Corporal Mark Donaldson unveils a tribute to the Silent Guardians of war

PUBLISHED: 10 September 2017


Vietnam Veteran and artist David Sturmer has dedicated a breathtaking original artwork to the courageous four-legged diggers who have served throughout Australia’s military history. 

For over a century these animals have played important roles on the battlefield serving alongside our diggers and often making the ultimate sacrifice.

Silent Guardians depicts six combat assault dogs and explosive detection dogs who were all sadly killed in action, including Victoria Cross recipient Corporal Mark Donaldson’s companion Devil.

Gold Coast local Peter Hayes purchased the original artwork with the funds raised being used to support the Australian Defence Force Trackers and War Dogs Association (ADFTWDA). He and the Association sought to have the artwork displayed publically as a fitting tribute to all war dogs. Maroochy RSL willingly accepted the painting and will place it on public display when our renovations are complete.

In July, the painting was officially unveiled by Corporal Donaldson who described what each of these animals did for our country.

“What they did and what they gave was always unconditional. We understand what can happen but for the four legged soldiers it is unconditional, they do it because they love us, and it’s really hard to put into words.”

The bond that he and other soldiers shared with the dogs was something he will always cherish.

“You’ll give them a pat, sneak them some food and it takes you back home and reminds you why you are doing it; there is no price you can put on that” he said.

“They are one of the team and when they are injured or killed it hurts just as much if not more. They did it for us and should be remembered for their unconditional commitment.”

David Sturmer was approached by George Hulse from ADFTWDA who asked him to paint a piece to assist in fundraising.

“It scared me; I hadn’t picked up a brush for 35 years but I couldn’t let them down, I couldn’t let down a military family so I took it on,” he said

“I hadn’t painted since I was 18, I really had to sit back and think about how I was going to do it and mapped it out. I got to know the dogs, feel their personality and love them.”

“The hardest part was I never knew when to finish, every night I’d wash my brushes have one more look and then finally the last stroke… A friend had come over for a beer; he looked at the painting and said I can feel his fur. I thought that’s it, it’s done!”

David spent 18 months working on what is an amazing tribute to our forgotten heroes of war and said the painting had helped him work through some of the issues he faced as a result of his military service in Vietnam.

“It allowed me to understand patience, I was an angry old man; anxiety was a problem, drinking was a problem, depression was a problem. It brought me back to the surface and helped me manage my issues, if it wasn’t for this my life would be very different.”

The painting in currently on temporary display in RSL House alongside the biographies of each of the dogs.

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