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Telling a somber truth: ‘Always Lost’ opens at ITOW

Eric Hendrickx/FOCUS The Wall of the Dead, a central feature of the “Always Lost” exhibit, spans across an entire wall of the gallery at Perham’s In Their Own Words Veterans Museum. The wall features a photograph and information about every U.S. military service member who has died in combat since 9/11.

The walls of the exhibit room at Perham’s In Their Own Words Veterans Museum, covered with solemn photos and sobering stories, don’t discriminate between short or tall, young or old, veteran or civilian.

Full of pain, emotion, struggle, perseverance and heroism, they tell of the events that followed the infamous date of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Always Lost: A Meditation on War,” began as a class project at a small college in Nevada. It has since grown into a traveling art and humanities exhibit, dedicated both to those who have given their lives and those who have made it home from combat since 9/11.

The exhibit combines award-winning photography and literature. Special guest speakers helped mark its arrival in Perham during an opening reception on Monday.

Master Sergeant Eric Marts, a wounded veteran and activist, started things off by sharing his personal thoughts and feelings about the exhibit, and sharing what it meant to him.

Marts told the story of how he lost his sight after being struck by the explosion of a road-side bomb while on patrol. He touched both ends of the emotional spectrum, evoking laughter from the audience at some times, and tears at others.

Major John Donovan from Camp Ripley, near Little Falls, Minn., also spoke during the opening reception.

Along with the speakers, the exhibit’s photographs and literature captivated attendees with their intense images and heart-filled words.

The exhibit includes the Wall of the Dead, a memorial with individual photographs and names of each U.S. military service member who sacrificed his or her life in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 9/11.

“To me, the most captivating aspect of the pictures is seeing how young they are,” said museum director Darla Ellingson of the photos. “So many of the faces on that wall seem to be of teenagers and other young adults.”

“We also must remember that there are still American boots on the ground over there,” she added. “The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have almost become forgotten wars now.”

Admission to “Always Lost” is free until the exhibit’s end on March 11.