Three nearly 20-foot-tall murals painted on the side of a building in downtown Amherst say more than words ever could about Mike Sekletar’s appreciation for those who have served in the U.S. military. 
“I just wanted to show that we still care and always will,” says the 40-year-old Lorain County native. “I thought this would be a great way to showcase that respect and give back to the city and the veterans in some way that was unique.” 
Each mural is about 30 feet wide and reflects significant events in U.S. military history, starting with World War II and Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. The recreation took Sekletar three months to complete with the help of artist Ryan Shannon and computer graphics that scaled the photograph to fit on the brick canvas.
“It was a personal challenge for me,” Sekletar says of the first mural he’s ever painted, adding that what makes this piece particularly moving is the flag that extends 14 feet beyond the building. “Having the flagpole makes it unique and somewhat of a landmark.”
Next came Lee Teter’s powerful masterpiece “Reflections,” which captures a quintessential emotion of those impacted by the Vietnam War. To this painting, Sekletar added the names of the 98 soldiers from Lorain County who lost their lives during the war. The third installment, which depicts the Korean War and gives nods to each of the military’s three branches, is a Sekletar original created with the assistance of artist Brian Goodwin. “I had people that wanted me to include the Marines, Navy and Army, so I represented all of them in that one piece,” Sekletar says.
With the remaining space, plans are under way for Sekletar to depict the Gulf War. Eventually, he also would like to honor those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan during the last 20 years.
The murals have become such a staple in the community that the city holds its annual Veterans Day celebration in front of them. Last year, about 1,500 people attended. “I wasn’t expecting anything. I just wanted to pay tribute to our veterans,” Sekletar says. “You can’t say thanks enough to the people that dedicated their lives and fought for us.”