walker said.

While she has received accolades for the mural, she is quick to point out its purpose.

“The members of the American Legion Post 258 have become part of my family and I love them very much. I was honored to have the opportunity to pay it forward to them.”