Story by Mikayla Schaaf, Makadegwanebiikwe
A little over a year ago, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Sergeant Quintin Sam sat down for a cup of coffee with community member Monte Fronk and artist Charles Gilbert Kapsner. The conversation was full of laughter and memories as Quintin and Charles got to know each other. This was the mark of a journey that would not only last for generations, but would go down in history.
Quintin was honored to be asked to appear in an 8-foot by 10-foot painting created by Charles. This painting is now the fourth of five paintings permanently displayed at the Committal Hall in the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery near Camp Ripley. The Committal Hall is significant because it is the place where families spend time with their loved ones before burial. The hall already displays other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces — Army, Navy and Coast Guard. The Air Force will be the subject of the final painting to complete the project, which was financed entirely by donations and has been in progress since 2009.
Quintin traveled many weekends to Charles’ studio in Little Falls, Minnesota, where he served as a model in his “dress blues,” which is a term for the Marine Corps uniform. Quintin would be required to be still for several minutes in one sitting for numerous ongoing sessions. “I wondered if I still had the discipline in me to not move a lot,” Quintin joked.
The painting captures the rich history of the Marine Corps and contains the actual soil from Mt. Suribachi, on the island of Iwo Jima, where Marines raised the U.S. flag on February 23, 1945, at the highest point on the island. Charles had actually ground up the soil of Iwo Jima and mixed it into paint for the project.
In addition, Charles wanted to highlight images of the Vietnam War and Korean War to draw attention to the lives of individual service members, both active duty members and veterans. Keeping with that authenticity, Charles was aware that American Indians who serve in our country's armed forces have the greatest number per capita of any other ethnic group in the United States, and have served in every major conflict for over 200 years.
Charles wanted to recruit a Native American Marine, so he reached out to the Mille Lacs Band community and spoke with Monte Fronk. Monte instantly thought of Quintin, remembering when Quintin had raised the flags at grand entry during the Mille Lacs Band Powwow in his dress blues. He knew Quintin would be a great fit for the historical monument at Camp Ripley.
The historical painting was first displayed at the Duluth Depot and then was dedicated on Memorial Weekend to be permanently installed in Little Falls at Committal Hall. The Committal Hall viewing began in June and is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The doors will close on September 9, 2018. The Veterans Cemetery is located near Camp Ripley, north of Little Falls on Highway 115. Charles plans to finish the fifth and final painting of the Air Force in 2019.
Above: Photos by Mikayla Schaaf. Below: Photo courtesy of Charles Kapsner.