By Rogelio Alvarez
East Los Angeles College student veterans shared their military experience through artwork at the Veterans Art Exhibit opening reception in the Helen Miller Bailey Library foyer on Monday.
Upon entering the library, the exhibit displays photographs taken by student veterans, with flags from the United States Armed Forces hanging from the balcony of the second floor. In the enclosed cabinet display are ceramic pieces, military uniforms, badges, a helmet and other artworks and items donated from student veterans, with an American flag in the background.
“It’s of very big importance for us (veterans). It brings a lot of meaning to us. To show people the things that we’ve done and the art that my brothers have done here also brings light to some of the pain we have suffered, and suffering we still have today, dealing with lost brothers and sisters in our past,” student veteran Martin Carrillo said.
Carrillo served in the United States Marines for 4 years. Some of his medals are in the display, along with his certificates from the military and a border police patch he received in Jordan.
“That was a patch that was given to me from my Jordanian counterpart who was with me, side-by-side for about 3 months. Him and I built such a strong bond and we went through a few situations where he had gained my trust and I had gained his and out of that we exchanged a few things, which one of them was that police patch,” Carrillo said.
Some of the artwork on display was made by veteran students enrolled in an introductory ceramics course offered during the summer session.
“The whole purpose behind the class is to get students to engage in creative practices rather than destructive. They face a lot of challenges, so if they can create a space and time for them to have a positive, creative experience then that’s the least we can do for them,” Art and Ceramics professor Chris Turk said.
Also on display are two uniforms on each end of the display cabinet donated by two student veterans. One of the uniforms belongs to student veteran Jose Cornejo.
“On the sides, you have your rank. On the shoulders are the unit insignia. Every unit has a different one. Mine happens to be an armadillo,” Cornejo said.
Cornejo also had his helmet and a tanker boot he made in the summer ceramics course.
“A lot of the people who took the class were able to just express their thoughts or some of the stuff they went through,” Cornejo said.
“I made the tanker boot because we used to shoot tanks in the army.”
East Los Angeles College Veterans’ Resource Center organized the art exhibit as part of the Veterans Week to honor students who served in the military.
“We just really wanted to make this happen for our students and make sure that their work is being displayed,” ELAC Veteran Resource Coordinator and Veterans Counselor Jessica Peak said. “Our campus community is understanding and aware about our student veteran population and how talented they are and how unique their experiences are as well.”
The display will be showcased for the entire month of November.