It’s not every day a former U.S. president paints your portrait, and includes the painting in his book. Tarleton State University graduate Johnnie O. Yellock II is included in President George W. Bush’s latest book, “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors,” released this week.
Yellock’s portrait is among 66 oil paintings and a four panel-mural of 98 service members and veterans included in Bush’s new book. The retired U.S. Air Force staff sergeant’s portrait will be on display as part of a special exhibit March 2 through Oct. 2 at the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The book and artwork created by the nation’s 43rd president features U.S. military members who have served since 9/11—and whom he has come to know personally in recent years. The project was borne from Bush’s Military Service Initiative, which helps post-9/11 veterans and their families make a successful transition to civilian life and addresses issues of veteran wellness, including post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
A native of Keller, Yellock enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in April 2007 as a combat controller with the USAF Special Operations Command after earning his bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering at Tarleton. Assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Yellock was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) during his second combat tour in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, in July 2011, seriously injuring both legs. He received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Action Medal for his actions that day.
Enduring 30 surgeries over three years at San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center, Yellock was medically relieved from duty after achieving the rank of staff sergeant. Doctors fused his ankles in place, requiring him to wear adaptive leg braces for the rest of his life.
It was during his remarkable recovery that he had the opportunity to meet Bush—a meeting that would lead to Yellock having his portrait painted by the former commander-in-chief.
Yellock now serves as marketing director for Scottish American in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. He inspires those around him, especially other veterans, fellow wounded service members and Gold Star families, through volunteer service and public speaking.
“Portraits of Courage” is more than an art book. This is a book about the men and women who have been tremendous national assets in the Armed Forces—and who continue to be vital to the future success of our country,” Bush said in the book’s introduction, according to a news release from the Crown Publishing Group.
“The greatest honor of the presidency was looking them in the eye and saluting them as their commander-in-chief. And I intend to support and salute them for the rest of my life.”
Growing out of Bush’s own outreach and the ongoing work of the George W. Bush Institute, “Portraits of Courage” features veterans of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force, with their individual stories written by President Bush. As the stories unfold—some inspiring, some heartbreaking—readers encounter the faces and the hearts of those who answered the nation’s call, and learn from their bravery on the battlefield, their journeys to recovery, and the continued leadership and contributions they are making as civilians.
To learn more about the “Portraits of Courage” exhibit, visit http://www.bushcenter.org/exhibits-and-events/exhibits/2017/portraits-of-courage-exhibit.html.