Weatherford Democrat

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June 16, 2009

Vietnam veteran documented war

ARGYLE, Texas (AP) — Don Schol is a Vietnam veteran and no stranger to the horror of war. But from the moment he arrived in 1967, his experience was destined to be different.

The Pan Am jet from San Francisco had just touched down at the Saigon airport. A jeep pulled up and a captain barked, "Schol, come with me." At U.S. Army headquarters, he met a colonel who told him he would be using his talent as an artist to document the war for posterity.

He would carry an M-16, a .45 and an artist's sketchbook.

"Our job," Schol says, "was to document the war like no other war had ever been documented."

Schol was appointed the head of a team of combat artists who from October 1967 to April 1968 crisscrossed Vietnam to paint, sculpt, shoot pictures and, like every other soldier, try to survive which posed the biggest challenge.

"I have always been a dove," Schol says. "Vietnam made me even more of one."

Schol's work and that of the four enlisted men he supervised as artists became permanent fixtures in the U.S. Army Office of Military History, where it remains in Washington, D.C. But what he saw and felt has never left the Argyle resident, who, at 67, remembers all too well the enduring terror of Vietnam.

An exhibition of Schol's work is on view through Saturday at Photographs Do Not Bend on Dragon Street in the Dallas Design District. It consists of 16 wood-cut prints that Schol hopes will "grab people, make them think about what they're seeing. I want them to realize ... this could be any war." (Those who wish to buy individual prints can do so for $600 each.)

Schol has taught at the University of North Texas since 1969, just after he left Vietnam. Even now, he finds it hard to escape the grim effects of war, which in his mind too many people take for granted. These days, he's lamenting the departure of one of his UNT graduate students who was recently sent to Iraq for a second time to finish out his reserve commitment. More than 40 years later, Schol is still coping with his own war, which caused his best friend to take his life soon after coming home.

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