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Sgt. Rene Valdivia pencils in the companies attached to the 541st Corps Support Battalion on a map of Iraq. Valdivia painted a watercolor history of the battalion on the wall of Logistics Base Seitz's Internet café and telephone center. Valdivia took nearly four weeks of 14-hour days to complete the project, which covers the unit's movements from Kuwait to their present home, just north of the Baghdad International Airport.
Sgt. Rene Valdivia pencils in the companies attached to the 541st Corps Support Battalion on a map of Iraq. Valdivia painted a watercolor history of the battalion on the wall of Logistics Base Seitz's Internet café and telephone center. Valdivia took nearly four weeks of 14-hour days to complete the project, which covers the unit's movements from Kuwait to their present home, just north of the Baghdad International Airport. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
Sgt. Rene Valdivia pencils in the companies attached to the 541st Corps Support Battalion on a map of Iraq. Valdivia painted a watercolor history of the battalion on the wall of Logistics Base Seitz's Internet café and telephone center. Valdivia took nearly four weeks of 14-hour days to complete the project, which covers the unit's movements from Kuwait to their present home, just north of the Baghdad International Airport.
Sgt. Rene Valdivia pencils in the companies attached to the 541st Corps Support Battalion on a map of Iraq. Valdivia painted a watercolor history of the battalion on the wall of Logistics Base Seitz's Internet café and telephone center. Valdivia took nearly four weeks of 14-hour days to complete the project, which covers the unit's movements from Kuwait to their present home, just north of the Baghdad International Airport. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
Despite Sgt. Rene Valdivia's stint as a "full time" painter, his weapon, helmet and flak jacket were always nearby. He has been interrupted a few times by mortar attacks on the base.
Despite Sgt. Rene Valdivia's stint as a "full time" painter, his weapon, helmet and flak jacket were always nearby. He has been interrupted a few times by mortar attacks on the base. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

LOGISTICS BASE SEITZ, Iraq — Sgt. Rene Valdivia has been a very busy man.

For about the past month, Valdivia, a member of the 542nd Maintenance Company, has been pulling 14-hour days to make sure people remember the work of the 541st Corps Support Battalion in the Middle East.

The 5-year Army veteran just finished painting an informal watercolor history of the battalion’s six months in the Middle East on an outside wall of the base’s Internet cafe and phone center.

The battalion staff had asked for volunteers to do a mural.

“I work in a section that’s very busy most of the time,” he said. “I was not sure if I was going to do it because they needed me at work. Nobody came forward, so finally I said I’d volunteer.”

Battalion staff had a basic idea of what they wanted to be painted, but left it to Valdivia to decide how to do it.

“The design is all mine,” he said. “They wanted me to tell the story of what happened, and how [the base] came about, and that’s what I did.”

He started work on Sept. 9 and finished it Thursday night.

“I pretty much came in around 9 a.m. and I’d leave when they closed at 11:30 p.m. or midnight,” he said. His only interruptions came from mortar attacks.

The battalion’s history starts at the bottom of the mural with the unloading of the units in Kuwait. It evolves into their move through the Iraqi desert north, and their eventual settling at the logistics base a few hundred meters north of Baghdad International Airport.

“A lot of us got to know the camels,” he said. So, he added some camels. On convoy they saw some of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, so one of those is on there.

The entire right half of the mural represents Logistics Base Seitz, their home for the past five months.

In the center of the mural is a map of Iraq and Kuwait, where Valdivia painted the names of all battalion units. He’s also marking the route they took from Kuwait to Seitz.

The soldiers represented on the map are detailed, but none represent actual people. The base scenes are purposely a little different than the actual base.

“Most of the stuff is from what I remember, what I’ve seen,” he said. “Even though I looked at something everyone else did, I wanted to make it mine.”

Other soldiers have praised his work.

“The first thing [other soldiers] do is take pictures,” said Sgt. Osvaldo Feliciano of the 542nd. “A couple of days ago a bunch of people came in and said ‘this is what I remember!’”

Now that the mural is done, Valdivia will return to his company, but not necessarily for maintenance work.

“I think I have other projects lined up when I come back,” he said. “The 1st sergeant said ‘I need to talk to you when you get back to the company.’”

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