THE REAL COST OF WAR
A CIRCLE OF TEARS
I’m a Vietnam War Veteran. I’m also an artist from Lander, Wyoming. For decades, I have made bronze sculptures and monuments and painted life in the American West. My work is what I have lived; it’s what I know best.
But now, I want to make a different kind of art. I want to send a message through a sculpture about my experience in the Vietnam War, and the cost of war. I named this sculpture “A Circle of Tears: The Real Cost of War.”
It doesn’t matter what side you’re on; war damages everyone. War doesn’t just kill soldiers. It kills children, families – whether or not they are fighting. The trauma of war affects the soldier, their family, and their entire country. Wars fought abroad are also fought at home with layers of emotions and violence. The injuries of war show in missing limbs and eyes. But war’s injuries also show up in the hearts of veterans who battle PTSD. And their families who deal with that trauma, too.
My hope is to place this sculpture in public areas. The subject matter is traumatic, but I want to induce shock. I want to shock people out of the myth that war is a symbol of power. War is violence. War is obscene. This country is always ready for war. We celebrate war in our society. I do not think we will ever stop war, but we can pressure our government so war is a last resort. I want this country to transform into a powerful symbol of peace in the world.
I put the Marine in, and that represents me. Beside him is his automatic rifle, his equipment – weapons of war. But in that moment outside of the hospital where I was treated for a traumatic brain injury, I was just a person, and those kids were just kids. So I started with a young girl missing her leg in the Marine’s arms. And I imagined the young girl seeing her mother, and the mother hasn’t seen her daughter since her leg’s been blown off. And I know I’m supposed to be a tough old Marine, but I’ve cried, too.
My intent is not anything to diminish anyone’s service. You know, sometimes if you stick up for the Vietnamese, you get a reaction that you’re anti-American or not patriotic. I’ve had a few other vets say that to me, and that attitude comes from the trauma of them watching their best friend get killed. They retain hate for these people. But this sculpture is just to tell the whole story of war. The Marine is in there for a reason with his own tears. Everyone suffers in war.
I’m trying to induce shock. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to induce shock to the viewer who doesn’t know what goes on in war. I would like to see us transform into a country of peace.
We must remember the cost of war; to honor those who have fought and died, and those who have come back missing limbs or eyes or parts of their souls, we must not rush to war; we must take caution and tell our leaders and representatives to as well.