Jim DeZerga has found an unusual forum in which to hold a tribute to members of the Armed Forces from western Nevada who have served in the Middle East.
DeZerga is directing a musical called "Cotton Patch Gospel." The play, written in the 1950s, sets the story of Jesus in modern-day Georgia.
There's a song in the play when Joseph and Mary realize, after attempting to visit Jesus, that they'll never have the son back that they knew. They sing a song, "You are Still My Boy."
It is during that song in DeZerga's production that a video will play in the background with photos of western Nevada troops.
How does a tribute to our troops fit into that scene? To DeZerga, a military veteran himself, it's obvious: War changes its participants.
"Soldiers never come back the same," DeZerga said.
He's is not just talking about physical injuries, but the emotional scars many troops carry home with them.
That's something that was impressed on me during a flight out of Seattle several months ago. It was a quiet flight, with everyone remaining comfortably anonymous until the woman sitting next to me responded to a stewardesses' plea for a doctor to help a business traveler who was having trouble breathing.
When she returned to her seat, we struck up a conversation, and I found out she was an intern at Madigan Army Medical Center. She told me about the amputees and other injured soldiers who never seem to make it into the stories about the effects of the war.
And she told me about the post-traumatic-stress symptoms. I'd read stories with estimates that one out of every six troops come home with those problems, and I asked her what she thought the right number was.
"All of them," she said.
I hope she was exaggerating, but as she told me about her experiences I began to wonder. She told me about soldiers trying to cope with nightmares, sleeplessness, anger, depression. You can't just experience the sights, sounds and smells of war and leave it all behind, she said.
So when DeZerga told me about the idea behind the tribute, I understood what he was thinking.
In putting together the tribute, he worked with Blue Star Mothers of America, which is composed of family members and friends of members of the Armed Forces and has a goal of supporting members of the military. They'll have a booth in the lobby when the play is staged, beginning April 21 at the Brewery Arts Center.
DeZerga emphasized the tribute is not a political statement on the war.
The four-minute video that will play during that song won't be comprehensive ... there are just too many Nevadans who have served in the Middle East.
For a tribute of another kind, he recommended the Web site www.legacy.com. It contains memorials to 2,627 of the troops who have been killed in the war, including 23 from Nevada.
For the past six years, The Nevada Appeal has been honored to sponsor the Community Awards as a way to recognize some of our most outstanding citizens.
Some people have been calling wondering if the departure of one of the driving forces behind the awards, editor Barry Smith (now executive director of the Nevada Press Association), means the awards won't be held this year.
Rest assured, that won't happen. Planning has begun for this year's awards. Stay tuned for more information.
• Barry Ginter is the editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at email@example.com or 881-1221.