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Airman uses grandfather's advice and art skills to honor his sisters-in-arms

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez
  • 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
I'm a self-taught graphic artist working as a public affairs specialist for the Air Force.

I developed my artistic skills out of necessity early in my career while serving as the editor for the newspaper at my first base in west Texas.

I would occasionally get an assignment to write a story promoting a future event or program with no photo or graphic to accompany the article.

Being a good journalist who wanted to see people read the fruits of his labor, I decided to start designing my own graphics.

It was a choice I made based on advice from my grandfather, Valeriano, when he told me about the differences between "necessity" and "want." It was a difference he had come to know very well after raising eight sons and daughters while laboring as a migrant field worker for more than 38 years.

I was about 12 when he said to me in Spanish, "Si sabes que necesita algo, pero no puede conseguirlo, entonces trata de hacer lo tu mismo." Translated, that means, "If you know you need something, but can't get it, then try making it yourself."

I've continually applied his advice throughout my eight years of service, creating hundreds of designs that have benefited dozens of military organizations and my own work as a journalist.
Some of my graphics have been featured in civilian publications, and earned awards at two different major commands.

But the piece I'm proudest of is a poster I helped design to commemorate Women's History Month while I was deployed to Camp Victory Iraq in 2010 working as a staff writer for United States Forces-Iraq headquarters public affairs and the 103rd Public Affairs Detachment.

We received an article and one photo to run as the front page story for Victory Times, our publication. But my editor wanted me to do something to draw more attention to the article and to give the month the credit it merited.

We came up with the idea of incorporating iconic posters of servicewomen during the World War II era. He asked me to use something historic to design something new that would more accurately represent the U.S. servicewomen we were serving with.

One World War II-era poster stood out from the rest as I began my research. It featured four women - all white - clad in their service dress representing the four military services that existed at the time under the Department of War. It didn't include the Air Force, which wasn't established until 1947.

With inspiration and my blueprint in hand, I just needed to bring the project to life.

I headed to the "Juicer," one of the buildings on Camp Victory that got its nickname from its domed roof and partial round wall. Within minutes, I had located the four servicewomen who would help me make my project a reality: Army Capt. Hwa Jin Hurt; Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joann Gonzalez; Air Force Master Sgt. Kristy Sears; and Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Lattia Nation - one of only two female warrant officers serving in Iraq at the time.

My editor took one look and told me that I had hit a grand slam. The women who helped me not only represented all the services and ranks, but they included officers and enlisted. And, more importantly, they offered a culturally diverse representation of the women who serve in defense of our country today.

If I had to use a sports analogy, I would have called it a triple-quadruple: Three categories of service, rank and ethnicity via four servicewomen.

The day the image was published I grabbed the hard copy of the Victory Times and stared at the cover. I was overwhelmed with pride. Not just because of what it represented, but what it allowed me to do for my fellow sister-in-arms. It allowed me to say thank you.