Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Exhibit aims to share meaning of military service with community

JAKOB RODGERS Updated: March 13, 2011 at 12:00 am

Inspiration to join the military came early and easily to Joe Vigil.

He needed only to look at portraits of his grandfather, a World War I veteran, his many great uncles and his father — all proudly wearing their military uniforms — that decorated his grandmother’s house.

“When I was born, I was destined to be in the military,” Vigil said.

On Sunday, the 30-year Army reservist hoped that a different set of photographs would inspire Colorado College students to look outside the bounds of their campus and learn more about an integral facet of Colorado Springs: the military.

Photographs — some depicting Vigil — along with myriad paintings were unveiled Sunday at Come Together: Colorado Springs, the opening of an art exhibit featuring accounts of the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars compiled by dozens of CC students and local veterans.

Led by Harrell Fletcher, a visiting professor from Portland State University, the students spent the last three weeks delving into the nuances of military life in Colorado Springs, chronicling the lives of local soldiers through photographs, video, dance and words.

Roughly 40 students worked with Fletcher to help compile the works on exhibit, which range in subject from retired veterans to an Air Force recruiter focused squarely on a potential recruit, his hand pat against his desk while he explained the commitment.

Fletcher said the goal of his classes, as well as the ensuing exhibit, was to connect two communities that don’t normally interact.

“It’s just kind of a chance to have a glimpse into the vast and various aspects of the military community here in Colorado Springs,” Fletcher said. “Sometimes students in schools become kind of insular and not really aware or connected to what’s going on around the school.”

The work was displayed alongside paintings created by service members during therapy sessions that depicted sunsets, dogs and serene landscapes.

The Veterans Book Project, a national effort to catalog veterans’ experiences in books they write, will be showcased at the exhibit. Five books — including one written by Vigil — will be available for review when the exhibit re-opens March 28.

Juliet Madsen, a 17-year Army veteran who toured in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 and was featured in a book, said she hoped the exhibit would shed light on the plight soldiers face when returning from war. She spoke Sunday of her struggles with memory loss, multiple strokes and kidney failure since her tour in Iraq.

“It would be nice if people could appreciate that — that we’re not all an amputee, that we all have some pretty incredible stories,” Madsen said.

Call the writer at 476-1654.

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