Former service members find different ways to honor their fallen comrades. Some join the reserves, some choose careers as first responders, while others write books or do interviews. For one retired Marine, painting pictures was his way of honoring those he served with.
Charles Waterhouse’s paintings of fallen soldiers began with one he did of his fellow Marines who fell at Iwo Jima. The former Marine felt he was called to tell the story of those who died, enabling him to live.
After high school, Waterhouse joined the Marines, surviving the Battle of Iwo Jima. At its most brutal, a Marine was killed or injured every 20 seconds. Waterhouse himself was wounded.
When he was evacuated with his gunshot wound, he cried, knowing he would not be on the frontlines with his friends. Yet, he knew that in a post-war world, he needed to honor them.
Waterhouse attempted to start his own comic book strip with King Comics, beginning with “The Medal of Honor Citation of William Bordelon. He wanted to start there and continue with other Marines who received a Medal of Honor.
The editor did not like Waterhouse’s idea. However, the idea hung with Waterhouse. In the Vietnam War, he was a combat artist, and he eventually became the Marine Corps’ artist-in-residence, staying for 19 years. Waterhouse stayed in the position through Operation Iraqi Freedom.
When Waterhouse was 82-years-old he decided that he wanted to paint every Marine Medal of Honor recipient. His first painting was of Corporal John F. Mackie, the first Marine to get the Medal of Honor.
President Abraham Lincoln had given Mackie the medal for his contributions to the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff in 1862. He continually fired during the battle at the enemy and even took over the spots left open by those killed or injured.
Waterhouse died at the age of 89, but he painted over 332 paintings and portraits. His daughter, Jane Waterhouse, has honored his memory by publishing a book with every painting inside, plus a story about their bravery.
Before his death, Jane had promised her father that she would finish his mission by publishing all of them in the volume called “Valor in Action: The Medal of Honor Paintings of Colonel Charles Waterhouse.”
The final painting was Corporal Dakota Meyer, who rescued Afghan and American troops on multiple trips while under fire from the Taliban.