TULSA, Okla. — A Tulsa veteran has turned his hobby into a passion project honoring fellow service members and raising awareness about the Coffee Bunker. The Coffee Bunker is a non-profit that provides support and services for Veterans and their families.
Michael Thomas served the nation during Operation Desert Storm.
"I was a Corpsman. I saved lives with the Marines," he says.
Thomas is not only a Patriot but also a painter.
"I've been painting since I was 15 years old," he says.
His love for both has combined at the Coffee Bunker in a "big picture" kind of way.
"It's to showcase the Vets here and to bring awareness to this place. And show how it helped other Veterans and me so it can be a talking point that's positive and help people in real ways," says Thomas.
So he created a Coffee Bunker Calendar by painting the portraits of thirty local Veterans. It's a task that took him 600 hours over the last four months.
"It was to show them that they have worth and they have value. And my thank you to them is to try to paint them the best way I can and capture their essence," he says.
The calendar, which is free for Veterans, features servicemen and women from all branches, like Myriam Navarro.
When Thomas approached Navarro to paint her portrait, she was excited; she said, "I was like hey, that's cool because no one has ever asked me to do a portrait made."
Thomas takes his time getting to know his subjects. They swap stories, he snaps pictures and even does some sketching, all before he ever paints. Thomas says that's because life, like art, is often about the details.
"He captured everything; he did an amazing job," said Navarro.
Each canvas took around 20 hours to paint, and Thomas gave the paintings to the Veterans for free.
"My kids and my grandkids are going to have an actual painting, not a picture, but a painting that someone took the time to do it for me and they can enjoy," says Navarro.
All thanks to Michael Thomas, one Veteran on a mission to honor his fellow Veterans every day of the year.
"He thought of me, and that makes me feel appreciated," says Navarro.
"It makes you feel really good that people are receptive to it and actually want it. It's not just a mark of time, but for an organization that's given so much to other veterans and me in real ways, so it's a win-win for everybody," adds Thomas.
Thomas is now embarking on a new goal. He plans to paint 100 Veterans by December and turn that into a Coffee Table Book.
All the proceeds will benefit the Coffee Bunker. The calendars are available at the Coffee Bunker. For more information, click here.