The Churchill County Museum in Fallon will host the nationally touring arts and humanities exhibition â€œAlways Lost: A Meditation on War,â€ August 6-September 27.
Called â€œa national treasureâ€ by viewers, the heart of this unique war memorial is the Wall of the Dead, faces and names of U.S. military war personnel who perished in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since Sept. 11, 2001. The exhibition shows Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Dodge-Fitz Changing Exhibits Gallery.
An opening reception will be Thursday, Aug. 6, at 6 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.
Along with the exhibitionâ€™s poignant memorial wall, â€œAlways Lostâ€ brings home the individual and collective costs of war through original poetry by Nevada writers; the 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning Iraq War combat photograph collection, courtesy of The Dallas Morning News; photographic portraits and interviews of Western Nevada College student veterans who represent the thousands of service members returning home from the wars; and the profile and poetry of Army SPC Noah C. Pierce, who took his own life after serving two tours in Iraq. Observations about the nature of war from ancient philosophers to modern-day generals provoke reflection about our obligations to those who serve in harmâ€™s way on our behalf.
The exhibition began as a class project at Western Nevada College. After viewing the New York Timesâ€™ Roster of the Dead in 2008, sociology professor Don Carlson observed that the Iraq War was â€œperhaps the most impersonal war the U.S. has ever fought.â€ He and English professor Marilee Swirczek envisioned a literary and visual arts exhibition to bring home the costs of war.
Students in Swirczekâ€™s creative writing classes and volunteers scoured Department of Defense casualty lists to create the Wall of the Dead. Swirczek recalls that process â€œwas like a funeral in the office every day.â€ Retired Marine Major Kevin Burns, a student in the class and currently WNCâ€™s Veterans Resource Center coordinator, titled the exhibition after an observation by American writer Gertrude Stein: â€œWar is never fatal but always lost. Always Lost.â€
In 2009, the exhibition was installed at WNC for three months as a student art show, but it captured the nationâ€™s attention and has been bringing a message of awareness and unity to communities across the U.S. since 2010. â€œAlways Lostâ€ was lauded by U.S. Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller, who hoped that the exhibition might someday visit Washington, D.C. The Daughters of the American Revolution, John C. Fremont Chapter, awarded Swirczek its Medal of Honor for patriotism for her stewardship of the exhibition. Carson City Mayor Robert Crowell calls the exhibition â€œour communityâ€™s gift to the nation,â€ and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval recognized it with an official proclamation on Veterans Day, 2014.
â€œAlways Lost: A Meditation on Warâ€ offers a sacred space for viewers to contemplate the effects of war on each of us. One viewer wrote in the guest book that: â€œYou could not possibly leave this exhibition the same person you were when you walked in.â€
Churchill County Museum Administrator Donna Cossette said, â€œThis is a greatly anticipated exhibit that we are honored to display and proud to share with our community. â€˜Always Lostâ€™ pays tribute to those who have served and lost their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and makes us remember the enormous debt of gratitude we owe to all those who have served in the armed forces.â€
Tony Forbes, former Director of Community Outreach and Engagements for Nevada Department of Veterans Services and a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, expressed gratitude for the exhibition. â€œIn â€˜Always Lost,â€™ I see the faces of heroes and am reminded that I hate war and yet love America. I will always hold the men and women of our military in the highest regard and forever honor those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you, â€˜Always Lost,â€™ for reminding us of the cost of freedom.â€
The museum is the tenth venue on the 2014-2016 Nevada tour of â€œAlways Lost,â€ sponsored by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services as part of the stateâ€™s Sesquicentennial Celebration.
Called the â€œOasis of Nevada,â€ 60 miles east of Reno along Highway 50, Fallon is home to the TOP GUN school, the U.S. Navyâ€™s premier air-to air and air-to-ground training facility. Silhouettes of fighter jets from the Fallon Naval Air Station are often seen against the sunburned skies. The vast area surrounding Fallon contains a number of bombing and electronic warfare ranges.
Fallon also boasts a robust arts culture of which the Churchill County Museum is a part.