For the 2023 Veterans Day Poster Contest, the Veterans Day National Committee (VDNC) called on professional and amateur artists to create picture-perfect designs that reflect the theme of this year’s Veterans Day observance: service.
There were more than 60 entries from people ranging from school-aged children to graphic designers with decades of experience. When all ballots were tallied, the VDNC selected “The Bugler” by Gene Russell, a service-connected disabled Army Infantry Veteran and VA employee, as this year’s winning submission.
Russell is the principal photographer for the VA Secretary in Washington, D.C., and he spends his days photographing the Secretary’s significant events and documenting other senior VA leaders’ internal and external engagements. Described as “customer-service obsessed” by acting Deputy Secretary Scott Blackburn, Russell received the VA Secretary’s Honor Award for “I CARE” in 2020 for his work on the Center for Women Veterans’ “I Am Not Invisible” (IANI) campaign. The I CARE Award is VA’s highest honor for customer service and workplace excellence, and refers to VA’s five core values: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence.
Music was the inspiration for Russell’s submission; he has played the bugle since he was a boy. “Bugle calls are not songs, and they do not have lyrics. Yet, when heard, the calls evoke the emotion and the pride of service for members of every uniformed branch listed on this poster,” he said.
More than 100 bugle calls are used in the United States Armed Services, including a few used only in emergencies, such as “man overboard” or “abandon ship.” For that reason, the bugler connects each service member on land, air and sea.
“My goal was to link the sight, sound and feeling of how we served our country. The pole and American flag in this image are the ones currently flying over VA headquarters in Washington, DC,” he said. “It flies for each of us and those Veterans to come.”
The Veterans Day poster will be displayed in VA facilities, military installations and municipal buildings across America. It will also serve as the cover of the official program for the Veterans Day commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11.