Museum hosts ‘Always Lost: A Meditation on War’

Visitors look at the Always Lost: A Meditation on War exhibit at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Monday, April 6, 2015.

Visitors look at the Always Lost: A Meditation on War exhibit at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Monday, April 6, 2015.

The Churchill County Museum in Fallon will host the nationally touring arts and humanities exhibition “Always Lost: A Meditation on War” from Aug. 6-Sept. 27.

-Called “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 war personnel who perished in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since Sept. 11, 2001. The exhibition shows Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Dodge-Fitz Changing Exhibits Gallery.

An opening reception will be Aug. 6 at 6 p.m.

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 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 harm’s way on our behalf.

The exhibition began as a class project at Western Nevada College. 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 “was like a funeral in the office every day.” Retired Marine Major 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. 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 “our community’s gift to the nation,” and Nevada Governor 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 on each of us. One viewer wrote in the guest book that: “You could not possibly leave this exhibition the same person you were when you walked in.”

“This is a greatly anticipated exhibit that we are honored to display and proud to share with our community,” said Churchill County Museum Administrator Donna Cossette, “‘Always Lost’ 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.”

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.

“In ‘Always Lost,’ 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, ‘Always Lost,’ for reminding us of the cost of freedom.”

The museum is the 10th venue on the 2014-2016 Nevada tour of “Always Lost,” sponsored by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services as part of the state’s Sesquicentennial Celebration.


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