Mural honors veterans in Bakersfield, Calif.

Bakersfield, CA

In Bakersfield, Calif., murals honoring veterans greet passersby in the streets. When it came time to rehab a Statue of Liberty mural — so large the torch extends above the roofline — on the side of a building, the whole building became the canvas for a scene honoring World War II veterans.
Thomas "Zak" Zachery, the painter of the original mural and himself a Vietnam War veteran, began to piece together photos he thought represented the era. This process culminated in a mural of iconic images, such as the flag raising at Iwo Jima and Rosie the Riveter.
"I also wanted to make sure that certain groups that never really got the credit that did so much in the war were highlighted," Zachery said. To this end, he added images of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Navajo Codetalkers and women working for the Red Cross.
The painting accounts for well over 2,000 square feet. Lady Liberty's torch actually lights up at night, Zachery said, and a flag extends from the painting into real life, waving above the building.
"The main reason that I personally want to do this is so the younger generations understand why they have the freedoms they have," Zachery said.
The mural, titled "Freedom Is Not Free," was unveiled in November 2015. The local Honor Flight program helped with the project.
The mural is visible from the corner of 20th and Eye streets in Bakersfield.
In a building that abuts this one, Zachery will create a mural dedicated to Vietnam, Desert Storm and War on Terror veterans. It will be unveiled on or around this Veterans Day.

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