Heather McMahan is a visual artist. She speaks five languages fluently and is a single mother of four.
She was 68 credits (with a Summa Cum Laude average) into her degree from Columbia University in New York when 9-11 led her to re-locate to Austin, Texas. When she arrived in Austin after 9-11 she noticed how it seemed very much like going from a combat to a non-combat zone. She empathized with the troops who pass through the Austin Bergstrom International Airport on leave from Iraq or Afghanistan, who must experience similar feelings. Inspired by this, and, with no formal artistic training, she hand-fashioned an exact clay replica of Desert Issue Boots, Helmet and Goggles, and arranged them as if hastily removed by a Soldier who has just been given leave, however short-lived. When this sculpture was first exhibited at ABIA, hundreds of heartfelt e-mails from soldiers and their families ensued:
The airport required monthly payments for the display, which constituted a formidable expense over time so she removed the sculpture and placed it in her living room. David Bruce McMahan, her father, shortly thereafter, at a Thanksgiving family reunion in her home, noticed it and insisted it be permanently on display at gate 15. The McMahan Family has decided to leave the piece on display until all the troops come home.
She named it Welcome Home, and soon fulfilled the request for a similar sculpture from The Pentagon:
The powerful effect of one piece of Art to express gratitude and recognition for war torn Soldiers and their families led her to create The Art For Soldiers Foundation.
AFS distributes Art by American Children expressing encouragement and gratitude for the troops' difficult job and sends it directly to the front lines via various venues.
In order to collect the Art, Heather McMahan travels the Country to speak before large groups of children, empowering them as young Patriots and Citizens as she reads them letters from Soldiers who received and were very moved by AFS Art while they draw.
She also stages large events on significant holidays in order to display the Art and recognize the Children for their efforts, further empowering them as young Citizens.
AFS has recently expanded to include the incoming wounded and all Veterans as candidates for this magnificent Art by our children by forming a partnership with 14 American Legion Posts and the VFW.
Heather McMahan spearheaded the Wounded Warrior Project, by forming a partnership with the National Cristina Foundation where Art is included in the boxes of donated laptops and computers to disabled Veterans as a "Thank You" note to accompany the gift.
Heather McMahan is one of the few civilians with military clearance to bid farewell to deploying troops out of Fort Hood and to help medics receive the incoming wounded.
A mobile unit turned into a home away from home for the troops called Mom's Place based at Fort Hood has been the latest focus of McMahan Family Philanthropy. David Bruce McMahan donated $12,000 on behalf of the Art For Soldiers Foundation for an additional mobile unit to expand the operation; Esteban and Dana McMahan donated $1000 for gardening tools and Heather McMahan bought a pickup truck to help distribute needed supplies from Mom's Place and The Fisher House to the Darnell Army Medical Center.
Heather McMahan has, as a result of her efforts, received many personal letters of recognition from Government officials including: The Office Of Assistant Secretary Of Defense at The Pentagon; Governor Perry; Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson; Mayor Nyle Maxwell of Round Rock; The Department of State Air Wing; and The American Legion.
She has received awards such as: The Award Of Excellence From The 208th Regional Support Group, Fort Hood, TX; from The Fisher Houses for Providing Comfort, Care and Compassion Beyond the Call of Duty; and was voted Woman Of The Year by The American Biographical Institute at the Library Of Congress.
She has appeared on live News Broadcasts for ABC, CBS, Univision, Keye News and various radio Talk shows. She is currently working on a book entitled Thank You, The Power Of Appreciation To Unify A Nation. It will be published by Bristol Publishing, each chapter will feature Sculptures and other Art and the letters from soldiers and their families that were changed by the same.