Military family legacy.jpg

This pastel painting, “Four Generations,” was done by a French artist Sascha Kijanovic.

The uniforms are different but the wartime service of the men who wore them was consistent and enduring.

They were Soldiers. And they were all from one family.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Eric Martin Nelson, taskings manager for the Aviation and Missile Command, G-33 (Operations), is the latest of four generations of Soldiers depicted in the black-and-white pastel painting. While he was working in Germany, he had the painting done in 2011 by French artist Sascha Kijanovic.

“I just wanted to capture my family’s history I guess because it seemed like it was not organized,” Nelson said. “I didn’t want it to get lost in history.”

Using old photos, Kijanovic painted the images of the eight Soldiers. He captured detail in their faces from small snapshots.

“It was just amazing how he did it,” Nelson said.

The 20-by-27-inch painting, which cost Nelson $1,400, hangs in his home in Huntsville. “I just wanted to capture all the history,” he said.

The four generations of Soldiers begin with his great-great-uncle, Pvt. Charles N. Henrichs, who fought in World War I in 1917 in Germany.

They culminate with Nelson, an Iraq veteran. He joined the Army in November 1985 and retired in September 2009 after nearly 24 years of service. He worked for the 21st Theater Sustainment Command in Kaiserslautern, Germany, from September 2010 until March 2018 when he arrived at AMCOM.

Nelson, 54, from La Porte, Indiana, figured early on that he would become a carpenter and a Soldier like his predecessors.

“I just remember when I was in high school, I always told the counselor I’m going to join the military,” he said. “I’m just proud of it (the family’s military tradition). It’s just amazing.”

He has his bachelor’s degree now, and his first duty station was in Germany. “It made me a great life,” he said of the Army. “I can’t complain about that.”

His wife of 29 years, Sylvia, is originally from Bavaria in southern Germany. The painting in their home, depicting the four generations of Soldiers on his mother’s side, could have added two family members if there had been room.

“It’s right in front of my desk,” Nelson said. “I look at it every day.”

A placard underneath the artwork lists the eight Soldiers, their units and years of service:

• Pvt. Charles N. Henrichs, World War I 1917, Germany

• Pfc. Alfred Gerald Henrichs, World War II, 38th Division, 152nd Infantry Regiment “Predators,” killed in action Feb. 1, 1945, in Luzon

• Pfc. Henry Johnson “Jack” Henrichs, World War II, 42nd Division, 232nd Infantry, Company H, France and Germany

• Pfc. Merle Edwin Henrichs, World War II, 12th Regiment, Company F, killed in action Nov. 12, 1944, in Leyte

• Tech Sgt. George L. Martin, World War II, 80th Infantry Division, 319th Infantry Regiment, Company F, France, Germany and Belgium

• Pvt. George A.L. “Butch” Martin, Vietnam 1969-70, 79th Division, 20th Engineer Battalion, 66th Engineer Topographic Company

• Sgt. Frederick Dean “Ricky” Martin, Morse Code interceptor, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Okinawa, Japan, 1982-86

• Sgt. 1st Class Eric Martin Nelson, 534th Signal, 181st Signal, 101st Airborne Division, 501st Signal Battalion, 40th Signal Battalion, 17th Signal Battalion, 5th Signal Command, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Fort Huachuca, New Orleans, Germany, Iraq, 1985-2009, retired

Editor’s note: June 14 marks the 246th birthday of the Army. June is Army Heritage Month.

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