AUSTIN, Texas — One central Texas Veteran is using art to raise awareness of the people many might not have heard about before.
"I had this feeling that I wanted to showcase the minorities and the Barrio veterans that were never recognized," Franklin Mendez said.
Mendez is a Vietnam Veteran and an artist.
He's using his talent to teach the public about Mexican-American Veterans who stood up against adversity to fight for our country.
"Barrios was a community that was assigned to Mexican Americans," he said.
"It was a section of the city that was set aside for Mexican Americans to live in,"
"In the 40s, 50s, and into the 60s, you could not leave that barrio and live anywhere else."
Mendez highlights the men who made it out of the Barrios and built a successful life for themselves and their families.
"Even after fighting discrimination and adversity, many of these guys have 20-year careers in industry, in the military, in the labor field," he explained of this artwork.
"They've been through it all."
He currently has 20 portraits on display in Austin's Old Bakery Emporium Art Gallery, each showcasing a different Vietnam Veteran from Central Texas.
"The whole premise of the program, of this show was to show that the Vietnam veteran was a successful returnee from the war," Mendez said.
This is the fourth show his work has been featured in.
The men in the portraits attend each show to give the public a chance to meet them in person and ask about their lives.
While these may be some of his most meaningful work, Mendez has been painting since he was a child.
"In second grade I was given an opportunity to do a painting of a girl swinging on a swing hanging from a tree," Mendez said. "
I thought I did a good job and I have been interested in painting ever since then."
It was a passion he brought with him into adulthood and even during his time in the service.
Mendez said painting can be hard but also very healing.
"I won many of my blue ribbons painting the things that I saw, painting the scenes I saw," Mendez said.
"In the first place, you don't want to bring it back up,"
"You're trying to put it to bed and trying to forget about it,"
"But at the same time, you want to get it out of your system and put it to bed,"
"It's like a catch-22, do I do it or do I not do it?"
Now, he uses his talent to bring that healing to those he paints.
"It heals them in many, many ways that there's worth in their life and there's something to live for," he said.