2012 HERO[series]

Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.

Veterans: 

Israel Del Toro
Danielle Green
Michael Bell
Chris Wiers
Anonymous

Artists: 

Chuck Anderson
Phil Jones
Seth Herman
Priscilla Wilson
Tyler Way

Video: Thomas Valdez
Photo: Terry Johnston
Portraits: Adam Bird

Venue: GRid70, Wolverine Worldwide, Inc.
Partners: Threadless, Bates Footwear

THRU THE FIRE

Veteran: Israel Del Toro, U.S. Air Force
Artist: Chuck Anderson

In 2005, U.S. Air Force Tech Sergeant Israel Del Toro’s Humvee rolled over a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. He was burned on over 80% of his body, he nearly died three times while undergoing medical treatment, and was given only a 50% chance of survival. Doctors said he’d never walk again or even breath on his own. Against all odds, Del Toro left the hospital within three months and managed to re­-enlist in the Air Force, becoming the first 100% combat ­disabled Air Force technician to do so.

Inspired by the tattoo on his severely burned arm, the phoenix represents Del Toro with his arms raised up amongst the flames. His design reflects his personal motto, “Through these flames I am stronger,” and represents the strength, courage, and confidence he embodies every day.

Since the 2012 HERO[series] project, Del Toro has competed in the Warrior Games, Invictus Games, and was the recipient of the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2017 ESPY awards.

As part of the Alpha Industries x [HAS HEART] capsule collection to kick-off the 50 States: Veterans + Artists United tour, Alpha Industries has produced a limited number of HERO[series] designs into t-shirts, embroidered patches, and jackets. Click the patch image below to purchase “Thru the Fire” via AlphaIndustries.com

*(25% of proceeds will benefit Veteran, Israel Del Toro directly)*

RELENTLESS

Veteran: Anonymous, U.S. Marines
Artist: Tyler Way

The second design from the anonymous Marine who inspired the HERO[series] project concept of pairing a Veteran with an artist features his passion for the white Ford Mustang that was “his baby” prior to his life-changing injury. It boasts his relentless spirit, courage, strength and, above all else, loyalty. The English Bulldog is known as the “unofficial” mascot of the U.S. Marines because of its relentless tenacity. This mid­-run, frozen pose was inspired by a vintage WWII poster, creating a perfect combination with the classic American muscle car logo — two icons that represent two passions of this relentless Marine.

As part of the Alpha Industries x [HAS HEART] capsule collection to kick-off the 50 States: Veterans + Artists United tour, Alpha Industries has produced a limited number of HERO[series] designs into t-shirts, embroidered patches, and jackets. Click the patch image below to purchase “Thru the Fire” via AlphaIndustries.com

*(25% of proceeds will benefit Veteran, Israel Del Toro directly)*

LIFE IS DOORS

Veteran: Danielle Green, U.S. Army
Artist: Phil Jones

Former Notre Dame basketball star and U.S. Army Specialist, Danielle Green­, was hit by a rocket­ propelled grenade while on patrol in Iraq. After regaining consciousness in the hospital, she discovered that her dominant left arm had been blown off along with her wedding ring which she had just gotten married weeks earlier while on leave back home in Chicago.

Her design represents life’s journey. Each door is a symbol of her ever changing life, including the door knob changing orientation to accommodate her lost arm and a chapel door left open for eternity to symbolize the sudden and unexpected passing of her husband soon after she returned home. “Life Is” is a daily reminder to continue pushing forward, no matter what door may close… because soon, another door will open.

At the 2015 ESPY Awards on ESPN, Green was honored with the Pat Tillman Award for Service for her continued service helping other veterans in need. In her award speech, Green asked the crowd of superstar athletes and celebrities, “If my story leaves you with one thing… I hope it leaves you with a challenge. Ask yourself: What is my purpose?” She added, “We can all find ways to support the people around us. We can all find a purpose on this Earth larger than yourself.”

ADAPT & OVERCOME

Veteran: Michael Bell, U.S. Coast Guard 
Artist: Seth Herman

Even after a stroke forever changed his life, U.S. Coast Guard Electrician’s Third Mate Michael Bell maintains an uplifting attitude fueled by the Coast Guard motto, “Always Ready.” This motto served as the inspiration for his personal motto, “Adapt & Overcome.”

His design represents his USCG service with a ship’s wheel that transitions into a bike chain, a symbol of his newly-found passion for cycling. Bike races has become one way Bell has been able to overcome his injury while also inspiring and benefiting others through numerous charity races.

In addition to giving-back through charity bike races, Bell also had the desire to help others who are rehabilitating themselves to regain their freedom and independence.

BROTHERS FOREVER

Veteran: Chris Wiers, U.S. Marines
Artist: Priscilla Wilson

U.S. Marine Combat Engineer, Chris Weirs was on his second deployment in 2005 as part of a lead security team for convoys. Weirs said that he never heard the blast when his Humvee drove over an undetected IED. The two men in the front seats of his vehicle died instantly while Weirs was thrown from the vehicle, sustaining a myriad of injuries.

His design is a memorial to those who died on the dangerous roads of Iraq. The latin motto translates to “Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever.”

Since the 2012 HERO[series] project, Wiers has continued to be involved with [HAS HEART]. He has been involved in each annual HERO[series] project following his, mentoring and helping other Veterans share their stories with their artist partner.

BEHIND-THE-PROCESS

The 2012 HERO[series] project was the first of its kind — partnering five wounded Veterans with five graphic designers. [HAS HEART] partnered with Chicago-based t-shirt company, Threadless. They selected some of their best-selling artists who were partnered with Veterans from across the country that were all welcomed into Grand Rapids by the Patriot Guard for a week of creative collaboration.

The week was filled with a dinner at a local VFW hall, minor league baseball game at the West Michigan Whitecaps where the Veterans were honored before the game and Danielle Green threw out the first-pitch, and a small road trip from Grand Rapids to Chicago to visit the Threadless headquarters and National Veterans Art Museum.

In addition to working with a designer-partner for two days to create a t-shirt design, the Veterans also had a unique opportunity to custom-design their one Bates military boot, the same style most of them wore during their training and deployments.

ARTPRIZE 2012

ArtPrize is the world’s largest open art competition in the world. It features over 1,000 artists in hundreds of galleries, businesses, and restaurants within downtown Grand Rapids, transforming the city into an endless art gallery that brings-in over 400,000 visitors within its three-week duration. ArtPrize was one of the inspirations behind the creation of [HAS HEART], and given its large audience, it was a natural fit to launch our five Veterans’ designs during it as part of a special exhibit pop-up shop.

The exhibit featured each Veteran’s t-shirt design, their custom Bates combat boots, some personal items from their service, pictures of the design process, a video that shares their story, and a blank wall for visitors to sign a personal message of thanks and encouragement.

The exhibit was so well received, it was nominated by an expert juror as a Top-5 “Most Outstanding” exhibit.