Artist uses talent to honor pilot
November 20, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Chief Warrant Officer Brent S. Cole, 38, died in Afghanistan in May, but his story will forever be remembered thanks to the artistic efforts of Alison Boyle.
Cole, from Preston County, W.V., was an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. During an aerial mission over Afghanistan, one of his helicopter's engines failed, forcing Cole to crash land.
According to Maj. Lee Fennema, Cole's friend, the story behind Cole's accident is not entirely clear. One thing is certain, however, Cole's exceptional piloting skills saved the life of his copilot, Capt. Joshua Bowns, who is still convalescing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
"He was a great pilot and Soldier," said Fennema, who is also a helicopter pilot. "He died saving someone. He would have wanted it that way."
Fennema met Cole in 2004 while they were preparing to deploy to Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division. Five years after their first meeting, Fennema would have to say goodbye to his friend. But, according to Fennema, saying goodbye was not enough. Cole was a hero and needed to be remembered as such.
It was during a trip to the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Ala., when Fennema and his artist wife, Alison, had a revelation.
"It just came to us as we were walking through the Hall of Heroes. What's a better way to honor Brent than to have a painting dedicated to him at the museum'" Fennema said.
Alison has been painting and drawing most of her life. She became interested in art depicting aviation after meeting her husband a decade ago.
In honor of Cole, Alison painted a scene of two Apache helicopters flying through a ravine in Afghanistan as "a suitable representation of what Brent enjoyed doing most."
On her Web site, www.alisonboyleart.com, she wrote, "Lee asked me to paint this to memorialize his pilot and friend ... Because of this, and his affection and respect for Brent and his Family, he wanted to do something special."
The oil-on-canvas painting she created, "Answering the Call," has dual purposes. Not only was it created to honor Cole, but all proceeds will help pay for Cole's son's future college costs.
On Friday, Fennema and Alison were joined at the museum by Cole's wife Vanessa and their 10-year-old son, Carson. The painting was hung in the Hall of Heroes, where it will remain as a testament of Cole's heroic sacrifice.
"The painting means so much to me and my Family. I'm very grateful that my son, Carson, will be able to bring his future generations to the museum. He'll have a forever tribute of his father, which will always illustrate what an amazing man he was," Vanessa said.
To purchase a print of "Answering the Call," visit www.alisonboyleart.com/AnsweringtheCall.html.