Airport mural expansion to honor veterans

March 26, 2009


Mar. 26--A mural of Magic Valley life at Twin Falls' airport is expanding again, this time to honor veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kimberly artist Gary Stone has continued to flesh out his initial 42-foot mural since he began it in 1995. This week, he started work on an 18-foot extension that will eventually feature the names of Magic Valley soldiers killed or injured in the two wars.

Unlike the main section, where Stone charges people and businesses to appear, the veterans' piece is almost fully donated work, he said. The city of Twin Falls chipped in $5,000 in 2007 to get the project started. Thousands more in costs have been covered by Stone, who said from the start he didn't want soldiers or their families to have to pay to appear.

"I can't charge the kids for being on my mural," he said.

By Wednesday, Stone had started to flesh out the main features of the mural. On the right, U.S. and Idaho flags flew from a marked-out flagpole with the beginnings of a bald eagle perched on top. The center focus will eventually be a male and a female soldier -- both are equal and should be acknowledged, Stone said.

In one corner, injured soldiers limp up to a campfire. The fire, Stone said, will be the corner of the map dedicated to the wounded.

"That's gonna have a lot of people around it," he said.

The basic piece should be done in about six months. Then, Stone said, he'll keep updating it with soldiers' names submitted to him by a group of military mothers. He'll also include soldiers who commit suicide, he said.

"If our war stops, it's going to be finished," he said when asked when the mural would be completed.

Like many valley residents, Stone knows people involved in the wars. A cousin of his from Pocatello was killed in Iraq, and a grandson who went to Iraq twice now flies Chinook helicopters in South Korea, he said.

Stone officially donated the whole mural to the city of Twin Falls about six months ago. On Wednesday, Mayor Lance Clow and City Council member Lee Heider said they find the expansion "outstanding" and an important tribute to veterans for the city. Airport Manager Bill Carberry said in a statement, "I have never seen anything like this in any airport I have ever visited."

Stone said he still gets some income from individuals asking to appear on the main mural section, though much of that work is now memorials that he doesn't charge for. He's made roughly $100,000 from it over the years. Twin Falls County, which co-owns the airport with the city, has passed on donating to the project in the past, with officials saying they didn't want to spend public money on a private enterprise.

Nate Poppino may be reached at 208-735-3237 or [email protected].