Most U.S. soldiers and Marines experience war through the barrel of a gun. A very select few experience war through a paint brush. The Marine Corps combat art program is one the most highly regarded in the military. As Carol Kino recently reported in the New York Times:
The program is not the only one of its kind in the United States military, but many regard it as the one most deeply committed to its artistic mission. Like those in the other services, it began after the attack on Pearl Harbor and scaled back after Vietnam. Somewhat unusually, however, it has kept at least one artist in the reserves ready to deploy. And while most of the services have reactivated their art programs since the start of the Bush administration’s "global war on terror," the Marine Corps’s has been the only one to cover most of the major conflicts.
But she goes on to explain that the program may be in danger. The requirements are not easily met — every artist must be as much warrior as painter, carrying the same combat gear and undergoing the same training as every other Marine. And now, only one full time artist remains.
You can read more about the program and its future at the Times.