June 3, 2012

In Recognition of 'Always Lost' War Project

WNC English Professor Receives DAR Medal of Honor

Sharon Brewer (R) awards Marilee Swirczek the DAR Medal of Honor
Sharon Brewer (R) awards Marilee Swirczek the DAR Medal of Honor

The Daughters of the American Revolution, John C. Fremont Chapter has recognized Western Nevada College Professor Mariliee Swirczek with the DAR Medal of Honor, an award given to an individual who demonstrates extraordinary qualities of leadership, trustworthiness, service and patriotism. The award honors one who has made unusual and lasting contributions to American Heritage by truly giving of himself or herself to his or her community, state, country, and fellowman.

Swirczek earned the recognition for her creation of and devotion to “Always Lost-A Meditation on War,” an exhibit that honors soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Swirczek spearheaded the project which includes photography, literary works and the “Wall of the Dead,” photographic panels that display the faces of the men and women who have given their lives during the conflicts.

"I never imagined, when my creative writing class in 2008 thought and wrote about war and conflict, particularly the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, that the product of their work would become an art/humanities exhibition that would capture our nation's attention,” said Swirczek. “Wherever it travels, the exhibition provides a sacred space to contemplate the personal and collective costs of war."

Swirczek credited the award to those who have given their time to the project. “I am humbled and honored by this recognition from the John C. Fremont Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and have accepted the Medal of Honor on behalf of the Always Lost team,” she said.

“As with any worthwhile project, it is a tremendous group effort. In our case, the effort is ongoing. The Wall of the Dead team, headed by retired Marine Major and adjunct WNC English instructor Kevin Burns, is committed to keeping the memorial wall current until the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are concluded. At the moment, approximately 1,600 casualties are being added to the wall, a meticulous effort that takes hundreds of hours."

Swirczek received the Medal of Honor at an award ceremony on May 19 at the Nature Conservancy/Arbor Day Whit Hall Interpretive Center located at River Fork Ranch, Genoa.

"During the award ceremony, I was acutely aware of the connection between the sacrifices made by our service members who fought in the Revolutionary War, and that continue to be made by our current service members in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Swirczek said. “We brought three panels of the exhibition's ‘Wall of the Dead’ to the DAR ceremony -- so approximately 600 faces of our war dead in the Middle East were silent witnesses to the DAR's recognition, not only of our efforts to memorialize them, but of the great cost of war to our nation."

The exhibit will show next at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village in September before resuming its national tour at Michigan Technological University in October. Future plans for the exhibit continue to include a showing in Washington D.C.

Press Release: June 13, 2012

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