Thursday, November 11, 2010

On Veterans Day

By Gregg Chadwick

Winslow Homer
The Veteran in a New Field
24 1/8" x 38 1/8" oil on canvas 1865
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Veterans Day is more than just a day off. Instead it is a time to reflect on duty, honor, service, and life. Winslow Homer's The Veteran in a New Field portrays a Union veteran of the American Civil War back at work on the farm. But the painting is not instantly celebratory. There are no angels and there is no parade. Instead a psychic weight seems to be guiding the veteran's scythe as it cuts the stand of grain, much like the volleys of shot and shell mowed down troops, on both sides of that brutal war.

There is hope though in the warm, life giving color of the wheat, a Northern crop, and the cerulean sky. All wars must eventually come to an end. Uniforms are cast off. Homer paints the ex-soldier's jacket and canteen tossed onto the newly cut field. Life does go on.

The soldier will inevitably struggle to find his place in the mundane world of civilian work. And the civilian world struggles to understand these warriors bereft of armor and weapons plopped back into society. Wounds need time and care to heal.

Art can help bridge this gap.

Stories need to be told.

Today, at the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago and on HBO in the film Wartorn 1861-2010, veterans of our current wars have been given a chance to tell their stories. Please see below for more details.

On this Veterans Day I want to thank my father Robert Chadwick for his service in the United States Marine Corps, my father in law Ralph Heilemann for his service in the United States Navy, my sister-in-law Heidi Bavlnka for her service in the United States Army, my uncle Jake Desch for his service in the United States Airforce, my cousin Michael Lowther for his service in the United States Marine Corps, my friend Paul Patchem for his service in the United States Navy, and my buddy Mark Stephens for his service in the United States Navy.

Opening today at the National Veteran's Art Museum in Chicago, Illinois is the exhibit Intrusive Thoughts: An exhibition of work by Veterans of the Iraq, Afghanistan, and Global War on Terror.

The museum website describes the theme of the show:

"Intrusive thoughts are unwelcome involuntary thoughts, images, or unpleasant ideas that may become obsessions are upsetting or distressing, and can be difficult to manage or eliminate.
Although they are commonly unseen, there are silent signs of our current occupations in our local communities, households, and memories. This show will feature work by veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terror that will bring these signs from the shadows to the forefront and give these traumas a voice in the political and cultural discussion of today."

The exhibition includes artwork by Jeremy Stainthorp Berggren, Erica Slone, Combat Paper Project, Peter Sullivan, Jacob Flom, Jon Turner, Ash Kyrie, Chris Vongsawat, Leonard Shelton, Joyce Wagner, and Warrior Writers Project.

Opens Tonight, November 11, 2010
7PM Artist Talks/Presentation
5-8 PM | National Veterans Art Museum 1801 S. Indiana Ave. 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60616

Screenshot from HBO Films Documentary Wartorn 1861-2010

And tonight on HBO, the documentary Wartorn 1861-2010 The film examines what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Civil War, through two World Wars and Vietnam, and recent cases from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Using a technique often used by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, soldiers stories are told through letters and journals as well as photographs, combat footage, and interviews with veterans and family members of soldiers with PTSD. Also included are insightful conversations between James Gandolfini and top U.S. military personnel, enlisted men in Iraq, and medical experts working at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Directed By: Jon Alpert and Ellen Goosenberg Kent
Producers: Jon Alpert, Matthew O'Neill and Ellen Goosenberg Kent
Executive Producers: James Gandolfini and Sheila Nevins
Co-Producer Lori Shinseki
Co-Producer Archival Segments Caroline Waterlow
Edited by Geof Bartz A.C.E., Andrew Morreale and Jay Sterrenberg
Co-Executive Producer Alexandra Ryan
Associate Producers Trixie Flynn and Thomas Richardson
Supervising Producer Sara Bernstein

Wartorn 1861-2010 premieres on Veteran’s Day 2010 – Thursday, November 11 at 9/8c, on HBO.

More at:
Buglers, Veterans And The Lonely Yet Comforting Sound Of Taps
National Veterans Art Museum
Veterans Day Frequently Asked Questions

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