Aurita joined the U.S. military shortly after 9/11 and served 8 ½ years in the army.  She trained as a linguist, then did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where she was a staff sergeant in the 10th Mountain Division.

Afterwards she took a job as a rafting guide in my small Alaskan community.  I met her when she agreed to model nude for several local artists.  As she sat for us, she told us of her near death experiences.  At very close range three bullets went through her water bottle in her backpack, between herself and the two mortars she was carrying.  Three days later her vehicle blew up with an IED.

Now she sits, exposed to our paintbrushes, wearing only her peace signs, and I contemplate what a crazy world we live in, to have put such a lovely young lady in harm’s way.  In her eyes, which have seen things that perhaps no one should, I see an uncommon depth, a perception of the world that I will never know.  She tells us that she writes to help other veterans process their own experiences, on her website,

*Richeson 75 Portrait/Figure 2013, Kimberly, WI, meritorious recognition in the exhibit catalog