Every little bit helps, and you would be surprised how much a colorful, artistic poster of home helps our troops overseas. As R.J. LaBarba of LaBarba Fine Art puts it, “Day in and day out of staring at the same monotonous surroundings begins to grate on them.”
The surroundings of our military personnel, particularly in forward operating positions in Afghanistan and Iraq, are rather spartan, to say the least. LaBarba and his brother Mike, owners of LaBarba Fine Art in Huntersville, N.C., just north of Charlotte, set out to do something about it.
What started as printing a few posters from their original artwork gallery for anyone in the military they can find who could use a poster pick-me-up soon morphed into the Posters for Troops Project. At this point, LaBarba estimates that they’ve printed at least 150 posters for overseas personnel, mostly in Afghanistan.
“The Posters for Troops Project came about from a conversation I had with some colleagues mine, one of whom was a West Point grad who fought in the first Gulf War. We talked about the conditions in which they live and then I did some research into their current conditions at forward operating bases in Afghanistan and Iraq,” explains LaBarba. “What you see are these shanty-type structures built out of plywood and converted cargo containers. Everything is plywood walls, army green and sand. They’re getting great support from home through care packages with drink mixes, food, laundry items and whatnot. And not that they don’t need more of that, but we wanted to contribute something they don’t expect at all, and more importantly, something to improve their surroundings and boost their morale with a taste of home.”
A Marine corporal stationed in Afghanistan recently wrote: “Thank you so much for the posters! The Marines here at HMH-463 have received care packages in the past, but I must say that this was the first time we have been sent posters, and it was a wonderful and refreshing surprise… Many of us have grown homesick for the beautiful scenery of the Islands [HMH-463 is based in Hawaii] and the posters have definitely brought a little bit of home here to us. The one of the beach scene is taped up next to my workspace and it brightens my day. Your thoughts, prayers and support mean the world to all of the Marines here, and we thank you again for all you do to keep our heads up and spirits high.”
And that’s the point of the Posters for Troops Project. The troops are fortunate that R.J. and Mike LaBarba are master photographers and meticulous fine art and photo print producers, running two Epson large format inkjet printers. The troops not only get a touch of home, but a touch of home with a true-color artistic flair.
LaBarba struck up a special relationship with a Special Forces group in Afghanistan that also helped those troops with their “hearts and minds” mission. In addition to sending the group posters, LaBarba donated colorful 4×6 prints for the troops to pass out to Afghani children under the care of the forward surgical unit the Special Forces group supports.
That led LaBarba to donate two 28 in. x 50 in. custom thank-you banners printed on LexJet Sunset Select Matte Canvas, one to hang proudly outside and the other for the commanding officer’s office. The banners were given three coats of LexJet Sunset Gloss Coating to weather the harsh conditions and LaBarba says they both came through the tour of duty with flying colors.
Now back at their base in Florida, the company requested a similar banner they could sign and present to the commanding officer, who’s retiring in June. LaBarba was happy to oblige and printed the presentation piece on LexJet 8 Mil PolyGloss Banner.
“We’re continuing this program and getting more interest from people who want to participate. We operate it as a non-profit, but we’re getting to the point where we need to set it up as an official non-profit. It’s an expensive and time-consuming process but it is absolutely worth it for those who put their lives on the line every day,” says LaBarba.
For more information, to get involved and to donate, go to www.labarbafineart.com/p631253190