Former President George W. Bush published a book titled “Portraits of Courage” that honors America’s military veterans with 66 full color portraits of wounded service members. The book was released on Tuesday and President Bush attended a signing on Thursday. James Williamson, an injured U.S. Chief Warrant Officer who had his portrait featured in the book, says that the most rewarding part of the whole experience is the unexpected friendship he formed with the former Commander-in-Chief.
George W. Bush surprised veterans at a media preview of a new art exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Tuesday, where both he, Williamson, and the other veterans featured in the book were in attendance.
“I’m a little nervous about what they think of their paintings, but it is what it is,” Bush told the media with a smirk and a chuckle.
“I was humbled to be one of these,” Williamson said, referring to his portrait. “And very realistic, I might add.”
President Bush states that he tried to capture realism in the portraits by getting to know the veterans on a personal level before beginning each painting.
“One of the things that I think is so important about expressing yourself through paint is to, in my case, think about their stories. I know them all,” Bush said of the injured heroes.
The Military Service Institute was the catalyst for the friendship between Williamson and Bush. The group is dedicated to helping veterans adjust to civilian life, and President Bush would regularly hold group meetings at his home.
Williamson said he and other veterans would regularly meet at the President’s Crawford ranch for bike rides and lunch meetings where they would discuss everything from issues facing the veterans to the President’s art and everything in-between.
Williamson said he was shocked when the president revealed he would be one of the portraits featured in the book. He said it was an honor to be featured, but even more of an honor to be able to call the former President his friend.