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Mike Olivieri

Michael K. Olivieri was a junior in college when the Nixon administration conducted the first draft lottery for the Vietnam War. It was December 1969, and he recalls watching the lottery on TV with four roommates who also attended the University of Washington. “My birthday was the first one drawn of all my roommates – number 15,” he says. This all but assured that he would be drafted. He chose to take an open position in the 81st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, which was part of the U.S. Army National Guard in Washington State, exempting him from the draft. Looking back, he realizes he did not fully understand the conflict in Vietnam, and today is motivated to ensure his four-year-old daughter and six-year-old son are informed about current U.S. engagements. “It is my wish that my children will grow up knowing what certain policy choices mean to our country and to the men and women in uniform that sometimes form the point of the policy spear,” Olivieri says.

In Service of Country and Humanity

16 x 12 x 2 in.

Acrylic on Gesso Board


Olivieri’s inspiration for this painting was an experience he had at his draft physical in 1971. While he and hundreds of others were undergoing examination, Olivieri saw other men being inducted into the service and led outside to a bus. “When gazing at the line waiting to board the bus, I felt as though I could see that some of these young men would not survive and others would not come back the way they had left,” he says. “This image has been with me my entire life.” The painting shows soldiers from each of the four main service branches, as they would appear before going on missions; the limbs that they will lose while performing their mission are transparent.