Los Angeles

Drawn to Serve: World War II Veterans Pose for Portraits and Share Their Stories of Service, Sacrifice

The project at Los Angeles' CalVet Veterans Home began with one service member, then grew into a weekly portrait session

A mother-daughter team has completed more than 100 portraits of World War II veterans at the CalVet Veterans Home in Los Angeles, a project that gained momentum as the service members shared stories of sacrifice, humanity and courage.

The inspiration behind "Drawn to Serve" came when artist Stacy Kamin volunteered at CalVet's West Los Angeles location during Thanksgiving 2016. She met World War II veteran John Knight, who asked for a portrait and then arranged for more service members to pose for Kamin.

"I sat for a portrait, and all the guys were hanging around," said Knight. "It looks like they wanted to get some paintings or sketches done."

Joined by mother Jacqueline Kamin, the pair visited the West Los Angeles veterans home weekly, drawing, painting and getting to know their subjects. The artist sits across from her subjects, capturing what she sees on a sketch pad as she listens to what they have to say about their service and the 70-plus years after the war. 

"I try to capture the essence of the person, so when we're drawing them we hear their story," said Stacy Kamin. "I hope it touches your soul."

They ended up with more than 100 works of art that will be featured at a Veterans Day art show. Some of the veterans will be at the show Saturday at the CalVet Home on Nimitz Avenue in West Los Angeles.

"It's wonderful. It's a recognition of so many vets here, and they're all excited about it," Knight said.

An estimated 558,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2017, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The stories behind each service member who posed for the Kamins will be showcased in "Drawn to Serve," a documentary.

The project also spawned a fundraising effort, designed to buy a new shuttle for the veterans. 

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