Operation Valor Arts

THE SERGEANT TOMMY VANDLING PROJECT

A HERO'S SACRIFICE

SERGEANT THOMAS E. VANDLING, JR.

Sergeant Thomas “Tommy” E. Vandling, Jr. gave his life for his country during his second tour in Iraq in 2007.

A Bellevue native, Tommy graduated from Northgate High School in 1998, then attended the University of Pittsburgh and enlisted in the Army Reserves. His first and only duty station was with the 303rd Psychological Operations Company, currently based in Coraopolis, PA. He was activated in 2003 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, then returned to Pittsburgh to complete his double major in psychology and philosophy. In 2006, he was deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was promoted to sergeant. He was, according to his command, “a model soldier.” But more than that, Tommy was a model son, brother, and friend.

“Tommy would do anything for a friend. He knew how to keep a secret and tell a joke. He had a 2nd degree blackbelt in tai kwon do and a way of laughing at you when you cried that made you laugh, too. He loved his family. He adored children. He read Nostradamus. He wore the same red baseball cap nearly every day and refused to wash it. He hated having his picture taken, but had the most infectious smile. And he made more friends in his 26 years than most people make in a lifetime. Nearly everyone of them described Tommy as one of the best friends they’ve ever had.” –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Then, on New Years Day in 2007, his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. Tommy died of injuries sustained in the attack. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal, in addition to his numerous other awards.

He is survived, remembered, and honored by his parents, Tom and Dee; his siblings, Elizabeth, Jimmy, and Mike; and many, many friends. Former and current soldiers who served with Tommy in the 303rd are extraordinarily committed to honoring his memory and the values he lived. Tommy was considered a friend, as well as an inspiration, to all whose lives he touched.

You can read SGT Vandling’s official military biography here.

IMPORTANCE OF THIS ENDEAVOR

Publicly honoring SGT Tommy Vandling’s ultimate sacrifice will ensure his enduring legacy, recognize the sacrifice of his family, and preserve the record of his meritorious service to his country. Tommy’s selfless service has proven an inspiration for numerous people, both military and civilian. His dedication to his fellow soldiers and his country is compelling, and OVArts is honored to help share his story.

Honoring an extraordinary soldier like Tommy also goes far beyond his personal legacy. It is a way for Veterans to continue to serve in their community. It also provides for their needs during their transition from military to civilian life.

Operation Valor Arts is taking a highly original approach to addressing Veterans’ needs by designing programming based on an art and civic engagement model. While arts-based therapies are vital to many Veterans, to date no reentry programs have taken the innovative steps to integrate creative expression with career training, mentoring, networking, and entrepreneurship. This project will empower Veterans to demonstrate their skills and share their experiences, educate them in art, design and the trades, and enrich the lives of Veterans and the communities in which they are continuing to serve.

Empower

This project provides an opportunity for Veterans to use their personal histories as the catalyst for works of public art that will honor fighting soldiers and those who will never return home. While art making by its very nature has a restorative and healing component, the creation of public artworks empowers Veterans to demonstrate their skills and abilities from their military service, as well as develop new skills. The completion of this project serves as physical evidence of the project team’s extraordinary abilities, and empowers them as they enter civilian careers.

Educate

OVArts connects Veteran teams to technical and other educational institutions for training in metal and other trades, computer aided design, landscape architectural design, and fine arts. Veteran participants have the opportunity to collaborate with professional artists, architects, engineers and tradespeople in the process of developing and implementing public art projects.  Industry-focused, hands-on career training is designed to reinforce technical skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

Enrich

OVArts’ Veteran-designed sculptures and Honor Gardens enrich the lives of Veterans as well as the communities around them, with projects becoming centerpieces for community gatherings or offering places for quiet reflection. Projects create a bridge to understanding by initiating a conversation between the Veteran population and the public. The large-scale artworks constructed for government facilities, universities, parks, and corporate settings will become a part of the tradition of American monuments, ultimately motivating others to take similar steps in creating change.

HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE

Join OVArts in committing to make the Sergeant Tommy Vandling project a success. You can donate directly to this project below.

OVArts is hosting a Reception in honor of SGT Vandling’s family, and an Auction to benefit the SGT Vandling project, at the PNC Park Hall of Fame Club in May 2015. For more on how you can get involved, please visit our Events page or download our Sponsorship Packet.

PROJECT ORIGIN

Veteran Army Staff Sergeant Richard Behana had fought in Iraq with Army Sergeant Thomas Edward Vandling. After an OVArts presentation at the TechShop Veteran Meetup in the fall of 2013, he  approached OVArts and proposed a project. Behana arranged a meeting with current and former members of Vandling’s unit. Since that visit, OVArts Board members hosted a reception for the Vandling family and current and former members of Vandling’s company. All are committed to the project to honor Tommy, and pay tribute to his extraordinary service and sacrifice.

The proposed project site is near the entrance to the McGarity Reserve Center in Coraopolis, PA, ten miles west of Pittsburgh. It is a drill center for Army Reservists, including Vandling’s former unit, and home of a brand new Commissary. It is also home to an Army Strong Community Center which provides support and resources to military members from all service branches and their families.* The project also includes an Honor Garden with seating, where visitors can gather as a community or pause for quiet individual reflection.

OVArts will challenge the project team to interpret in physical form their collective experience of service during a time of war. Sergeant Vandling embodied the ideals that inspired our project team to serve and, today, inspires them to create. The pilot project, while not a memorial to SGT Vandling, will ultimately be dedicated to his memory. OVArts is committed to realizing the vision of this project team: to create a piece of artwork that will publicly honor the values represented by Tommy’s service and sacrifice.

 

* The US Army Reserves, McGarity Reserve Center, Army Strong Community Center, Army and Air Force Exchange Service (PX) and the Defense Commissary Agency do not endorse OVArts, provide funding for our programs, or participate in any way in fundraising activities for this project.

PROJECT UPDATES

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©COPYRIGHT 2015, OPERATION VALOR ARTS

 

 

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THE SERGEANT TOMMY VANDLING PROJECT

A HERO'S SACRIFICE

SERGEANT THOMAS E. VANDLING, JR.

Sergeant Thomas “Tommy” E. Vandling, Jr. gave his life for his country during his second tour in Iraq in 2007.

A Bellevue native, Tommy graduated from Northgate High School in 1998, then attended the University of Pittsburgh and enlisted in the Army Reserves. His first and only duty station was with the 303rd Psychological Operations Company, currently based in Coraopolis, PA. He was activated in 2003 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, then returned to Pittsburgh to complete his double major in psychology and philosophy. In 2006, he was deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was promoted to sergeant. He was, according to his command, “a model soldier.” But more than that, Tommy was a model son, brother, and friend.

“Tommy would do anything for a friend. He knew how to keep a secret and tell a joke. He had a 2nd degree blackbelt in tai kwon do and a way of laughing at you when you cried that made you laugh, too. He loved his family. He adored children. He read Nostradamus. He wore the same red baseball cap nearly every day and refused to wash it. He hated having his picture taken, but had the most infectious smile. And he made more friends in his 26 years than most people make in a lifetime. Nearly everyone of them described Tommy as one of the best friends they’ve ever had.” –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Then, on New Years Day in 2007, his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. Tommy died of injuries sustained in the attack. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal, in addition to his numerous other awards.

He is survived, remembered, and honored by his parents, Tom and Dee; his siblings, Elizabeth, Jimmy, and Mike; and many, many friends. Former and current soldiers who served with Tommy in the 303rd are extraordinarily committed to honoring his memory and the values he lived. Tommy was considered a friend, as well as an inspiration, to all whose lives he touched.

You can read SGT Vandling’s official military biography here.

IMPORTANCE OF THIS ENDEAVOR

Publicly honoring SGT Tommy Vandling’s ultimate sacrifice will ensure his enduring legacy, recognize the sacrifice of his family, and preserve the record of his meritorious service to his country. Tommy’s selfless service has proven an inspiration for numerous people, both military and civilian. His dedication to his fellow soldiers and his country is compelling, and OVArts is honored to help share his story.

Honoring an extraordinary soldier like Tommy also goes far beyond his personal legacy. It is a way for Veterans to continue to serve in their community. It also provides for their needs during their transition from military to civilian life.

Operation Valor Arts is taking a highly original approach to addressing Veterans’ needs by designing programming based on an art and civic engagement model. While arts-based therapies are vital to many Veterans, to date no reentry programs have taken the innovative steps to integrate creative expression with career training, mentoring, networking, and entrepreneurship. This project will empower Veterans to demonstrate their skills and share their experiences, educate them in art, design and the trades, and enrich the lives of Veterans and the communities in which they are continuing to serve.

Empower

This project provides an opportunity for Veterans to use their personal histories as the catalyst for works of public art that will honor fighting soldiers and those who will never return home. While art making by its very nature has a restorative and healing component, the creation of public artworks empowers Veterans to demonstrate their skills and abilities from their military service, as well as develop new skills. The completion of this project serves as physical evidence of the project team’s extraordinary abilities, and empowers them as they enter civilian careers.

Educate

OVArts connects Veteran teams to technical and other educational institutions for training in metal and other trades, computer aided design, landscape architectural design, and fine arts. Veteran participants have the opportunity to collaborate with professional artists, architects, engineers and tradespeople in the process of developing and implementing public art projects.  Industry-focused, hands-on career training is designed to reinforce technical skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

Enrich

OVArts’ Veteran-designed sculptures and Honor Gardens enrich the lives of Veterans as well as the communities around them, with projects becoming centerpieces for community gatherings or offering places for quiet reflection. Projects create a bridge to understanding by initiating a conversation between the Veteran population and the public. The large-scale artworks constructed for government facilities, universities, parks, and corporate settings will become a part of the tradition of American monuments, ultimately motivating others to take similar steps in creating change.

HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE

Join OVArts in committing to make the Sergeant Tommy Vandling project a success. You can donate directly to this project below.

OVArts is hosting a Reception in honor of SGT Vandling’s family, and an Auction to benefit the SGT Vandling project, at the PNC Park Hall of Fame Club in May 2015. For more on how you can get involved, please visit our Events page or download our Sponsorship Packet.

PROJECT ORIGIN

Veteran Army Staff Sergeant Richard Behana had fought in Iraq with Army Sergeant Thomas Edward Vandling. After an OVArts presentation at the TechShop Veteran Meetup in the fall of 2013, he  approached OVArts and proposed a project. Behana arranged a meeting with current and former members of Vandling’s unit. Since that visit, OVArts Board members hosted a reception for the Vandling family and current and former members of Vandling’s company. All are committed to the project to honor Tommy, and pay tribute to his extraordinary service and sacrifice.

The proposed project site is near the entrance to the McGarity Reserve Center in Coraopolis, PA, ten miles west of Pittsburgh. It is a drill center for Army Reservists, including Vandling’s former unit, and home of a brand new Commissary. It is also home to an Army Strong Community Center which provides support and resources to military members from all service branches and their families.* The project also includes an Honor Garden with seating, where visitors can gather as a community or pause for quiet individual reflection.

OVArts will challenge the project team to interpret in physical form their collective experience of service during a time of war. Sergeant Vandling embodied the ideals that inspired our project team to serve and, today, inspires them to create. The pilot project, while not a memorial to SGT Vandling, will ultimately be dedicated to his memory. OVArts is committed to realizing the vision of this project team: to create a piece of artwork that will publicly honor the values represented by Tommy’s service and sacrifice.

 

* The US Army Reserves, McGarity Reserve Center, Army Strong Community Center, Army and Air Force Exchange Service (PX) and the Defense Commissary Agency do not endorse OVArts, provide funding for our programs, or participate in any way in fundraising activities for this project.

PROJECT UPDATES

CLICK HERE TO SEE UPDATES OF THIS AND OTHER PROJECTS >

©COPYRIGHT 2014, OPERATION VALOR ARTS

Website Designed and Built by

Websites For Artists