by Devin Fisher
Continuing its nationwide journey paying tribute to fallen servicemembers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Lost Heroes Art Quilt was on display at the Fort Carson Post Exchange over Memorial Day Weekend.
The quilt, featuring childhood photos of 82 fallen servicemembers, was created by artist Julie Feingold in 2009 to: Honor fallen heroes, Educate the public, Remember their sacrifices, Open hearts and minds, Exhibit across the nation and Support the Families, according to the Lost Heroes Art Quilt website at http://www.heart2hand4art.com/lostheroesartquilt/.
The fact that the Lost Heroes Quilt was on display at Fort Carson over the Memorial Day Weekend was no coincidence, said Nancy Hecker, a Gold Star Mother who schedules venues for the quilt and edited the companion book.
“The Families here have borne the brunt of the casualties in the war, and I felt it was important to be down here for Memorial Day,” said Hecker.
She noted the quilt features five Soldiers whose names are among the 335 on the Mountain Post Warrior Memorial near Gate 1 and five servicemembers whose parents are members of the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers.
The 5-by-15 quilt features childhood photos of 82 fallen servicemembers, 50 in the center of the quilt representing each of the United States and providing glimpses into the lives of the heroes. Hecker’s son, Maj. William F. Hecker III, represents Missouri. He was killed by an improvised explosive device Jan. 5, 2006, while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, then at Fort Hood, Texas. Another 32 fallen servicemembers flank the “Without a witness, they will disappear” quote at the top of the quilt.
Hecker said since Feingold couldn’t create a quilt with squares to honor all the fallen
servicemembers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in America’s response to the 9/11 attacks, the artist reached out to the American Gold Star Mothers for assistance. She asked for input from the fallen servicemembers’ mothers, looking for a hero to represent each state.
“She took the first mother that volunteered,” Hecker said. “She didn’t want to turn anybody away so (when there were duplicates for some states) she added an additional 32 heroes on the top border of the quilt.”
Turning 50 and losing family and good friends inspired the whimsical painter to turn her talents toward more serious work, Hecker said.
“(Feingold) saw a casualty list one day and began to wonder ‘who are these young men and women who put their lives on the line for the rest of us and the freedoms we all enjoy here,'” Hecker said.
It was important to Feingold to show them as real people with hopes and dreams and families that loved them, not just statistics, she said. Feingold used childhood pictures that Hecker said “surprises the viewer and touches the heart” and extracted key words from the mothers’ stories to bring the fallen heroes to life on the quilt. She said the artist’s intent was that if people viewing the quilt learn just one hero’s story, that fallen servicemember will not be forgotten.
“For those of us who have lost someone (in Iraq or Afghanistan), their remembrance is a big thing, we don’t want our kids to ever be forgotten so this is a wonderful gift to us and to our entire country not to forget (them), for future generations to know the price of freedom and to show the character and dedication of those who serve in the military.”
She said many of the mothers wrote that their children always wanted to be in the military, and since numerous parents mentioned that their boys liked to play with military action figures, Feingold spent two years acquiring the action-figure jackets for the quilt.
The quilt is full of symbolism as the artist depicts both the history of war and quilting in America. The crosses in between the hero quilt squares honor those who served in World War I and World War II, while the action figure uniforms honor those who fought in Vietnam. Recognizing that many mothers wrote that their faith helped them through the grieving process, Feingold included a cross for Christianity, the Jewish Star of David, the crescent symbol of Islam and the Om symbol of Hinduism in the four corners. Paying homage to the African-American quilters during the Civil War who made quilts with secret messages to alert fellow slaves where the next safe house was located, the artist embedded “A destiny for valor” hidden message in the quilt.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jon Ryver, 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment,
4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was quite emotional after speaking with Hecker about the quilt June 1.
“It opens you up and lets you really understand the severity of what’s going on (with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan),” said Ryver, who returned to Fort Carson from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan less than 48 hours prior to visiting the PX. “It brings more into focus what people are doing and the dedication that they have to the (military) services.”
Hecker said she has a passion to share the stories of those represented on the quilt.
“We want to tell our sons’ (and daughters’) stories,” she said. “We can’t change what happened, but we can … make sure we honor those who serve and that our kids aren’t forgotten.”