Artist captures sense of war's loss
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
By William Cole
The enormity of the loss is what struck artist Joanna Carolan — 27 sets of empty desert boots, 27 helmets, and 27 inverted M-16 rifles adorned with lei.
The memorial at the state Capitol was for 26 Hawai'i Marines and a sailor killed Jan. 26, 2005, in a helicopter crash in western Iraq, the greatest single loss of American lives in the war.
A 10-by-12-foot ceramic tile mural designed by Carolan that reflects the loss will be dedicated at 10 a.m. on Memorial Day at Kaua'i Veterans Cemetery.
Five years into the global war on terrorism, the service to country and ultimate sacrifice made by 2,465 U.S. military people in Iraq, and 235 in Afghanistan, has touched many lives.
While typing a list of names for a memorial plaque, Carolan said, "I was thinking, there were parents when this young man was born, who chose this name." She added, "It just brought it home again — this is a lot of men."
Other observances to remember the nation's war dead are being held tomorrow and Monday at cemeteries, including the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Hawai'i State Veterans Cemetery in Kane'ohe and at Schofield Barracks and Hale'iwa Beach Park.
The casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan have come singly, and increasingly in multiples as insurgents employ more sophisticated roadside bombs, which claim the greatest number of U.S. lives in Iraq.
Hawai'i-based Marines continue to record losses. Lance Cpl. William J. "B. Jay" Leusink, 21, of Maurice, Iowa, and Sgt. David R. Christoff, 25, of Rossford, Ohio, were killed Monday while on foot patrol in Iraq.
Since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, a total of 139 military people with Hawai'i ties have died as a result of injuries suffered mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Allen Hoe, a Vietnam combat vet from Maunawili whose 27-year-old son, 1st Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe, was killed in Iraq last year, said respect for those who make the ultimate sacrifice remains steadfast. But these days, it comes with increasing concern.
Hoe took part in a "Rolling Thunder" motorcycle ride to the Vietnam memorial last night in Washington, D.C., for a candlelight ceremony, and will be a guest speaker on Memorial Day at the Vietnam women's memorial.
"It seems like wherever I travel, or whomever I talk to, the loss (in Iraq) has not been diminished, the service has not been diminished," Hoe said. "(But) I think there is an increased sense of urgency, if you will, in that more people want to engage in discussions of how much more we have to go through."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, appearing Thursday on CNN's "Larry King Live," said war "is the last choice of anyone with any sense at all."
"The reality is that there are things worth fighting for. There are things worth dying for," Rumsfeld said. "And the people in each generation, each successive generation in our country's history, have come to that conclusion."
Carolan agreed to do the mural at the Kaua'i cemetery after veterans asked for a mural to cover a cinder block wall in an amphitheater. She had received an e-mail asking for volunteers.
"There has been so much loss of life in this latest Iraq war, and that was in the back of my mind," the 46-year-old artist said. "I guess it's a way, as a member of the community, to honor the sacrifice that they are making."
Carolan, who owns the Banana Patch Studio in Hanapepe and sells hand-painted ceramics at a studio and to gift shops, donated the ceramic tile mural, which she said has a value of about $25,000. A handful of her painters worked on its 560 tiles. The tile setting was donated by Tropical Paradise Flooring. Carolan does not have any military background, noting that "I came from a very liberal California pacifist family."
But, she said, she admires people who follow a military calling.
"I think it's too bad we live in a world where we still need that," she said, "but for people who are willing and give that sacrifice, I have nothing but respect for them."
Lawrence Schlang, a retired Navy flier who served in Vietnam and is first vice president of the Kaua'i council of the Navy League, said Carolan did an "excellent job" on the fired-tile mural.
The Navy League is selling prints of the mural to raise money to help maintain the cemetery, which is the resting place for about 1,500 veterans whose service extends back to World War II. Schlang said many are Nisei 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team veterans.
Although the mural reflects Marine Corps losses, Schlang said "we want to honor all of our veterans from all of our services from all of our wars."
Hoe, whose son was killed in Mosul, Iraq, by a sniper's bullet, said one of the things the country can do to really honor what its service men and women do "is to make sure Congress does not forget their service and commitment when they are no longer soldiers and they become veterans.
"One of the most disturbing things is the extent to which our government has not fully funded all of the entitlements and promises that were made to soldiers," Hoe said.
Reach William Cole at email@example.com.