War veteran honored by Bush portrait; Roswell veteran among wounded warriors painted by former president
Former President George W. Bush talks on Fox News about a group of portraits of veterans on display at his presidential library near Dallas. Pictured in the background is a portrait painted by Bush of Roswell wounded veteran Scott Lilley and his 5-year-old daughter, MiKaylie. Lilley says he’s honored to be among the exhibit of post-9/11 wounded warriors that is open until Oct. 1. (Screenshot via foxnews.com)
An Iraq war veteran from Roswell seriously injured in Baghdad and his daughter are among those depicted in a new group of portraits of wounded veterans painted by former president George W. Bush.
The portrait of Scott Lilley and his daughter, 5-year-old MiKaylie, are among Bush paintings that went on display Thursday at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University near Dallas. The exhibit, which includes among a four-panel mural of military members wounded after 9/11, is open until Oct. 1.
“I didn’t know he painted,” Lilley told the Daily Record from San Antonio Thursday during a conference call with his mother. “I thought it was awesome. I think he’s a great painter. I was very surprised how well it came out.”
Bush said he has come to personally know the military members whom he painted in 66 full-color portraits also published in a new book, “Portraits of Courage.”
“That’s Lilley from Roswell, New Mexico,” Bush told Sean Hannity of Fox News during a broadcast Tuesday night. “I was convinced when I saw his mom and dad and saw Lilley in the hospital, he would never get out.”
Lilley, a former member of Minot Air Force Base’s 5th Security Forces, was seriously wounded in Iraq on April 15, 2007, when the Humvee he was atop as a gunner was hit by a roadside bomb.
Lilley, who was deployed to Iraq in November 2006, was struck by shrapnel, a small piece of which tore through three-quarters of his brain. He said he woke up in a military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, with a traumatic brain injury from which many thought he would not recover.
“There were four of us in the Humvee and we were right in the middle of the convoy,” he told the Daily Record in December. “That’s the worst place to be in a convoy, because those are the targets. My only guess is we passed it and we didn’t see it. So when it blew up, my guess is I tried to get down and that little piece got me in the left side of the head and it’s still in the right side of my brain.”
In light of the pessimistic prognosis, Bush said he was surprised when he later golfed with Lilley at the Warrior Open, a competitive golf tournament for wounded warriors hosted by the Bush Presidential Center.
“And I was shocked when I looked on the roster of people that were playing in our golf tournament that Lilley was on the roster,” Bush said on Fox News. “He came and played and said could he bring his daughter by to see me.”
Lilley, a former Airman who now lives in San Antonio, said he and MiKaylie met the 43rd president and former first lady Laura Bush at the former president’s office in Dallas.
“I told him that me and my little girl would be looking forward it,” Lilley said of the father-daughter meeting with the former president that led to Bush painting them.
“So the scar on his head points exactly to the little girl,” Bush explained of the painting.
Lilley, 37, said he was honored to have been painted by Bush. He said he received a signed copy of “Portraits of Courage” from Bush last week.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “It shows that he still cares about his wounded warriors and his country and the military. He cares about his military people overall and he’s definitely showing that he’s still connected with the wounded veterans.”
Jolene Lilley of Roswell said she learned her son had been painted by Bush shortly after Tuesday’s “Hannity” show.
“We didn’t see it that night,” she said. “A friend of mine, the next morning, said, ‘Hey, they showed Scott’s picture last night.’ Then, all of the sudden, people were tagging me on my Facebook. It’s humbling, it’s just really humbling. I thought it was quite an honor. I feel very honored.”
According to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, each painting is accompanied by the inspiring story of the veteran depicted, written by Bush.
“Visitors can see the faces of those who answered the nation’s call and learn from their bravery on the battlefield, their journeys to recovery, and the continued leadership and contributions they are making as civilians,” states the museum’s website. “Our men and women in uniform have faced down enemies, liberated millions, and in doing so showed the true compassion of our nation. Often, they return home with injuries — both visible and invisible — that intensify the challenges of transitioning into civilian life.
“It is President Bush’s desire that these stories of courage and resilience will honor our men and women in uniform, highlight their family and caregivers who bear the burden of their sacrifice, and help Americans understand how we can support our veterans and empower them to succeed.”
Jolene Lilley said after the roadside bombing she had been told by medical staff they were going to take her son off life support, and they didn’t think we would survive.
“On Easter the week before he was injured when we were talking to him, I could hear all this noise in the background. I asked what it was, he said, ‘Oh we’re being shot at,’” she told the newspaper in December. “
Scott’s father, Frank Lilley, said when he and his wife went to a hospital in Germany to see first their son after the bombing, they were prepared for the worst.
“Jolene and I went out there to Germany to take him off life support ostensibly,” he said. “He didn’t get back here to Roswell until Nov. 4 (2007).”
Scott said he had “zero” recollection of his initial recovery.
“I remember I woke up after they did the cranioplasty and put the new skull on and I woke up and said, ‘Wow, that’s better,’” he told the newspaper in December.
Lilley, a retired U.S. Air Force staff sergeant who received a medical discharge from the Air Force in December 2010, now works as a civilian unit security manager at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
“I have no complaints,” he said Thursday.
Lilley said he plans to meet with the 43rd president again soon.
“We’re going in May for the Wounded Warrior Open, the golf tournament he puts on,” he said.
The 1997 Goddard High School graduate said he plans to return to Roswell soon to attend his 20th year class reunion.
Senior Writer Jeff Tucker may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at email@example.com. Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels contributed to this report.