Point of View

Wisconsin Veterans Museum

2011

Reluctant Hero

Artist: Jonas Angelet

Veteran: Michael G., US Army

After listening to the interview tapes of my collaborator, I was struck by a period of his military life, when he returned to civilian life after Vietnam and other wars, and was met with an angry populous that decried war. He mentioned a time when he immediately started to grow his hair out and look “shaggy” in an attempt to blend in with regular society. He discussed a period where he was proud of his service to his country but trying to navigate life where military was viewed as “the enemy” to on collage campuses.  I attempted to illustrate his conflicted civilian life, primarily after Vietnam, when he felt less inclined to claim military status, but was also proud of his duties and quietly reflecting on his experience. The images in my work illustrate the fading memory and pride for his former life combined with an isolated figure trying not to draw attention to his patriotic emotions and instincts. The flag is small but represents a large hunk of his memory and thus the large, abstracted and broken frame for the soldiers in the center.

V.F.V. #1

Artist: Heather Buechler
Veteran: Paul D., US Marine Corps

I just could not shake Paul’s first encounter with ocean. It was a mere ten minutes in, but it stuck with me for the duration of the interview. I listened again, and still all I could see was the ocean. When I did not see the ocean, I saw villas in Havana and the heat in the night, the smell of liquor and sweat, and the breeze from people dancing. This carried me through until the rush of the Baltic landed upon the ports of Helsinki, where I saw men playing rugby and a man who just years prior could never have guessed this was where he would end up.

It wasn’t a romance of war I clung to. It was the romance of travel, the romance of leaving home, flying across oceans, experiencing a constant shift in geography, and cultivating relationships thousands of miles apart. 

Barbed-Wire Haircut

Artist: Tyler Green

Veteran: Gerald K., US Air Force

“You are what you eat,” I always heard growing up.

The same goes for what you do. An example is the definition, or what makes up the “who,” of a dishwasher. This could include the dishes and suds and hot water and sweat and the shower after work. It includes the restaurant and the customers and the garbage cans out back. “Who” is inextricably tied to “what.” I wanted this print to depict what Gerald was as a guard in a prisoner of war camp. As a guard in the camp he was, in a way, the camp itself. He was a barbed wire fence and a rifle and the dust in the air. This is not to say he was not an individual, because he surely was. He was also these other things, larger things. He was the detainees and the soldiers and a country at war.

MRE Pizza

Artist: Kris Broderick
Veteran: Steve N., US Air Force

I listened to Steve’s story several times looking for something special to inform my artwork.  Every time I listened, I noticed that there was one point at which his voice came alive and I could hear a special feeling: 

“I made an MRE pizza recipe: took a square of crackers, pouch of meatballs and sauce, spread that over the crackers, packet of cheese, spread that on top and then warm that up…cheese and sausage pizza.”

It seemed that this was his little bit of home away from home in an otherwise dreary and work-filled life on the other side of the world.  I wanted to make that bright spot that he created be a memorial to the spirit of the type of man who could find something good in a place that challenged him every step of the way.

Night-Vision Bonfire

Artist: Yvette Pino

Veteran: Micah A., US Air Force

“You are never alone. You never have any time to yourself.”

This sentiment stuck out as I listened to Micah’s story as a deployed F-15 mechanic in Afghanistan. One night, however, he had an opportunity to fly on a C-130 with the flight crew. The light of day was fading quickly as they made their descent into Jalalabad. Because the airfield was in the middle of the city they had to approach in blackout conditions. Suddenly everything was dark. Micah was finally alone, metaphorically. He put on his night-vision goggles and from the darkness appeared a vast mountainside with only the small glow of bon-fires creating dots of energy: A beautiful vision amidst the shared idea of never being alone.

The Paintbrush Became

My Security Clearance

Artist: Max White
Veteran: Yvette P., US Army

Yvette had an amazing story to tell. Her narrative evoked a variety of visually-imaged translations. What struck me most, and became the salient feature of the dry-point print created for this project, was her role as an artist in the military.

During Yvette’s narrative, she related how she had been selected out by Major Fitzpatrick to do specialized projects, because of her drawing and painting skills. While deployed in Kuwait & Iraq, completing two tours of service, Yvette created emblems, signs, and murals (Rendezvous with Destiny). She even emblazoned gigantic landing fields with symbolic eagles, using jet fuel to thin the paint.

I saw an important continuum in this aspect of her story, especially since the context within which I know Yvette today is as a fellow artist, one who currently pursues advanced studies in the field at UW-Madison. I thought that this thread, one of determination, challenge, physicality, and working with ones hands, was significant to her life, and thus it became the perfect center around which I visually interpreted her narrative.

FOB Boris: Much Learned,

Much Taught

Artist: Sara Wrzesinski

Veteran: Timothy B., US Army

This piece was inspired by several elements of Timothy’s oral history and some independent research I did about Afghanistan and the area where he did his tour. Afghanistan is a beautiful and rugged place. As he said, “It would be a great place to visit, if there weren’t people shooting at you all the time.” Timothy was stationed at FOB Boris in Paktika Province, which is very near the Eastern border with Pakistan. While he was there, the FOB was re-named Boris; it had been called Bermel previously.

The following elements were included in this print: A Toyota Corolla, which is the unofficial vehicle of Afghanistan, it is the most popular and desirable vehicle for civilians there. A goat riding on a camel, a sight Sergeant Balke saw while there. The camels also represent traditional Afghani society and the ingenuity of the people. The MRAP, the vehicle used by our military in Afghanistan. Timothy preferred tor ride in the gun tower of his MRAP when they were out on a mission- it was spacious and gave him the ability to quickly get out to attend to casualties.

For Matthew

Artist: Tracy Honn

Veteran: Matthew S., US Marines

Matthew’s voice and his story are riveting. I still have a sense of stunned astonishment from what I learned listening to his oral history recording. After I heard it, we met and Matthew generously answered my questions, and also talked about what he is doing now. Matthew is studying history.

At the core of this narrative are questions about institutional power and personal integrity. The print I made is about my feelings about what I heard. Matthew can tell his story best, and he has great abilities to do so.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.