Painting Connects Psychiatrist, Security Guard

Pio Rivera and David Forrest’64 with a painting that depicts a Vietnam base where they both served at different times during the war

When it came time for David Forrest’64 to enter the annual CUMC art show, he decided to enter four paintings he created in Vietnam, where he served as an Army psychiatrist between 1968 and 1969.

Among the many faculty, staff, and students who viewed the art show in the lower levels of the Hammer Health Sciences Center was CUMC public safety officer Pio Rivera, who recognized the hootches (Army slang for housing) and water truck in one of the paintings. “I noticed a sign that said Long Binh 69. The old truck was the five-ton water truck that we would drive. That blew me away,” says Mr. Rivera. 

Between 1971 and 1972, Mr. Rivera had been stationed at the same base he saw in the painting. He served with the 120th Aviation Company, a helicopter unit. Mr. Rivera turned 19 shortly after arriving in Vietnam. “I didn’t see a lot of action while I was there,” he says, “but the experience made me grow up, a little bit faster than I was supposed to.”

Mr. Rivera contacted Dr. Forrest and asked to buy the painting. After sharing memories of the war and life at Long Binh in Vietnam, Dr. Forrest agreed to sell the painting to Mr. Rivera in return for a donation to P&S, a donation Mr. Rivera hopes will be used to support Columbia research that benefits veterans.

“Seeing that painting, buying it from Dr. Forrest, talking to him about the war: It’s been an adventure and a half,” says Mr. Rivera.

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