A new Vietnam Memorial was dedicated on Veterans Day in Hillsborough County near Tampa, Fla., and the expansive memorial and its surrounding grounds were based on concepts and sketches by USSOCOM artist Tim Lawn.
“I learned through a co-worker that Hillsborough County was going to build a Vietnam Memorial and I wanted to get involved,” Lawn said. “I met a gentleman named Bob Silmser who is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Chair for the county and we started the collaboration.”
There are 155 names from the Vietnam era with Hillsborough County, Fla., connections carved in stone on a six-foot-high wall in a park surrounded by sweeping live oaks. The wall sits at the center of a square brick plaza framed by two helicopters that flew in the war, a Huey and a Cobra attack helicopter.
On the back of the black wall is an etched mural of scenes from the fighting in Vietnam. Air Force planes fly overhead just above Army helicopters – Navy and Coast Guard ships and boats ply the seas and rivers – Marines and Soldiers doing battle – a Special Forces Soldier walking through tall grass. Below the artwork are 155 stars representing Hillsborough’s casualties in the Vietnam War.
From that first meeting Silmser and Lawn hashed out ideas on how to create the memorial. The collaboration took a year and a half until the memorial was dedicated Nov 11. Lawn described his emotions at the unveiling as having opening day jitters.
“I did a series of sketches for Bob until we both became comfortable with the design,” said Lawn. “Once the design was done, a specialized company etched it in stone – This was the nerve wracking part because taking a small drawing and blowing it up to fit on three four-feet-wide, six-feet-high panels is a very challenging problem – I was really pleased and relieved at the unveiling of the wall because I think we pulled it off.”
Silmser had total confidence in Lawn’s ability and marveled at his talent and humility.
“Tim is an absolutely amazing artist and an extraordinary veteran,” Silmser said. “He is also very humble. You can barely see his signature on the bottom right of the mural.”
Lawn, assigned to the Visual Information Center, has worked at USSOCOM for more than six years as an Army reservist and a civilian. While a reservist, Lawn deployed to Iraq and sketched combat scenes and the artwork he created for the Army can be found at the U.S. Army Center for Military History in the journal entitled Army Artists Look at the War on Terrorism.
“I spent more than nine years in the Marine infantry before I got out and went to school at Ringling College of Art and Design,” said Lawn. “I have always enjoyed art growing up so I decided I wanted to create art as a career.”
Lawn graduated with a degree in Computer Graphics and Interactive Communications, but missed the military life and decided to join the Army reserves. It was during that time Lawn deployed to Iraq and created the extensive combat art collection.
“The deployment to Iraq was professionally the most rewarding,” said Lawn. “I got to be part of the military, which I really enjoy, and I got to sketch life around me.”
Today, Lawn serves as a civilian supporting the command by building briefings for Congress and creating a myriad of graphic products designed to convey the command’s message.
“I love coming to work everyday because of the caliber of people and the importance of the mission of SOCOM,” Lawn said. “True American patriots roam our hallways and I can’t think of a better place to work than that.”
The Vietnam Memorial can be found at 3602 N US Highway 301, Tampa, Fla.