SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - When the Women Veterans’ Clinic opens up next year inside the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport — a new painting will be hanging up on the walls.
The artist is Broadway Swim — a local veteran who served in both the Army and the Air Force and has a passion for painting. Swim’s paintings line the walls of his home, but this self-taught artist has been painting since he served in the Army decades ago.
“I did paintings for the Armed Forces Aid to Korea Program," he said. "I painted signs for them.”
Swim was still attending Booker T. Washington High School in Shreveport when he ended up joining the Army back in 1952.
“My MOS (Military Occupation Code) was a signal message clerk, but during the war they sent me to the front lines," he said.
Swim saw and experienced a lot of things during the Korean War — and even had one of his own servicemen try to kill him.
“It was a fella from Arkansas," he said. "He tried to run me off a mountain and he left me on the front lines. We (were) in a truck convoy hauling ammunition to the front lines… we started receiving enemy fire and he left me there by myself.”
A bomb also exploded near him while he was there impacting his memory.
“For two weeks I was going back and forth on the front lines, and didn’t even know about it," Swim said.
But before Korea, Swim was one of 200 soldiers that went through atomic bomb testing in Nevada.
“I had my eyes closed," he said. "I saw three different lights, the first was a blue light. The next one was an orange colored light and then there was a bright light and that was the explosion of the bomb.”
Despite everything he experienced, he decided after retiring in 1955 and getting his high school diploma to serve again — this time in the Air Force in 1957.
“I was possessed with the notion of serving my country," he said. "I couldn’t care less how I was treated, but I was here in the country and if I’m going to live in this country, I had to defend this country.”
The explosion Swim experienced in Korea ended up having a lasting impact on his memory, and soon he was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1959.
Finished with the military, Swim soon began to paint more extensively. His work has traveled all the way to New York City and even Haiti, and he’s painted over 50 portraits during his career as an artist.
The piece he is working on now is of four women veterans from the Ark-La-Tex that will permanently hang in the Women Veterans Clinic at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center.
“I felt that the women in this country (were) not given the credit due for what they have done," he said.
Swim still has a few things to touch up before he presents it back to the hospital, but he is honored knowing he’s using his passion to create a piece of history for others to see.
“I just felt something that I have never felt before," he said. "I was glad to have done the painting just to see those women who have been in service and have contributed to this country’s greatness.”
When Swim isn’t painting he is writing books and also serves as a preacher. He’s created numerous programs for children throughout his time in Shreveport and even produced the city’s first African American beauty pageant.