Carmel High School student honors WWI veterans through art

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By Rick Morwick

Gray Martens has a host of reasons for his keen interest in World War I, not the least of which are his family’s ties to “the war to end all wars.”

He had relatives who fought on both sides of the global slaughter.

“On my dad’s side, there was a German artilleryman who was killed in the final days of the war,” said Martens, a Carmel High School sophomore. “On my mom’s side, there was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marines who fought in the battle of Belleau Wood and took 172 German prisoners on his own during the battle.”

Moved by his personal connections to World War I (1914-1918), Martens is drawing attention to the oft-overlooked conflict with a special project honoring Hamilton County and Indiana residents who served during the “Great War,” which claimed more than 15 million lives worldwide — including 116,516 American servicemen.

In collaboration with the 80 members of the CHS Art Club, Martens has created a display of 300 red poppies — inspired by the popular World War I poem “In Flanders Fields”  — to adorn the school’s library during the first two weeks of this month. The poppies represent the 3,709 Indiana military personnel who died during the war. Each poppy represents roughly 10 soldiers.

Martens’ project, which included help from several school officials, also commemorates the centennial of the war’s end and includes a silent auction of an oil painting of red poppies inspired by “In Flanders Field.” Painted by his mother, Carolyn Martens, the piece is on display at the Carmel Clay Public Library. Proceeds will benefit the Indiana Historical Society.

“I have always been interested in World War I, in part because it is so often overshadowed by World War II,” Martens said. “As one of my projects, I am writing a novel about the First World War from the perspective of a German infantryman. I started it as part of a project in the eighth grade with two friends, and I hope to finish it by the end of high school.”

To bid on the painting, send an email to chsww1poppiesauction@gmail.com. Bidding ends Nov. 11.

“We do not have any specific dollar amount as a target for the painting,” Martens said. “But we hope to raise as much money and World War I awareness as possible for the Indiana Historical Society.”

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