Artist's Military Tribute Mural Was Painted Over, But He's at it Again

VIRGINIA BEACH -- He's back.

Sam Welty's planning a new military tribute mural at the Oceanfront. The artist never gave up, even after his nearly 12,000-square-foot mural of Navy jets flying above the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier was painted over in November last year.

The mural was six stories tall, painted across the back wall of a hotel building at 5th Street near the Rudee Inlet Bridge.

Welty painted it in 2002, on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. In 2013, he updated the mural with an F-18 Super Hornet in the foreground and an F-14 jet in the background, flying above the decommissioned aircraft carrier.

The hotel management had changed and the new operators had said they tried to work with Welty to preserve the mural and "restore it from its deteriorating condition."

It's now a blank wall.

"It was very disheartening," Welty said.

But he was inspired by the outpouring of community support. Friends connected him with the Sibony family, who own Sunsations gift shops in the resort area.

Yaron Sibony said he provided the back walls of a couple of buildings for the new mural to "support our troops and all the other guys that are saving lives and helping us stay safe."

It will face Pacific Avenue on 19th Street.

"I could not be more grateful," Welty said Sunday. "We're going to get our military tribute back."

The new mural will feature military personnel from all five branches and first responders including law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical service members.

"This time it's going to be about the people," Welty said. "It's dedicated to all the people who have been lost in the line of duty."

A crew has begun applying a base coat, and Welty will be on site painting during the weekdays. The wall will be dedicated June 10.

Welty plans to document the progress of the mural on his Facebook page and a website: www.tributememorial.com. ___

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