By Mike A. Glasch, Fort Jackson LeaderJanuary 29, 2009
While it was still dark out one morning in 2006, retired Sgt. 1st Class Joel Mitchell couldn't sleep. He got out of bed and started sketching designs that would eventually become his trademark.
"I'm not really an artist," said the 21-year veteran of the medical field. "My wife was a little surprised. I never really drew anything before that day."
The design featured the Fallen Soldier's Cross (a symbolic replacement of a cross made up of the Soldier's rifle with an attached bayonet stuck into the ground, helmet on top, dog tags hanging from the rifle and the boots of the fallen Soldier next to it). Mitchell put the design over the backdrop of a photo of the summer solstice in Alaska.
Mitchell said he was inspired to start drawing by a friend who had recently retired from the Army after returning from Iraq.
"We tend to forget about Soldiers once they retire," Mitchell said. "So I took the design and added the 'What about me'' tag line to honor them."
Once he was happy with his design, Mitchell sent it to an artist friend in England who helped fill in the fine details. He then started having the design printed onto coffee mugs.
"It pretty much just took off from there," he said. "One of the largest cup manufacturers liked the design and started producing them. I never dreamed it would take off so well."
He has since created several designs to honor Soldiers. Mitchell said his favorite design is one entitled, "The Sacrifice." It incorporates the cross on Calvary and the Fallen Soldier's Cross.
"I used the cross and the Soldier's cross because sometimes we fail to remember our spiritual roots," he said. "The two crosses represent the sacrifices made for us by Christ and by those who serve."
When two Fort Jackson Basic Combat Training Soldiers passed away in November, Mitchell said he felt compelled to create mugs for their families. He took "The Sacrifice" design and added the fallen Soldier's name to each. He then gave them to the Soldier's battalion to be passed on to the families.
"I made my mind up, that any Soldier I am aware of who passes, I'm going to present a cup to their family," Mitchell said. "I never heard back from the families, and I didn't expect to. It was just something that made me feel good when I did it. It gives me peace of mind"