USMC Major David Denial Thanks La Salle Students for Portraits of Courage

USMC Major David Denial Thanks La Salle Students for Portraits of CourageUSMC Major David Denial Thanks La Salle Students for Portraits of CourageUSMC Major David Denial Thanks La Salle Students for Portraits of CourageUSMC Major David Denial Thanks La Salle Students for Portraits of CourageUSMC Major David Denial Thanks La Salle Students for Portraits of CourageUSMC Major David Denial Thanks La Salle Students for Portraits of Courage

By VICKI PALUCH | PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN BLACKSTOCK

1:00 am | June 5, 2013


With paintbrushes and drawing pencils at the ready, 11 La Salle High School students worked after school throughout the academic year to create a dozen Portraits of Courage, depicting various U.S. Marines from Camp Pendleton as a way of thanking them for their bravery and service.

Sixteen-year-old Isabella Camargo presented Maj. David Denial (CQ) with the acrylic painting she created of him and his wife, Maj. Tera Denial, on Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day.

“Wow! That is beautiful,” exclaimed Maj. David Denial, who was dressed in a casual green shirt and walking shorts, not a uniform because he didn’t want to cause the student body to think he was recruiting.

The sophomore based her painting of the Denials on a formal U.S. Marine portrait of the couple, which he submitted to the school’s newly formed Portraits in Courage club.

With the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag to the left and the flag of the U.S. Marines with its proud eagle to the right, the Denials stare directly at the viewer as their heads lean gently toward one another. On their dress uniforms, they each have a row of medals for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their smiles convey their love for each other and their country.

“This is really special,” said the major, who drove up from Camp Pendleton to collect the artwork and to personally thank the students for the work they are doing to help military families. “It’s a surprise birthday present for her. And for me, it’s like coming full circle. I was in art class for all four years of high school.”

Maj. David Denial enlisted in the Marines four days after he graduated from Warren High School in Downey 22 years ago. Both he and his wife, whom he married nine years ago on Valentine’s Day, have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Isabella Camargo painstakingly painted their medals, including one of his three Medals of Valor which he received for his bravery in Fallujah, Iraq, where both of his ear drums were lacerated. “I have two hearing aids, but that’s a small price to pay,” he commented modestly. Maj. Tera Denial, a contracting officer, had also been awarded medals for her meritorious service, including one for her efforts in support of the Global War on Terrorism.“For the rest of our lives, we will have this to look at and remember,” Maj. David Denial said.

The 11 members of the Portraits of Courage club were allowed to pick the subject they wanted. Isabella Camargo selected the only couple in the batch of photos submitted to the club last fall.
“I picked them because they look really happy,” said Isabella Camargo. “To paint a portrait of them, I feel, is a great honor because they have worked so hard in the military and it’s good to give back.”

Isabella Camargo was one of the few students to paint a portrait, the other students did pencil drawings. It took her nearly five months to complete it.

Taylor Brennan, a La Salle High School sophomore, founded the new school club, Portraits of Courage, last October as a way to help military families through the healing powers of art. For his effort, in this club and another school club he started, Support Our Troops, he was featured last February as an ABC7/ KABC-TV Cool Kid.

La Salle art instructor Joanne McGee-Lamb is the staff moderator of the club, meets afterschool on Tuesdays, when the students work on the portraits. Mrs. Lamb explained that these students, who are either freshmen and sophomores, are highly gifted artists who are serious about their art and about giving back to the community. The other students in the “Portraits of Courage Crew” include Mariel Lo Guercio, Olivia Pope, Ethan Chong, Aubin Schuster, Jodie Kaya, Elias Villalpando, Corinne Dyson, Jacqueline Tooley and John Stover.

“It’s so cool that the kids got to meet him,” Mrs. McGee-Lamb said, noting that the other student-made portraits will be shipped to the servicemen or their families by May 31.