Dickinson County US Marine veteran shares artwork with veterans across the country

Jeffrey Saarela’s artwork has been featured in magazines that are distributed to every VA hospital in the country.
Updated: Nov. 11, 2022 at 4:42 PM EST
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IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WLUC) - On this Veterans Day, a Dickinson County veteran shares his love of painting with people across the country.

Jeffrey Saarela served in the United States Marine Corps after Vietnam from 1975 to 1978. He was an E-3 Lance Corporal. The Dickinson County native volunteered for service while in Marquette.

“I went to the recruiter on a Saturday. All the doors were locked except for the last door on the left, he said, ‘come on in young man, we’ll make a Marine out of you,’” Saarela said.

Saarela has lived at the Oscar G Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain for three years. While there, he has taken on painting as a hobby.

“I love ducks. If you saw my room, I have 55 rubber ducks. It started with ducks and went from there,” Saarela said.

Some of Saarela’s paintings include the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, the U.S.S. Tarawa, the boat he was stationed on, and other custom requests from nurses. He estimates he has completed more than 50 pieces of artwork.

“If I am frustrated or if I am having a bad day, I just sit in my corner and paint or I have a guitar and play,” Saarela said.

Saarela has won two third-place ribbons in art competitions at the VA. Some of his artwork will go to national competitions. He recommends all veterans find a creative outlet to help manage stress.

“I take pride in that, it’s paying off,” Saarela explained.

Saarela’s work has been featured in magazines that are distributed to every VA hospital in the country. He is always willing to show off his work and wants to wish his fellow service members a happy Veterans Day.