A powerful, black-and-white tribute to the heroes of America’s “Forgotten War” has been finished in downtown Amherst and will be dedicated on Veterans Day.
Artist Mike Sekletar created the 20-foot-tall piece between two others — one commemorating the United States’ costly victory at Iwo Jima and the other in remembrance of Vietnam War casualties — painted in recent years.
“I wanted to create a collage of pictures from that era and try to represent different branches of the service,” he told the News-Times.
The mural depicts GIs, a nurse, a battleship, and fighter jets in action around a silhouette of the Korean peninsula.
A striking portion (and Sekletar’s favorite, he said) shows Lorain veteran Lou Repko at the wheel of a jeep. That imagery was inspired by his appearance on the cover of a 1950 issue of LIFE magazine.
Repko stopped by the Amherst municipal lot on Park Avenue, where the painting stands, to share his appreciation.
“He’s a real nice guy, very thankful. He’s proud of it,” said Sekletar.
His creation comes 65 years after the start of the war between North and South Korea on June 25, 1950.
United Nations forces, led by American troops, fought on the side of the South Koreans in an effort to contain the spread of communism in East Asia.
The war wore on for three years, when an armistice created the landmine-laden Korean Demilitarized Zone between the two countries.
The United States suffered 33,686 combat deaths. The South Korean death count included more than 373,500 civilians and 137,800 military personnel. North Korea casualties are contested but estimated at between 300,000 and 400,000.
Local American Legion members frequented the Amherst mural’s site to thank Sekletar while he painted.
He said he wanted to honor them with a design that was both dynamic and striking.
“I think it’s a little more powerful when it’s black and white sometimes. And the 1950s was a black and white world,” he said. “So it fits the era… A lot of people stop. It’s a cool thing. The Korean vets are very proud of it and I’m proud of them.”
From start to finish, the project took three weeks culminating in October.
The painting will be dedicated Nov. 11 during the city’s annual Veterans Day observances, which will again feature Lou Maglio of Fox 8 News as master of ceremonies.
A fourth mural is already on Sekletar’s mind.
He said his intention has always been to fill the wall of the Janik law office building on Park Avenue. About 12 to 15 feet of space remains on the far side.
Should he move ahead, the next mural would center on Operation Desert Storm oir the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times This moving painting by artist Mike Sekletar is the third in a series honoring the sacrifices made by U.S. veterans.