Murals in Iraq painted with pride



By April Dahlquist

Sgt. Katie Maglia has left her mark in Iraq – in orange and blue.

Stationed at the Baghdad International Airport, Maglia, a junior in FAA, brought her love for Illinois overseas in the form of paint.

Maglia is a firefighter in the Air Force National Guard at the 183rd Fighter Wing based in Springfield, Ill. Volunteering to go to Iraq for six months, Maglia decided to boost morale by painting murals on the concrete walls that surround the fire department.

“Every day is one dull, tan-colored blur,” Maglia said via email from Iraq. “If I can help brighten their days with my paintings, then I have made a difference.”

Maglia’s most recent mural is called “Flyin’ Illini” and is a tribute to Chief Illiniwek. It is 15 feet tall and her third mural on this deployment. She completed six other murals on her previous deployment in 2006.

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    Maglia said painting the murals helps pass the time and relieves stress.

    It took a month of painting for Maglia to finish her commemoration of the chief.

    The F16 fighter jet seen in the mural is a jet from the Springfield base, also called the “Flying Illini.”

    Maglia incorporated this historical association along with caricatures of the other deployed men from Springfield into the mural.

    “I work with a wonderful group of men and we all love our job in the fire service,” Maglia said. “It’s not about politics for us; it’s about doing our job well and coming home safely.”

    Maglia describes the days in Iraq as long and difficult.

    Since paintings are unusual at the base, she said she hopes all the men can appreciate the mural.

    “I think it’s awesome that it’s going to be there forever,” said sister Ellie Maglia, a freshman in AHS. “People might not get it (The Chief) because it’s a huge Indian, but it’s a cool way of bringing where she’s from to Iraq.”

    Faculty from the Fine Arts department at the University donated and shipped the painting supplies to Maglia so she could share her passions with others.

    The first mural she painted at the Baghdad International Airport represents the Michigan Air Force and the other mural is based off of the nose art from World War II aircraft.

    “It’s great to think about leaving my mark permanently in Iraq,” Maglia said.

    With her sister attending the University and both of her parents alumni, Maglia’s family members are huge Illini fans. She said she did not tell her family she was painting an Illini mural until it was finished.

    “I have a lot of pride when I look at it,” said mother Mary Ann Maglia. “Just knowing the impact she has on the troops makes me so proud. She’s giving a lot by serving, and she’s giving a little bit more by painting and keeping the troops positive and motivated.”

    Though it’s an adjustment being overseas, Maglia e-mails her family at least three times a week, and looks forward to returning to the University.

    “She created whole life for herself and she loves it,” Ellie Maglia said. “I’m proud of her.”