By Marsha M. Brown
There is a lot to be said about self expression and the debate of whether life imitates art or art imitates life.
As a member of the V.F.W. (Veterans of Foreign Wars) my sweetie pie Billy receives a monthly magazine chocked full of very interesting articles. In the August 2014 issue I read about the National Veterans Art Museum that is located in Chicago. One of the exhibits the article described caught my attention and enticed me to research it further. The exhibit is called Above and Beyond and it’s an immediate reminder of the number of soldiers who lost their life in Vietnam.
After reading the V.F.W. article then going on the Internet I was led to numerous YouTube options where I learned that the especially intriguing display is not attached to a wall or stationed in the middle of the museum floor but rather suspended from the ceiling at the entryway of the museum itself. What is it? More than 58,000 dog tags with the soldiers name, the branch in which they served and the year they died inscribed on each one that dangle from the ceiling. In the video you could hear them clanging together as if in a morbid song and it was powerful. As I studied the display for a moment, the slight movement of the dog tags just hanging on the chains made me think of the countless tears and I was moved beyond words.
Further research led me to an assortment of YouTube options: one being a conversation between a Vietnam veteran volunteer at the Museum and visitors. During the verbal exchange he described several exhibits and how the Museum had come to be; in another, a veteran who was also the Museum President featured more art work and what had inspired the artist to use the materials he chose. The videos each demonstrated the impressions made on the men who served and survived the war to tell about it and the visuals themselves were profound and haunting. The videos and pictures made me want to read and see more and at the same time, I felt a temptation to stop the search. The images were beautifully and masterfully captured on canvas, through sculpture and each encompassed the real deal…the real experience of Vietnam. It made me glad to know that the small group of Vietnam veterans who initiated grouping their art inspired others who also saw the value of helping the general public understand…even just a little…of what they had known all too well and first hand.
Art is a concrete tangible way of letting people see inside your soul…of what makes you tick…and what has touched your life in a positive or negative way. I’m glad I read Billy’s V.F.W. magazine…but I’m always glad to read about the brave men and women who have loved and lost for the good of our country. Their legacy is priceless and the way in which they show us their pain, their sacrifice and their experiences paves a better path to understanding just how miraculous it is that any of ‘ours’ came home at all.
Because of the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council I’ve come to know and greatly appreciate Dare Arts Council Director Chris Sawin. Chris attends the monthly Veterans Advisory Council meetings whenever his busy schedule permits and his personal interest and commitment to Dare County veterans is clear. As the wife of a Vietnam veteran myself, I can honestly tell you that Chris has inspired me to further my own creativity through writing. He’s a knowledgeable source of information and help to anyone interested in art, the expressions of ones own self and he is forever seeking to enhance the experience of visitors to the art gallery in the old Courthouse downtown Manteo. It’s my understanding that Chris along with staff and volunteers of the Dare Arts Council will again host a Veteran Writers Workshop this coming November. Please stay abreast of that event and if you are a veteran I suggest you strongly consider attending the class this year. Veterans, who have served during a conflict, can greatly benefit from the educational and inspiring two day Writer’s Workshop…at least think about it. It’s offered to you (vets) at no charge, refreshments are served and the gentlemen who teach the class are caring and dedicated to honoring veterans. As we get closer to November, GIG LINE will bring to light all of the activities in your (veteran) honor with the hope that you will embrace the love, support and acknowledgement that interested Dare County citizens are organizing in your behalf.
Speaking of the V.F.W. (Veterans of Foreign Wars) members of V.F.W. Outer Banks Post 10950 meet every third Wednesday at 7:00 PM at 302 W. Lake Dr., Kill Devil Hills. Membership interest is growing and the active group encourages all eligible veterans to join them or consider transferring your membership and help support the goals they have for future projects. If you’re interested, please call Jim Norrell (252) 489-9421. Also, another very dedicated veteran group is The American Legion Fort Raleigh Post 26 who meet every forth Tuesday at 12:00 Noon (lunch is served). Each organization meets at that same location in Kill Devil Hills. In addition, the Post is open Monday through Friday between 10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon if you’d like to stop by for an updated Veteran Benefit Booklet, info on Agent Orange etc. Each Wednesdays between 10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon, Dare County resident veterans who can bring their DD-214 showing Honorable Discharge and a local Driver’s License can acquire their Dare County Veteran I. D. Card which entitles them to discounts at 32 local businesses which equates to B-I-G savings!
H-E-L-P! If anyone who reads GIG LINE has old military uniforms or gear that you would like to donate to be used in our annual ‘SALUTE TO VETERANS’ program held each year on the Saturday before Veterans Day, we could sure use them. We need helmets, shirts, pants, boots, belts, military shoes, canteens, duffle bags and anything else you can think of. The items we currently have on hand are stored in bins for safekeeping and they are gingerly cared for. Any and all military uniforms and gear would be of help and they would be treated with respect and handled with care. Please contact me at (252) 202-2058 and we will pick them up, catalog the ‘provider’ and we will be forever grateful. Our ‘SALUTE’ is increasing in popularity and we hope to grow our inventory of authentic clothing, hats etc. as time goes on. We have acquired some clothing over the past few years at yard sales and thrift stores but we need quite a bit more. So thank you in advance for helping spread the word.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. Our men and women are enduring great hardships in many different ways every single day for our safety and well being. Pray for them, write to them, and thank God for them. These are trying times…look to find ways to help our troops, support them and give them the praise and respect they deserve…and their families too. As always, we love you all. My sweetie pie Billy and I thank you for reading GIG LINE! Please stay tuned…I promise there is much more to come!