Doctor designs mural 'laughing' at death
October 15, 2007
BAQOUBA, Iraq (Oct. 15, 2007) -- While deployed to Iraq many Soldiers look for ways to stay creatively occupied during their spare time between missions and work. Many Soldiers write and record music while others write poems or stories.
One doctor with the 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, has taken the opportunity to leave his and his unit's mark on Iraq during their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08 by constructing a mural on their medical center's wall, letting those who visit the station know the heroes who have been here to help.
Maj. Paul Alban, 215th BSB's surgeon and Teal Medical Clinic officer in charge, is finishing up a medical mural inspired by a caduceus as his way of leaving his mark on Iraq. The doctor/artist says though this is not his first mural, it is one of his most prized pieces of art.
"This wall means a lot to me," he said. "It will be something I remember and look back upon for a long time."
Alban got his start in art at an early age. Taking after his father, Alban began with simple drawings and discovered a love for drawing.
"Since I was in middle school, I've been drawing," Alban said. "I never had [an art class] but I was always being asked to draw on book covers and things like that.
"My dad was always a doodler," he continued. "Everything he ever had to write on always had little doodles on the sides of the paper. I think that's how I got started. Also, one of my sisters was also very good at drawing, so I probably was trying to compete and become better."
Years later, Alban completed his first walls, a gift for a friend which prepared him for his mural at the TMC.
"I've done a couple of other walls," he explained. "I did a six and a half foot wolverine, which was pretty cool looking, and a mural for my niece, which was teddy bears and blocks. That was cool because it was my first time painting. I had never painted before but liked the challenge."
Alban has also designed a few tattoos for his close friends. Although Alban currently has no tattoos, he has considered getting one and feels it's an honor to have his work on other people's body.
"It was pretty cool to see that somebody has my work on their body," he said. "That's a nice feeling to know they liked it that much.
"I did one for a Soldier I had met before she had deployed," he continued. "She ended up [dying] with a month left before her deployment was to end, but its neat knowing that I was able to leave her with something that she really liked, so much that she had it tattooed before she deployed."
After others were intrigued by work Alban created on the back of medical scrubs, he was provided the opportunity to leave his team's mark as they come close to the end of deployment. Alban said he jumped at the chance and began to craft his masterpiece.
"First I had done drawings on the backs of the scrub tops we used to wear," he said. "After seeing a couple of different shirts I had finished, they told me to have at it and do what I want with the wall."
Alban got to work on his caduceus, using charcoal and hairspray to sculpt the gothic tribute to his TMC.
"The wall can mean anything to anybody; but to me, if you take a step back from the wall you will see the medical caduceus in there," he said. "It is a little bit different. We don't have the angelic wings and the snakes going around a staff, we have snakes going around a sword that's piercing a skull that has bat-like wings.
"Snakes have always been in medicine as a healing figure, they are not meant to be evil," he continued. "The snakes are making their way through the skull, kind of laughing at death. The wings are to give it the more gothic theme with the skull, but they do represent the wings on the caduceus.
"It's not quite done yet," Alban said. "There's an EKG [electrocardiogram] strip that will be easy to understand for medical people. You will see a deadly EKG that will flat line a little bit and then it will return to normal. It's like us here - we treat the sick and help them get better."
As Alban continues to work on his wall, he hopes others will enjoy looking at it. Though he is proud of what he has created, he hopes it will be covered soon; a sign of the US forces exiting Iraq.
"I'm glad they let me do it," said Alban. "Hopefully, it won't stay up for too long, because we will all be out of here eventually, but the whole experience was neat."
Until his return home, Alban said he will continue to treat the sick and keep his artistic aspirations up by designing more tattoos for Soldiers.