Art explores war injuries
February 16, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- The reaction to the opening of "Wounded in Action: An Art Exhibition of Orthopaedic Advancements" at Evans Army Community Hospital was personal. Some people fell silent as they approached framed pieces on the walls. Others huddled in groups, pointing and whispering at watercolors or oils. More than a few conversations began with, "That reminds me of …" and "When I was in Iraq …"
"If you have dry eyes when you look at this artwork, you aren't really seeing it," said Col. Daniel White, an orthopedic surgeon at EACH. "This is emotion. This is what war can do to people."
White is a board member of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the organization that owns the exhibition. He requested MEDDAC host a portion of the touring exhibit, which features art by wounded servicemembers, their Families and the orthopedic surgeons who treat these injuries.
Sixty of the approximately 100-piece collection are on display through March 2 in EACH's B.K. George Hall, located next to the dining facility.
Fort Carson Medical Department Activity Commander Col. John McGrath cut the ribbon at the Feb. 6 gallery opening. He noted how advancements in medical and military technology have increased the survival rate of those wounded on the battlefield. However, he said it has also resulted in a larger number of warriors treated for musculoskeletal wounds. The art pays tribute to their service and journey.
"The passion providers put into saving lives and the passion Families have in helping loved ones recover from wounds is captured here," McGrath said.
Two of the artists attended the opening. Ruth Ficke's son, Joshua Chinn, was hit by a blast in Iraq in 2008, severely injuring his legs. The high school art teacher from California digitized photos taken by some of the operating room physicians at Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas. Chinn, who has had more than 50 surgeries during his recovery, was by her side at the ribbon-cutting.
"A lot of time you have no idea what happens behind the process," Ficke said. "I thought it was really important to see that process and to find out what happened under the bandages and behind the scars. The military, the Army and the doctors were miracle workers. It's not pretty. But you need to see the process we went through to see him standing here today."
Christine Marcum created "One Sentence" after her son stepped on an anti-personnel device in Afghanistan in 2008. His lower right leg was eventually amputated and Marcum says composing the mixed-media book helped her process the injury.
"It's very moving. This is a 'thank you' for all the people involved in the care of our son, including the volunteers who spent time with us and the complete strangers who offered support," Marcum explained.
Her son is currently stationed at Fort Carson and preparing to deploy again.
McGrath urged people to take the time to examine the exhibit and its message.
"You'll walk through and be drawn to certain pieces of art," he said. "Go back and look again. I realized the ones that brought back memories of what I experienced were the ones I didn't want to look at and I needed to go back."