The image of six Americans raising the United States flag during the battle of Iwo Jima rises from a hillside facing Highway 20/49 in Grass Valley as a Memorial Day tribute.
The artwork is dedicated “to all of our service people, men and women, who have protected our freedoms and given their lives to serve our country,” wrote Lloyd Young, onsite co-manager of Old Barn Self Storage, and host of the hillside art.
Young is the guy who hauls out the year-round Happy Art depicting cows, flowers, leprechauns, dads’n’grads, flags, fireworks, turkeys and other motifs greeting motorists passing the property between the Idaho-Maryland Road and Dorsey Drive exits.
But the former Army man felt something was missing in the repertoire. So Young enlisted the support of Old Barn managing partner Stephen R. DeSena, who commissioned artist, musician and fellow veteran Steve Liserra to create something evoking Memorial Day.
Young had that iconic photograph in mind. And converting it into hillside art would become one more in a long list of shared interests. Both men restore vintage and antique vehicles, furniture and other items.
Liserra owns The Antiquery, formerly in downtown Grass Valley and now at his home near Rollins Lake.
He and Young met in the vintage trade in 1996, and have been like brothers ever since.
Maxine Young recalled the day Liserra heard her husband’s idea: “He said, ‘Wow, Lloyd, that gives me the chills!’”
“There was no way I could say ‘no,’” Liserra added, shaking his head and chuckling at the memory.
Liserra used a grid-transfer method to enlarge the image.
A pole behind the art will sustain a real flag. When his art goes up on the hillside, a black cloth will be draped over the “Happy” words, honoring those who sacrificed all.
On Feb. 23, 1945, Associated Press war photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped shots of five United States Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman raising the flag atop the island’s highest point, Mt. Suribachi.
It came mid-way through five weeks of fierce fighting on Iwo Jima and inspired Americans questioning their role in World War II’s Pacific theater.
Rosenthal took the shot without even peering through the camera’s viewfinder, noticing the scene by chance while setting up for something else, according to the U.S. Naval Institute. Rosenthal won a Pulitzer Prize for it. Seventy years later, “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” is perhaps the most copied photograph in history, USNI reported, reproduced in ice, sand, butter, pumpkins, Lego bricks, corn mazes, Etch-a-Sketches – and, now, in common exterior paint on four plywood panels.
“We hope you enjoy it,” Young wrote. “To me, this is uncommon valor.”