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Veteran artist's latest project to raise suicide awareness

Posted at 3:43 PM, Jun 10, 2024

TULSA, Okla. — A local painter has been painting portraits of veterans full-time, for free, for the last three years.

Michael Thomas paints every day at She Brews Coffee Roasters, 1 N. Lewis Ave., in Tulsa.

He has painted hundreds of portraits in shorter periods of time. However, when he began a sketch of Christopher Fuentes, he put it aside.

Thomas met Fuentes at The Coffee Bunker and would later learn the young veteran would commit suicide. The emotion for Thomas was too much to bear at the time.

“It bothers me to have to feel what someone else feels, because it’s a fellow veteran,” said Thomas.
One year later, he realized it was time to complete the project.

“I looked on my Facebook timeline and it showed I started his outline a year ago to the very day,” said Thomas. “So it was like it was meant to be.”

The portraits are given to loved ones. Thomas asked if he could use the painting to raise awareness of mental health issues, like depression and suicide.

“He didn’t speak up, so I feel like we could have done something and gotten him help,” he said.
Thomas urges veterans to use resources available—to talk to someone, reach out and have hope.

“Just know your problems are only temporary,” he said.
Thomas is now working on his next portrait—the next memory and tribute to our heroes.

“Heroes never die,” he said. “They live on as long as we remember them.”

If you or someone you know is struggling, a list of local resources is available here. Mental Health Resources (kjrh.com)

 


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