Rob Bates entered the Marines as someone who liked to draw and left an experienced combat artist. As a soldier for eight years, Bates used pencil and paper to make sense of his living conditions in the Middle East. His drawings of strategic routes while in Afghanistan in 2009 became a part of the National Museum of the Marine Corps combat art collection. Bates, who came home in January, is pursuing his bachelor’s degree at UNC Charlotte. His exhibition, The Joe Bonham Project, can be seen in the Student Union until June 23.
Meet Joe Bonham: Founded by former Marine Corps Combat artist Michael D. Fay, the Bonham exhibit gets its name from the main character in Dalton Trumbo’s 1939 novel, “Johnny Got His Gun.” The book follows a severely wounded World War I soldier who loses his limbs and ability to communicate. The UNCC exhibit paints a portrait of today’s service men and women.
Call of duty: Bates draws from real life. One subject was Cpl. Matt Bowman, whom Bates visited in March 2011 just six days after Bowman lost both legs in a blast. “It’s my favorite drawing because I think it has the most power to it,” Bates said.
A lesson in courage: People who are not in the military can still learn from the exhibit. “It’s important for some of the handicapped and disabled to see this because it’s all about perseverance and resiliency,” he said. “It sparks hope.”