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Alan Golub: 'The artist of heroes'

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | December 5, 2021 1:00 AM

When news broke of the Taliban attack that killed 13 American service members at the Kabul Airport in late August, Alan Golub felt something wasn't right. 

Every headline the 69-year-old Hayden resident read identified them as "13 U.S. Service members." But they were more than that to Golub. In his eyes, they were individuals who deserved to be remembered individually. 

"It's not just a group of 13 people," he said in an interview with the Press last week. "Each one of those people affected so many other people, and they needed to be honored as important individuals." 

Golub became a digital artist in 2016 after suffering a near-fatal stroke. The event paralyzed Golub on his left side and made speaking difficult.

Before the stroke, Golub was a musician, substitute teacher, real estate broker and computer part manufacturer. Recognizing this, professionals at the Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center encouraged him to create art pieces on his cellphone — the technique he still uses today. 

Since his stroke, Golub has produced an estimated 2,500 art pieces that commemorate first responders, law enforcement officers and individuals. To him, these people are "heroes." 

"I like to be the artist of heroes," Golub said. "I like to showcase heroes."

Struck by the news out of Kabul, Golub did what he knew best — poured his appreciation for the 13 service members into art. 

"Each one was an amazing young man or woman, and their story needs to be told," Golub said. "I have the ability to tell the story visually."

Their names were:

• Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.

• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyo.

• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas

• Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tenn.

• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

• Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, Calif.

• Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind.

• Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, Calif.

• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Mo.

• Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio

• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif.

• Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Neb.

• Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah

With only his fingers and a cellphone, the Hayden resident created bright, colorful posters dedicated to each of the fallen Americans. No one piece is alike, featuring childhood and familial photos and images of the service members in combat uniform. 

"When I was making these, I cried. It was a labor of love to do this," Golub said. "Since I was 20 minutes away from dying on Jan. 23, 2016, I know that people are things that are special."

Golub shared his work online between Sept. 19 and Oct. 2, asking followers to join him in celebrating their lives. 

Along the way, Golub said he learned more about the individuals, which he tried to highlight in the posters. During the interview, Golub pointed out little things like how Merola looked like his mother and that McCollum aspired to be a high school teacher and wrestling coach after retiring from active duty. 

"David Lee Espinoza was only 19 years old, so I chose a picture of him hugging his mom," he explained. "This one was very emotional for me."

Per resident suggestion, Golub later combined the individual pieces into "The Kabul 13." 

Community members have also asked Golub to create a calendar with the individual and combined posters of "The Kabul 13." Though he loves the idea, Golub wants to connect with the families of each service member first.

"I'm not interested in profiting from this," he said. "I want to see it go to what the families want and need." 

So far, the artist hasn't been able to connect with the families. But with fans and friends worldwide, he hopes to contact them soon. If anyone can help Golub in his search, please contact him at nwinnovate@gmail.com. 

Golub is producing the calendar in conjunction with Jazzed about Reading, a local nonprofit that celebrates literacy and cultural enrichment.

"This is a great reminder that the lives of the fallen and their sacrifice do not go unnoticed," JAR founder Annie Winston said.

Calendar info: www.kabul13.org/calendar-1

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Alan Golub's "The Kabul 13" commemorates the 13 American service members that were killed in an attack on the Kabul Airport in late August. Photo courtesy Alan Golub.

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Since his stroke, Alan Golub has produced an estimated 2,500 art pieces including the rendering of Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore who was killed in the line of duty on May 5, 2015. Photo courtesy Alan Golub.

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Alan Golub created individual posters for each of the 13 U.S. service members who lost their life in an attack on the Kabul Airport in late August. This image commemorates Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Photo courtesy Alan Golub.

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Alan Golub created individual posters for each of the 13 U.S. service members who lost their life in an attack on the Kabul Airport in late August. This image commemorates Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, TX. Photo courtesy Alan Golub.

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Alan Golub created individual posters for each of the 13 U.S. service members who lost their life in an attack on the Kabul Airport in late August. This image commemorates Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, WY. Photo courtesy Alan Golub.