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News | Feb. 7, 2020

Artist receives DLA Installation Management Cultural Achievement Award for patriotic fitness center mural

By Ed Shank, DLA Distribution Public Affairs

For an artist looking to make her creative mark on the world, choosing a career in the military is probably not at the top of most people’s list. But for Roxanne Lenig, a painter with Defense Logistics Agency Installation Management Susquehanna, finding projects that allow her to showcase her talents has never been an issue. Her latest creation, a colorful mural honoring military service, was recently unveiled at the Defense Distribution Center Susquehanna Fitness Center.

Raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, by a mother who studied sculpture and a father who made a living as a professional carpenter, Lenig learned at an early age the pride that comes with creating something unique from scratch.

“I started drawing as a kid,” she says. “My mom would take us into the woods and draw flowers and stuff. Any art class I was ever in, that was the most important thing to me. My dad was a heavy highway carpenter his whole life and remodeled, renovated and built additions onto our home and my brother and I were always attempting to help him. I just saw how much you could do yourself when you have skills like that and don’t have to pay someone else to do it.”

Lenig didn’t have much exposure to military service until her older brother enlisted in the Army National Guard as a way of paying for college. Initially she was surprised by his decision, then she began thinking he might have been onto something.

“He’s three years older and we’re both very artistic,” she says. “Just knowing him and how similar we are kind of surprised me that joining the military was something he wanted to do. Then the competitive side of me thought ‘well if he can do that, then I can certainly do that!’”

Lenig’s plan was to earn money for art school while, at the same time, learn a practical trade that she could use outside the military. She already had an interest in the construction industry, so when a local recruiter told her about the Seabees, the Navy’s construction battalions established during World War II, she signed up.

“I joined the Seabees right out of high school and I loved it,” Lenig says. “I learned a lot, attended a lot of great schools, deployed—I got to experience a lot of different things. I was thrown into a male-dominant trade as well, so that was interesting. It’s played a big part in who I am today and how confident I am. I’m the only female here in maintenance, but I fit in well. I don’t feel out of place and I don’t feel like anyone treats me out of place.”

Soon after she enlisted word of her artistic talent spread.

“Doing art in the service started in boot camp,” Lenig says. “You know, where you carry flags, I painted the flag for my division. Getting to do that showed me that there are artistic opportunities without having an artistic job necessarily, but you can find a way. Later I designed t-shirts for my battalion for deployments or for different missions. I did a couple coins. I did a battalion mural on a bulldozer blade in Cuba and that was really cool. Murals at reserve centers. I’ve always found a way to implement my art and do projects on the side and the opportunities have always been there for me to do that.”

In between her monthly drills with the Navy Reserve, Lenig found full-time employment with DLA. But, after nine years driving to and from bases as far away as Long Island once a month, Lenig was happy to learn of a Pennsylvania Air National Guard construction unit located at nearby Fort Indiantown Gap.

“Construction has just really been a big part of my whole life,” she says. “So when I heard there was a local RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer) unit and that they have a whole independent compound and that basically my shop was a shop—fully equipped with tools and equipment—I jumped on it!”

Now the time she used to spend on the road traveling to drill is spent in her stained-glass studio at home or collaborating with coworkers like Stan Hemler, who created the stars and vinyl lettering on the gym mural.

“It’s just so flattering that that people trust me and let me run with my ideas,” Lenig says. “I just send them different design ideas and they pick one and I get to do it. I love being on this installation. Just getting to get work orders all over the place and meet people all over the place. I’m never just stuck in one location. It’s pretty great!”

Jan. 28 Roxanne Lenig was presented a DLA Installation Management Cultural Achievement Award by site director Robert Montefour in recognition of her fitness center mural. It was the first time in the history of the award that the awardee had been nominated by both the organization and a peer.