If a picture is worth 1,000 words, the Makos family will never run out of stories to tell about the veterans featured in the art prints offered by the Valor Studios.
The family-owned business deals in limited edition lithographs focused on military history.
The business traces its roots to 1994, when brothers Adam and Bryan Makos created a newsletter telling stories of World War II veterans. They called it “Ghost Wings” after a B-17 bomber that vanished “like a ghost” soon after World War II.
The brothers, who were in middle school at the time, were fascinated by stories of World War II told by both of their grandfathers, who further fueled the youngsters’ enthusiasm by taking them to air shows and museums.
In time, the brothers turned the newsletter into Valor magazine, which they continued to publish through their college years, with Adam as Editor/Publisher and Bryan as Art Director.After graduation, Adam and Bryan’s sisters, Erica and Elizabeth, joined the family business, which also now includes parents Bob and Karen.
Since the magazine had always borrowed images from aviation artists to include in the magazine’s pages, in 2002 the family had the idea to commission custom paintings and sell prints as fundraisers.
The first artist they approached was John D. Shaw, who was commissioned to paint “We Were a Band of Brothers,” a scene of paratroopers preparing for D-Day. Major Dick Winters of the famous Easy Company depicted in the Band of Brothers television series agreed to sign the prints, making them a hit in the market.
Since 2003, the family has produced a new print each year to tell the stories of American veterans.
One of the most gripping prints depicts the true story of combat chivalry in the skies of World War II, when a German fighter pilot passed up the opportunity to finish off a flak-riddled B-17 bomber and instead escorted it back to safety.
In 2012, Adam turned that story into a book called “A Higher Calling,” which tells the stories of the two pilots, who eventually met after the war. After spending 23 weeks on the New York Times best seller list, the movie rights were sold.