04/15/2013 1 Comment
As many as 100,000 people will visit the Milwaukee Art Museum this spring and summer while the Veterans Book Project by Monica Haller is on view in the small gallery adjacent to the entryway to the permanent collection galleries.
Now numbering fifty volumes, the VBP is complete. Seeing the entire library comprised of written accounts by veterans, family members of veterans, Iraqi-Americans and Iraqi refugees, on display at MAM, I was impressed by Haller’s ability to transform just about any space into an incredibly welcoming room for quiet reading.
At the “reading workshop” facilitated by the artist before the opening reception I read two of the new books written by Milwaukee veterans during Haller’s final VBP workshop which took place during the winter at the museum. Zach LaPorte, one of the Milwaukee authors, was a team leader with 2nd battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, an airborne infantryman from January 2004 to April 2007. His book is a powerful rumination on the downright savagery of war and make it seem impossible that any soldier could ever return from war deeply troubled. Roger Quindel chronicles of his experiences during the Vietnam War in his book dedicated to the more than 58,000 American soldiers, including his buddy Richard Meighan, lost in it. Quindel, who served with the 25th Infantry Division from February 1967 to October 1968 and was wounded in action, explained during the panel discussion that his participation in the VBP workshop gave him the opportunity he needed to research the actual events he had lived through, but had only understood as personal experiences. Writing the book Quindel was able to trace for the first time the battles he fought in and the bases where he was treated for his injuries within the historical record of the war, allowing him, he says, to know what happened to him much more fully.
Eight books in the VBP are written by Wisconsin authors. Hopefully the close proximity between MAM and the War Memorial Center (they share a building) will introduce Milwaukee veterans and their supporters to this remarkable project.