The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #12108 in Beatty, Nev., hosts the Western Nevada College nationally touring arts and humanities exhibition, “Always Lost: A Meditation on War,” Oct. 12 through Nov. 12.
Regarded as a “national treasure” by viewers, the heart of this unique war memorial is the Wall of the Dead: faces and names of U.S. military service members who perished in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since Sept. 11, 2001.
Known as the “Can Do Post,” the Beatty VFW has been an active in its community since May 2011. In 2013, with support from the town of Beatty and local businesses, members of Post #12108 converted a historic Episcopal church into its meeting hall. The post is named in honor of Sgt. John C. Strozzi, a resident of Beatty who was killed in action during WWII.
VFW Beatty Post Commander George Wehrly said, “We are humbled to honor those who sacrificed it all. This VFW Post has many members who have served in the Gulf wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan. We feel our meeting hall is the perfect place to display the “Always Lost: A Meditation on War exhibit.”
The VFW, John C. Strozzi Post #12108 is the 11th venue on the 2014-16 Nevada tour of “Always Lost,” sponsored by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services as part of the state’s Sesquicentennial Celebration.
“I see ‘Always Lost’ as a way to promote a statewide conversation about veterans’ issues important to Nevada and our nation,” said NDVS Director Kat Miller, “and to inspire a sense of collective responsibility and respect that drives workforce, educational, and wellness opportunities for veterans in Nevada.”
Along with the exhibition’s poignant memorial wall, “Always Lost” 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 WNC 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 the U.S.â€™s obligations to those who serve in harm’s way on the country’s behalf.
The exhibition began as a class project at Western Nevada College in Carson City. After viewing the New York Times’ Roster of the Dead in 2008, sociology professor Don Carlson observed that the Iraq War was “perhaps the most impersonal war the U.S. has ever fought.” He and English professor Marilee Swirczek envisioned a literary and visual arts exhibition to bring home the costs of war.
Students in Swirczek’s creative writing classes and volunteers scoured Department of Defense casualty lists to create the Wall of the Dead. Swirczek recalls that process “as like a funeral in the office every day.” Retired Marine Maj. Kevin Burns, a student in the class and currently WNC’s Veterans Resource Center coordinator, titled the exhibition after an observation by American writer Gertrude Stein: “War is never fatal but always lost. Always Lost.”
In 2009, the exhibition was installed at WNC for three months as a student art show, but it captured the nation’s attention and has been bringing a message of awareness and unity to communities across the U.S. since 2010. “Always Lost” was lauded by U.S. Sens. 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 “our community’s gift to the nation,” and Gov. Brian Sandoval recognized it with an official proclamation on Veterans Day, 2014.
“Always Lost: A Meditation on War” offers a sacred space for viewers to contemplate the effects of war. One viewer wrote in the guest book that travels with “Always Lost:””You could not possibly leave this exhibition the same person you were when you walked in.”
Viewing hours at the VFW Beatty, John C. Strozzi Post #12108 are noon to 10 p.m. daily. “Always Lost: A Meditation on War” is free and open to the public. Visitors to the post are always welcome.
To learn more about “Always Lost: A Meditation on War,” go to: www.wnc.edu/always_lost/
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