| Stephanie Freid-Perenchio, “ST5 Deployment,” 2003, archival silver gelatin print, courtesy the artist. Courtesy photo
Last week marked 10 years since America entered into war in Iraq, a war that has been plagued by the most controversy and dissension since Vietnam. Journalists are winning prizes telling the stories of disheartened and disabled veterans whose bodies may have withstood the experience but whose minds have an embedded chip of pain. Few have to ask what PTSD stands for anymore. Just like in the 1970s, people are asking, “What are we fighting for?” And, in the end, what do we have to show for it?
The Sun Valley Center for the Arts has put those queries on display with its latest exhibit, “Home Front,” which looks at what home front means today in terms of the role of the public in supporting our soldiers abroad and what happens when a soldier returns home. Home may be where the heart was filled, but the heart now pumps in a forever altered state.
The topic will be explored through the eyes of a retired admiral, by artwork created by veterans, on stage and with the help of a community dialogue carried out by a panel representing various facets of war.
Retired Admiral Jay L. Johnson will address an audience at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum on Tuesday, April 2. He will be the final guest in The Center’s annual lecture series until fall.
Johnson will explain how top-level decision making has made 21st-century wars more complex and describe the challenges facing the military and private enterprise after a decade of multiple wars. In the interest of candor, the admiral will offer brief remarks and then open up the floor to discussion.
“We wanted to bring someone in a leadership position with the U.S. military to address the current conditions and considerations of war,” said Kristin Poole, artistic director of The Center. “Admiral Johnson meets that criterion excellently, and he will not only be able to speak to the changes in warfare in the 21st century but also comment on how private enterprise supports our nation’s war efforts. We feel privileged to be able to hear from him.”
Johnson retired as president and CEO of General Dynamics, one of the nation’s largest aerospace and defense contractors, at the end of last year. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he has had a distinguished military career that included service as a naval aviator in Vietnam and command at every level from fighter squadron to the U.S. Second Fleet. He was the chief of Naval operations and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1996 to 2000.
In conjunction with Higher Ground, The Center will host a panel discussion called “Returning Home,” which will look at what happens when a soldier comes back from deployment.
On Thursday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m., the public is invited to the Liberty Theatre in Hailey for a free discussion moderated by Bert Gillette, military outreach officer from Higher Ground, and including Lt. Col. Tony Forbes, the Army’s national director of the Office of Warrior and Family Support; Navy SEAL Pete Scobell; Christina Valentine, wife of a deceased Navy SEAL; Trina McDonald, a Gulf War veteran featured in the film “Invisible War”; and a medical professional experienced in working with PTSD.
Higher Ground is a local nonprofit organization that uses sports camps and other recreational activities to help injured service members attain the physical skills, confidence and coping strategies necessary for a successful reintegration into their families and home communities.
Artwork made by men and women who have participated in Higher Ground’s rehabilitation programs is on view at The Center in Hailey, alongside photographs of Higher Ground participants by local photographer Matthew Hayes. The “Home Front” exhibition at The Center in Ketchum features vintage World War I and II posters and works by six contemporary artists.
A staged reading of “Time Stands Still,” a play about a photographer who has returned from covering the Iraq War, will take place on Friday, April 12. A workshop of a new play by Clay McLeod Chapman titled “Guiding Light” will be held on Thursday, April 18. Both theater productions are presented by Company of Fools, a new partner of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.
- Tickets to Jay Johnson’s forum are available at www.sunvalleycenter.org for $30 for Sun Valley Center members, $40 nonmembers and $10 students. Tickets can also be purchased by phone at
726-9491, ext. 10 or at The Center in Ketchum.
- The April 4 discussion, “Returning Home,” and exhibits at both of The Center’s locations in Ketchum and Hailey are free.