Graffiti of War Exhibit Debuts Veterans Day
By Army Pvt. Andrew Slovensky
362nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2011 Overseas-deployed service members’ artwork will be highlighted during a national exhibition tour that kicks off on Veterans Day in Pottsville, Pa.
Army Spc. Richard Koke, mechanic for the 25th Infantry Division, paints over a mural on Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq, Oct. 3, 2011. Troops have been obscuring the murals and graffiti on COB Adder and other installations in preparation for handing over the installations to Iraq. U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Andrew Slovensky
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The “Graffiti of War” project represents an anthology of more than 400 pieces of art left by deployed service members in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. The collection includes images of graffiti murals painted on the tall concrete barriers at many operating bases in Iraq now being turned over to Iraqi security forces.
Deployed service members have often designed murals on walls around U.S. bases in Iraq. The paintings illustrated unit affiliations, military vehicles and equipment, mythological and historic figures, ranks, names, and anything else that flowed from the creative minds of the artists.
However, those murals are disappearing quickly, being covered over with fresh coats of white paint in preparation for the departure of U.S. troops.
“Painting over the murals is part of giving the installation back to Iraq,”said Army Sgt. Maj. Charles Rosado, 25th Infantry Division tactical command post noncommissioned officer-in-charge on Contingency Operation Base Adder.
But first, the Graffiti of War effort is working to document those murals and artistic efforts so they’re not lost in time.
“The project came to life as an idea within my platoon,” said Jaeson Parsons, an original collaborator and director of operations for Graffiti of War. Parsons, who deployed to Iraq as a combat medic in early 2006, said he and his fellow soldiers were discussing the graffiti they saw during a long mission in Al-Taqaddum Airbase, Iraq.
“Many of these murals are historical markers, a sort of ‘who's who’ of units and divisions that were deployed in this war,” he said.
Parsons made a return trip to Iraq this summer to document many of the murals and expressions.
By displaying them for the American public to see in the Graffiti of War traveling exhibit, he said he hopes to help them better understand the struggles and accomplishments of service members deployed to combat zones.
Parsons, who said he suffered his own battle with post-traumatic stress disorder, wants to raise awareness for PTSD and other “invisible wounds” that service members suffer in combat that are not always evident.
“These murals and artistic creations represent a glimpse of a moment in time when this unit was there, an unconventional record of the decade of war our nation and her warfighters struggled through,” Parsons said.
The Graffiti of War exhibit will debut Nov. 11 to 20 as part of Pottsville’s Block of Art event. Additional venues are being arranged, including a February showing at Wolf Gang Gallery in Montgomery, N.Y.