Face of Defense: Guardsman Paints to Document Deployment
By Army Sgt. Michael L. Owens
Louisiana National Guard
NEW ORLEANS, Apr. 7, 2010 Between weekend drills, overseas deployments, the work in communities during peacekeeping and natural disaster missions, full-time jobs and school, National Guardsmen often find themselves too busy making a difference to find time for their hobbies.
Army 1st Lt. Heather S. Englehart of the Louisiana National Guard paints a scene from her military experiences at her home in New Orleans, March 31, 2010. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
One soldier has found a way to combine the two.
For 31-year-old Army 1st Lt. Heather S. Englehart of the Louisiana National Guard, her hobby comes in the form of mixing colors on a canvas and making beautiful artwork.
On the military side, Englehart serves as the executive officer for the 1021st Vertical Engineer Company and as a full-time project manager for the Louisiana Guard’s construction and facilities management office.
As an artist and painter, Englehart has made a national name for herself.
While the lieutenant was serving in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 with 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, internationally renowned artist Jim Pollock, who served in Vietnam, heard about her. He notified Renee Klish, curator for the Army Art Collection at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, and they, along with her unit’s command, arranged for her to spend some time documenting her wartime experiences. Her paintings from that time are currently featured at the center in Washington, D.C.
“My executive officer at the time was Lt. Col. [Patrick] Bossetta, who was very supportive and allotted me the time to work with Jim on projects,” Englehart said. “Of course, I still had to make sure this did not interfere with my assigned duties.”
After seeing her artwork, Bossetta decided that Englehart should become the unit historian and document the unit’s deployment through her paintings.
“I knew we had something special here and wanted to utilize her skills and talents as much as we could,” he said.
Englehart and Pollock have two things in common: both have lived in Pierre, S.D., and both have been labeled as “war artists” during their overseas tours.
“Heather is keeping that tradition alive,” Pollock said. “South Dakotans have officially covered three wars for the Army.” Harvey Dunn captured his World War I deployment on canvas for the Army.
In November, Englehart was interviewed on the CBS “Sunday Morning” news program about her work.
"I was really shocked and excited to be interviewed about my artwork,” she said. “Here is little old me being put in the same category as big-name artists."
Englehart said she has been involved with sketching and drawing for as long as she can remember.
“I can remember drawing in church as a kid,” she said. “When most parents would be upset at this, my mom was just happy that I was doing something that would keep me quiet.”
During her preteen years, Englehart’s father encouraged her to take painting seriously, because it possibly could affect her future.
“From that point, I knew that drawing, sketching and painting would be a part of my career field,” she said.
She took these abilities to North Dakota State University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture with a minor in environmental design.
“This was a perfect fit for me,” she said. “I was able to apply everything I learned and apply it to my work in college.”
In 1997, she decided to join the military after being dared by a few friends.
“A few of my male friends had just graduated from basic training and said I couldn’t accomplish the same thing,” she said. “Since I am stubborn and hard-headed, I enlisted to show them they were wrong.”
She spent the beginning of her military career and overseas deployment as a cook, and in 2005, she applied for and received a direct commission as an engineer officer.
Word about her work and talents quickly spread around the Louisiana National Guard, and after her commissioning, she was offered at full-time position with the construction and facilities management office.
“I was surprised by the offer and happy to receive it,” she said. “Working here has given me the opportunity to continue doing something that I have always had a passion for.”