It will be five years since Sergeant Jakob Roelli’s death on Sept. 21, 2011. He was serving his country in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. On Wednesday, Sept. 7, his family was presented an artist rendering of him during the American Legion Post 214 meeting.
Jim Kitchen was upset that the American Legion of Adams County did not do more for the one year anniversary of the death of Private First Class Ryan Larson, who also died in Kandahar Province one year to the day after he was deployed, June 15, 2011. Larson was a friend to Kitchen’s son and he also was a local boy who graduated from Adams Friendship High School in 2010. Kitchen proceeded to have an anniversary ceremony for Larson and then started a new Legion Post, which is now the Ryan Larson American Legion Post 65 in Rome.
“These young people, men and women, get killed in combat. The only true people that remember them and always remember them is their family. That is not fair. Ryan wasn’t my son, but he sat at my kitchen table. So we started the post,” Kitchen said.
Paul Kahr, also a member of Post 65, is originally from Pennsylvania. That is where he met Alex Yarrow, a 93-year-old WWII Marine Veteran who was at Iwo Jima and saw the flag raised atop Mount Suribachi. He always liked to draw and do portraits when he was younger. He got better through the years and when WWII came along, he entered the military. Upon returning home from the war, it affected him quite severely and wasn’t able to leave his home for about a year. Yarrow was able to leave his home and met his future wife. They were married, had children and he continued to practice his artwork. He worked for a steel company as a graphic artist and also was a part of a woodcarving club. Kahr joined that club and Yarrow and Kahr became friends.
In 2009, Kahr moved to Wisconsin and someone mentioned to him that Yarrow had begun painting pictures of fallen soldiers. Kahr asked Yarrow to create a painting of Ryan Larson and he agreed. That was Yarrow’s first painting.
Kahr and Kitchen have gone around and presented these paintings to families. This was the seventh painting they have presented. It is the 111th painting that Yarrow has painted. Yarrow will be featured in an upcoming article of the Readers Digest.
“He will stand in front of the painting he is working on, salutes it then says, ‘Now young man, we have got a lot of work to be done today, so I think we should get started’, then sits down and paints,” Kahr mentioned.
“People ask me why our little Post up in Rome will go all over and do this. It’s for the families and friends that won’t forget. They weren’t drafted. They didn’t have to go, but they went to serve their county and serve their country proudly and we shouldn’t forget that,” Kitchen said.
As the American flag was removed from Jakob Roelli’s painting, his father, Richard, stated that the painting looked more like him than the photo Yarrow used.
Richard said, getting emotional, “If you have the opportunity to help a veteran and see that they are in trouble, please do help them. That is our duty to them for becoming veterans. I thank you for giving us this.”