Saturday, September 28, 2013

Art by War Veterans in Jersey City Courthouse

For Immediate Release

Meredith Lippman, Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs/Tourism Development 201-459-2070/800-542-7894
David Cathcart, Secaucus Vet Center 201-223-7787

“War & Peace: Art by Military Veterans” Exhibition
at Brennan Gallery in Jersey City, October 3-31

An array of art drawn from war veterans’ lives will be hosted throughout October by the Brennan Gallery in the Justice William J. Brennan Court House, 583 Newark Ave., Jersey City, NJ 07306. The art gallery in the court house rotunda is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Opening reception for the event is Thursday, October 3, from 6-8 p.m. A poetry reading by veterans on the theme of “War & Peace” is scheduled at the gallery for Thursday, October 10, from 6-8 p.m. These events are free and open to the public. The Justice William J. Brennan Court House is a fully accessible venue.

Artists with works on display include Jim Fallon of Hoboken, Joseph Lis of Union City, Michael Eckstein of the Vietnam Veterans of America State Council in Bayonne, Frank Wagner of Bogota, formerly of Jersey City; Toms Sears of Washington Township, formerly of Jersey City; Jan Barry and Walt Nygard, both of Teaneck; Barry Jensen of Lincoln Park, and Wilson Montaleza of Lodi. Montaleza served in the US Army in Afghanistan and Iraq. The other veterans served in Vietnam in the Army or Marines.

Guided by Angela Maio, LCSW, BCETS, BCD, a Family Therapist at the Secaucus Vet Center, participants in the “Paint Your Pain” Art Group have explored a variety of media, from water colors to oil paintings, to probe, uncover and convey hard-to-express experiences.

According to Maio, “After many years of doing talk therapy with veterans, I realized that another more powerful outlet was needed.  The ‘Paint Your Pain’ Art Group has had a healing cathartic effect on participants’ combat stressors.  Several members have expressed the feeling of finally finding closure to their nightmares and to the Vietnam War.” 

“This is art from the heart of darkness, in many cases, drawn from still startling war memories,” said Jan Barry, one of the participants, an author and editor of several collections of poetry and art by veterans, who served in Vietnam. “Other pieces commemorate facets of homecoming, from intensely memorable soothing scenes to troubling legacies such as the health toll from Agent Orange.”

David Cathcart, MA, is the Team Leader of the Secaucus Vet Center, 110 Meadowland Parkway, Secaucus, NJ (201) 223-7787.  The Vet Center provides free outpatient treatment services to Combat Veterans and Military Sexual Trauma Veterans and their families, including children. 

The Brennan Gallery is sponsored by Thomas A. DeGise, Hudson County Executive, the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs/Tourism Development.

Artists' Bios

Jan Barry: Born in 1943 in Ithaca, NY. Retired newspaper reporter (Bergen Record), poet and author, books include Life After War & Other Poems (Combat Paper Press) and (co-editor) Winning Hearts & Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans, among other works. Served in Vietnam (Dec. 1962-Oct. 1963) in US Army aviation unit. Graduated Ramapo College of New Jersey, BA in Political Science. A college journalism instructor, he’s active with Combat Paper and Warrior Writers workshops for veterans and family members. His Combat Paper art has appeared in exhibitions from Reno, Nevada to Washington, DC to Teaneck, NJ, where he rests his head between war bulletins, rumors of war, ambulance sirens and other alarms.

Michael Eckstein: Born in The Bronx, NY. Currently retired and living in Hopatcong, NJ. Served in US Army from 1965 to 1967 with a year in Vietnam at Tay Ninh, Xuan Loc and Cam Ranh Bay. Life member of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 327 and chairman of NJ State Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee, life member of DAV, member of Jewish War Veterans and VFW. Served as a commissioner on the New Jersey Agent Orange Commission, member of Admiral Zumwalt’s Agent Orange Coordinating Council. Married for 45 years, with 3 children and 3 grandchildren.

Jim Fallon: Born in Hoboken and raised in Jersey City, NJ. From 1963 to 1969, I was an Army Reservist in New York City while bartending and exploring my skills as a jazz drummer. As a Medic with the Army Reserve Medical Field Hospital Unit, I was activated in 1968 and sent to Vietnam. Our Unit was in charge of a POW hospital at Long Binh treating wounded Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers. Our Unit was also involved with a Vietnamese orphanage. We brought food, toys and extra medical supplies to the children, who were always excited to see the Army Medic and his truck with the big Red Cross bringing supplies.

After serving in the Vietnam War, I returned to bartending, jazz clubs and was an active Union Representative. For a period of time, I owned the Half Note Jazz Club in NYC. I have been an active member of many Veterans’ organizations, including Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, Combat Paper, Secaucus Vet Center and LZ Hope. I am a Service Officer for the Disabled American Veterans and belong to several PTSD support groups.

Barry Jensen: Born in 1947 in Hackensack, NJ. Graduated Pompton Lakes (NJ) High School. Served in Vietnam 1968-69 in Central Highlands with 4th Division, 3rd Brigade, 1st of the 14th Infantry Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP). Combat wounded. Serving fellow Veterans in Point Man International Ministries, Northern NJ. Chaplain of Military Order of Purple Heart Chapter 366. Retired carpenter. Happily married 42 years.     

Joseph Lis: Union City, NJ resident. Graduated North Arlington (NJ) High School 1965. Drafted into US Army October 1966. Served in Vietnam, I Corps, Chu-Lai 1967-68. Upon discharge from the military, pursued the arts of apprentice photoengraving. Attended night school at Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art 1968-71. Later attended Christ Hospital School of Nursing and worked full-time as a registered Nurse. Attended Upsala College, East Orange, NJ 1975-80. BA in Fine Arts and Biology 1980. Military awards: Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Purple Heart for wounds received in action during combat operations, Army Commendation Medal, Honorable Discharge October 1968.

Wilson Montaleza: Born in Ecuador in 1985. Served in US Army with A Co., 2-4 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division at Mizan, Afghanistan for eight months in 2006-2007, and in Iraq at FOB Falcon for 15 months in 2008-2009. Currently a student at Montclair State University majoring in dietician studies. Resides in Lodi, NJ with his two cats and 3-year-old son. 

Walt Nygard: Born in Portland, Oregon and raised on U.S. Army posts of the American West and in Germany. He is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, Okinawa and the Philippines, 1969 – 1970. Following graduation from the University of New Mexico – English/Art – Walt managed the legendary Albuquerque saloon, Okie's Rathskellar. With the end of the 70's, Walt found himself with a family, a blue-collar writer and artist living in New Jersey.

Walt started a series of veteran's poetry readings at the Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck, NJ in 2008. Featured in the New York Times, the series presents prose and non-fiction as well as poetry, spoken word, music and gallery art by veterans young and old. Since 2011, Walt has been active with Combat Paper NJ. Working as a paper and printmaker, he's honored to work with younger veterans, assist at workshops and to exhibit his art. Walt's oldest son is a veteran of both the Afghan and Iraq Wars.

Tom Sears: Born in Jersey City in 1947. Served in Vietnam 1967-68 with 13th Combat Engineers, 3rd Marine Division in Happy Valley, Dong Ha and Phu Bai. Currently lives in Washington Township, NJ. Enjoys fishing, hunting and making charcoal drawings on canvas and paper.

Frank Wagner: Born in Jersey City, grew up in Union City and Bogota, NJ. Drafted into US Army in 1964, served in Vietnam Sept. 1964-Sept. 1965 with MACV and 22nd Advisory Team attached to Vietnamese 22nd Division. Studied at New York Institute of Photography, 1967-68, and School of Visual Arts, 1968-1971. Apprentice medical photographer, New York Hospital. Also worked in variety of other jobs, from aerial mapping to airport limo driver. Active in VVAW, Vets for Peace, DAV, Combat Paper, Warrior Writers, Teaneck Community Chorus. Today I am retired and busy with art in different ways and forms.


Friday, September 13, 2013

America Mired in Middle East

As President Obama threatens to smack the militaristic Syrian regime with a missile barrage, a prominent military historian says this is just the latest proof that America’s military might is flailing about in the Middle East.

Addressing the current crisis over the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Andrew Bacevich, a Boston University history professor and retired Army colonel, said on PBS television last night: “if I could have five minutes of the president's time, I'd say, ‘Mr. President, the issue really is not Syria…'"  The real issue, Bacevich said, is that a decades-long campaign "to use military power to somehow stabilize or fix or liberate or transform the greater Middle East hasn't worked.”

Bacevich, a West Point graduate who served in Vietnam, noted the dubious outcomes of numerous US military actions in Muslim nations over the past three decades. 

“And if you ... just sort of tick off the number of military enterprises that we have been engaged in that part of the world, large and small, you know, Beirut, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and on and on, and ask yourself, 'What have we got done? What have we achieved? Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more Democratic? Are we enhancing America's standing in the eyes of the people of the Islamic world?'

 "The answers are, 'No, no, and no.' So why, Mr. President, do you think that initiating yet another war, 'cause if we bomb Syria, it's a war, why do you think that initiating yet another war in this protracted enterprise is going to produce a different outcome? Wouldn't it be perhaps wise to ask ourselves if this militarized approach to the region maybe is a fool’s errand.”

The stark reality, Bacevich argued in an extensive discussion on the Moyers & Company program, is that America’s mighty military machinery is stuck in the shifting sands of massive upheaval sweeping the region. Since the 1980s, American leaders "have claimed that we possess the capacity to somehow direct or control these processes of change. Even though the truth is, we don't have that capacity," he said. "The truth is, we are largely irrelevant to what's going on in that part of the world. But if we reach out and, you know, use our military powers to drop some missiles here and there, we can sustain the illusion that we have some kind of relevance.” 

If the United States wants to help the Syrian people caught up in a brutal civil war, Bacevich continued, “why is peppering Damascus with cruise missiles the best way to demonstrate that concern?”

“I mean, a little bit of creative statesmanship it seems to me might say that there are other things we could do that would actually benefit the people of Syria, who are suffering greatly, who are fleeing their country in the hundreds of thousands. Who are living in wretched refugee camps. Why don't we do something about that? Why wouldn't that be a better thing to do from a moral perspective than bombing Damascus?”

Bacevich is the author of several books—including Limits of Power—critical of what he sees as American militarism run amok.He is particularly critical of the war in Iraq, in which his son died on a military mission. “Now some number of Americans paid for that disaster in terms of soldiers killed, lives shattered,” Bacevich said. “Far, far greater numbers of Iraqis paid for that disaster and are still paying for that disaster. So the conversation about Syria is far too narrow. It needs to be expanded to include some of these other military misadventures that we have undertaken.”

For more information:


Monday, September 2, 2013

War or Diplomacy

As we celebrate the Labor Day holiday, Americans should thank our lucky stars that we’re still around. America as we know it nearly ended in October 1962. That’s when the US military squared off against Soviet forces in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Long before President Obama proclaimed a “red line” in Syria, President John F. Kennedy drew one around Cuba. In the end, World War III was narrowly averted by back door diplomacy.

The Soviet Union is no longer around, but Russia inherited its nuclear weapons. And Russia’s leaders back Syria’s government, which Obama is threatening to “punish” with a military attack. Getting into a proxy war with Russia in the Middle East could well revive the most dangerous times of the Cold War nuclear age.

Furthermore, Syria and its regional allies previously devastated a US military force sent to send them a message.

“At this time of crisis, it is worth remembering another time, 30 years ago in October, 1983 when U.S. warships bombarded Lebanon, the country located next to Syria,” retired Col. Ann Wright wrote recently. “Within weeks, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by a massive truck bomb that killed 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers. The truck driver-suicide bomber was an Iranian national named Ismail Ascari … Two minutes later a second suicide bomber drove a truck filled with explosives into the French military compound in Beirut killing 58 French paratroopers.”

The explosive blowback against US military posturing aimed at countering Syria’s influence in Lebanon also destroyed US diplomatic work in the region. Wright, a former diplomat as well as Army officer, noted:

“Earlier in the year, on April 18, 1983, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut had been blown up by another suicide driver with 900 pounds of explosives that killed 63 people, 17 Americans, mostly embassy and CIA staff members, several soldiers and one Marine, 34 Lebanese employees of the US Embassy and 12 Embassy visitors. It was the deadliest attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission up to that time, and marked the beginning of anti-U.S. attacks by Islamist groups. The U.S. and French military were in Lebanon as a part of a Multi-National force after the PLO left Lebanon following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. ostensibly to create a 40 km buffer zone between the PLO and Syrian forces in Lebanon and Israel.”

US military forces withdrew from Lebanon and diplomatic efforts sputtered out. Three violent decades later, Obama aims to fire cruise missiles into Syria to teach them a lesson, a move that could backfire in explosive ways that wreck peacemaking work in the region for another generation.

If Obama intends to resolve this long-simmering crisis, rather than inflame it, he should read a perceptive account in The Atlantic of how Kennedy ultimately used diplomacy in the Cuban Missile Crisis:

“Plainly shaken by the apocalyptic potentialities of the situation, Kennedy advocated, in the face of the bellicose and near-unanimous opposition of his pseudo-tough-guy advisers, accepting the missile swap that Khrushchev had proposed [that the US remove its nuclear missiles from the Soviet border area in Turkey in exchange for Soviet missiles being shipped back from Cuba]. …”

Obama should continue reading how Kennedy hid this diplomatic deal from the American public, so that he would look tough militarily.

“Although Kennedy in fact agreed to the missile swap and, with Khrushchev, helped settle the confrontation maturely, the legacy of that confrontation was nonetheless pernicious. By successfully hiding the deal from the vice president, from a generation of foreign-policy makers and strategists, and from the American public, Kennedy and his team reinforced the dangerous notion that firmness in the face of what the United States construes as aggression, and the graduated escalation of military threats and action in countering that aggression, makes for a successful national-security strategy…”

As the author of The Atlantic article, Benjamin Schwarz, noted:

“This esoteric strategizing—this misplaced obsession with credibility, this dangerously expansive concept of what constitutes security—which has afflicted both Democratic and Republican administrations, and both liberals and conservatives, is the antithesis of statecraft, which requires discernment based on power, interest, and circumstance.” 

The lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis that Kennedy muddled is that diplomacy is a far better bet than waging war—and it takes more courage to do peacemaking than doing puffed chest posturing to look warrior-like.

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