“Ten years from now, I want people to drive by and remember their names.”
Local artist Kevin Bate refuses to say the name of the man who drew national attention after killing five servicemen in Chattanooga on July 16. It's the victims he wants the world to remember, not their assailant.
Bate will memorialize the slain servicemen in a large mural he'll paint on a wall that borders McCallie Avenue. They are the heroes, he said Tuesday.
"Ten years from now, I want people to drive by and remember their names — Holmquist and Sullivan and Wells and Wyatt and Smith," Bate said. "They weren't in a war zone, but they wore the uniform and they were there for us. I want those names remembered."
Two-time Purple Heart recipient Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, National Defense Service Medal recipient Lance Cpl. Squire K. "Skip" Wells, Sgt. Carson Holmquist and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt were the four Marines shot July 16 when Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire at two military centers. Abdulazeez also shot U.S. Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith, who died of his wounds two days after the shootings.
The mural, planned for a 40-foot-wide, 18-foot-tall wall at Tennessee Wholesale Florist, may be one of the largest paintings in Bate's portfolio. He said he's not sure how much of the space he'll use, but he knows it's going to be large.
"I want it to be really perfect," he said.
Wyatt's mother, Deborah Wyatt Boen, said she'll come back to Chattanooga to see it.
She said the compassion from Chattanooga residents for her son and other military members is humbling.
"He served his country well," she said when asked what she wanted people to remember about him.
Tennessee Wholesale Florist owner Doug Williams calls it an honor to have the mural on the front of his 1715 McCallie Ave. building.
"It's going to be eye-catching, emotional," Williams said. "We're a wholesale house, not open to the public. I'm not trying to drum up business on it. I just felt like it was the right thing to do."
Bate started sketches for the mural this month after getting approval from the U.S. Marine Corps to paint it. Behr Process Corp. donated the primer and paint.
The painting will feature each slain military man and could take up to five months to complete. Bate said he plans to call in favors from fellow artists and friends to help him.
"There has got to be a way to make sure their memory continues on," he said.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at email@example.com or 757-6431.