Former Marine wins award for self-portrait

Sgt. Sarah Rothschild, USMC, Port Isabel, TX, won the 2014 Colonel John W. Thomason, Jr. Award for “What happens there doesn’t stay there.” A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rothschild found the inspiration for her self-portrait through the continuous curses of war. This drawing is made of charcoal.


By VICTORIA BRITO | The Brownsville Herald, Texas | Published: May 12, 2014

Gripping both sides of civilian and military life, that is what John Rothschild said his daughter Sarah Rothschild depicts in her award-winning painting, “What Happens There Doesn’t Stay There.”

On April 26, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Sarah Rothschild received the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s Colonel John W. Thomason Jr. Award. Her award-winning charcoal painting depicts a tearful Rothschild, 27, gripping on to a U.S. Marine Corps uniform and an American flag while staring at 21 bullets lined up on the ground in front of her.

The veteran’s self-portrait is a charcoal painting created as an assignment while attending Oklahoma State University. Rothschild is from Oklahoma but has lived on South Padre Island for about two years.

“I had only been out of the Marine Corps and in Oklahoma four months and just struggling,’ she said of the painting. “I always struggle with all of it.”

During her time in the Marines, Rothschild was stationed for a year in Iraq and seven months in Afghanistan. She was a part of the Female Engagement team, a group that would patrol the villages of Afghanistan’s south Helmand province and connect with the Afghan women.

“This led to a firsthand experience of war, admittedly not specifically combat, but indeed war itself,” she said. “I made many good friends out there, and also lost many good friends and great Marines. All of which incorporates and greatly led to the emotions which were transformed into this drawing.”

The painting shows Rothschild visibly crying.

“I was at home one day sitting on the step of the deck outside, and I was thinking about stuff and crying,” she said. “I went outside to see the makeup, and I don’t know, it’s kind of like when all of it came together.”

She said she has been painting since she was young.

“This piece in particular ended up being pretty therapeutic,” she said.

The painting is now housed in the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.

“After I drew it, it just sort of sat in the closet forever, and I didn’t take it out. I look at it, it just makes me sad,” she said. “But I had known while working on it that I felt like it belonged in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. That needed to be its home.”

Joan Thomas, head curator of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, accepted the painting in February and asked Rothschild if she could nominate the painting for an award. Within days, Rothschild was informed that she won the award.

“This is obviously very personal,” John Rothschild said. “It was never intended for an outside audience. This is part of her struggle. She wanted to be in, she wanted to be out of the Marines.”

He said his daughter’s time in the military has had a lasting effect on not only him, but on his daughter.

“This (painting) sat in the closet for a while,” he explained. “But then when other veterans saw it, and I’m not a veteran, and even I went, ‘Oh my gosh.’ But when other veterans saw it, they went, ‘That’s it, that’s the conflict. We’re out, but we’re not out. We’re holding on.’ Just trying to move on — but the struggle of moving on.”

John Rothschild said that his daughter wants this artwork to help other veterans heal.

“It’s a good thing, it’s a very good thing, because its very hard to heal from these things,” she said. “You don’t forget them. People try to put it in a box, but it never stays in its box.”

Sarah Rothschild said she is thankful for the support of her home post, the Eugene L. Farthing Veterans of Foreign War Post 7192 in Oklahoma, for its support. The group helped her fund her trip to Virginia to receive the award.

She has many other family members who belong to that post and said they are “very much our family.”

For more information on Rothschild’s art and to see her other work, visit therothschildartcollection.com.

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