Posted on November 11 2015
Today is Veteran’s Day. I had the privilege of growing up as a military brat. My father served 21 years in the Army as a Green Beret. He completed three tours in Vietnam and was awarded two purple hearts and a silver star for valor. He retired as a Sargent First Class. My father is my hero. Not only did he serve our country, when he went back to civilian life he continued to serve and give of himself - and does to this very day. Dad and I have always had a great friendship and last spring it deepened when Fashion Has Heart held an event in our Studio here at A.K. Rikk’s. Tyler (Executive Director, FHH) and I had a conversation discussing the way his organization connects Veterans with artists. The purpose is to allow these veterans to tell their stories while the artist creates a t-shirt based on the story and the experience the two have shared together. That day I left that meeting and I could not get the idea of my dad telling his story out of my head. I emailed Tyler and offered my dad up as a guinea pig without getting his consent first. After I got the nod from Tyler I approached my dad with the news, relaying it to him like I had bought him a winning lottery ticket. Needless to say, he was very hesitant. Like most Veterans that I have been around my dad does not share a lot of the experiences he had during his time in the Army. Though it took some time (and persuasion), he finally agreed. I had convinced him that this experience would help him heal and grow. So for a whole weekend my dad shared his story with Terrance Weinzierl , this amazing Type Designer from Grand Rapids. And immediately these two had an incredible connection! My father the hero. This archetypal war-hardened vet is sharing his feelings with this kid! You can imagine how accomplished I felt in that moment. They were both willing to learn and listen to each other. And my dad was really affected by Terrance’s story and his willingness to share. So Terrance was inspired to create the perfect t-shirt to signify my dad’s life. FHH gave two people from very different worlds the ability to connect through art. And for my dad this was also an opportunity to further heal and share perspective of what he lived through. I am proud of him for embracing and driving change that he night not have done had I not “signed him up for.” FHH’s statement of purpose is to “utilize the mediums of design, fashion, and art to benefit, inspire and enrich our nations Veterans.” I would say that they nailed their mission through the experience my dad and Terrance had. Fashion Has Heart has it’s Grand Opening tonight (November 11th, 2015) starting at 5pm with a ribbon cutting by Mayor-elect Rosyln Bliss; it ends at 8pm. This is a great opportunity to see first hand the mission that they are on and to become acquainted with the beautiful artwork and stories that have come from these Veteran/artist connections. I am humbled by the service of not only my father but all of you who have served and sacrificed so much so that we as Americans can truly live and experience our own lives. Thanks dad. You’re still my hero.