Artists have served in the U.S. Army ever since World War I. Their art is part of the Army’s historical record. Some of those artists were honored Tuesday at the National Constitution Center as part of their upcoming “Art of the American Soldier” exhibit. We got to hear stories from one of the artists himself.

“To be told, ‘Okay, your job is to paint history,’ where do you start?” said MSG Martin Cervantez, an Army artist-in-residence, during a presentation Tuesday.

For Cervantez, it started with a photograph in Afghanistan. He used it to paint a young American soldier negotiating with an Afghan. A scarf hides the face of the translator whose life is at risk just cooperating. The painting, called “A Huge Responsibility,” is just one example of the drama on the front lines today.

“The camera does not capture an experience or everything that’s happening out there in the field,” said Cervantez.

His work is just one example of “Art of the American Soldier,” an exhibit to debut Friday at the National Constitution Center. Surviving Army artists were honored at a luncheon Tuesday. The scenes date as far back as World War I, when the Army started commissioning artwork.

Jon Hitchcock, CBS 3 and CW Philly president and general manager, said, “I think it has absolutely an emotional connection to everybody.”

To Cervantez, the paintings will help soldiers tell their story through a picture.

“They can tell that story with a great deal of connection to the artwork and pass that down, because that’s what history does,” he said.

This history will live on for generations.

“Art of the American Soldier” opens Friday at the National Constitution Center. Admission for adults is $12. There are discounts available for military families. Active military and career military retirees get in free.

The National Constitution Center is also inviting former soldiers to upload their artwork about war to their website:

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