‘Always Lost’ war exhibit called a gift from Western Nevada College to nation

Shannon Litz / Nevada Appeal

Shannon Litz / Nevada Appeal

During the opening ceremony for “Always Lost: A Meditation on War” at the Legislature on Wednesday, Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell called the exhibit a gift from Nevada to the rest of the nation.

“To the students and faculty at Western Nevada College, thank you for creating this stunning and thought-provoking gift to our nation,” he said. “Your community is terribly proud of your work.”

He called particular attention to the exhibit’s Wall of the Dead, featuring the names and photos of the more than 6,500 servicemen and women who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Every one of those men and women was out there putting his or her life on the line so that we can enjoy the benefits of a free society,” Crowell told the more 150 people gathered for the ceremony. “It is particularly fitting that this exhibit is displayed in the hallowed halls of this Legislative Building — a hallmark of democracy where our duly elected leaders can exercise the rights enabled by a free and open society that those on the Wall of the Dead gave their lives to ensure.”

The exhibition began as a creative-writing assignment at Western Nevada College in 2009 based on sociology professor Don Carlson’s idea that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were perhaps the most impersonal that the United States has ever fought.

It developed into a long-term effort by English professor Marilee Swirczek and her students to personalize the costs of war through words and images.

The exhibit includes writings by students and other Northern Nevadans, as well as combat photos used with permission from The Dallas Morning News.

The exhibit is the fourth featured at the Legislature in conjunction with SENarts, a partnership among the Nevada Senate, Nevada Arts Council and Nevada Division of Museums. It is free and open to the public weekdays through May 3.

Caleb Cage, executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, encouraged fellow Nevadans to look at the display. He said that as a veteran of the Iraq War, he was touched by it.

“In this unique generation of war, the ‘Always Lost’ exhibit is a perfect reflection of that war,” he said. “It’s visual. It’s multimedia. It brings in literature and art. But the biggest thing that makes it a representation of my war is that it allows the broader public to understand the cost these wars have been to society.”

After an initial showing at Western Nevada College, the exhibit has been displayed in 13 venues nationwide. The display at the Legislature is a newly replicated version made available with funds from the Carson Nugget/Community First.

Swirczek was pleased with the exhibit’s reception in its hometown.

“It provides a sacred space to contemplate the personal and public sacrifice of war,” she said. “The idea that this is a gift struck a chord in my heart that maybe this small effort on our part can bring healing and comfort to people across the country.”


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