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Weighty topic: How we react to war

Left, Events/Gallery Coordinator Jera Terreng stands by a display case in the lower level of the public library that has artifacts from servicemen and women furnished by the Fletcher-Pechacek American Legion Post #121 in River Falls. Right, gallery visitors check out the exhibit. <i>Phil Pfuehler photos</i>

It was someone's idea and Jera Terreng liked it, expanded on the premise and the result is "Touched by War," a month-long exhibit in the lower level of the River Falls Public Library that began Aug. 28 and runs until Sept. 23.

"We try to hold a variety of shows over time in the library's gallery," Terreng said. "We've had some shows before with veterans' themes, but not one that specifies the expressions, from all sides, of what war does to people."

More precisely, Terreng describes the current exhibit this way:

"War has a profound impact on the lives of our military personnel, their families and the civilians who are embedded with them or who live in combat-torn areas. Opinions about war are strong and, in many cases, oppositional.

"The exhibit illustrates some of this dissonance. It exists here to provoke thought and offer people an opportunity to recognize diverse experience and the spectrum of ideas.

"The library expresses no opinions, but plays host to those who have come by them honestly, through direct experience. There is explicit content, both visual and verbal -- participants in the show speak powerfully to the necessity of this to relay their feelings and thoughts clearly."

Terreng said the exhibition got generous loans of artifacts from both the area Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #331 and from the local American Legion Post #121.

Local collector and display artist Jere Sears also loaned materials and some of his collectibles and created several displays in the hallway cases.

The exhibit includes letters, paintings, newspaper clippings, medals, flags, photographs, paintings, essays, poetry, military uniforms, magazines, cards, gas masks, mess kits and more.

Contributions came from artists in River Falls, Ellsworth, Roberts, Stillwater, Minn., and the Twin Cities.

So far Terreng said traffic to the exhibit has been brisk.

"Reactions seem thoughtful and appreciative," she said. "The veterans who've seen it like the recognition and being able to share their experiences. Some of this stuff is very personal, and it really gets noticed for that reason."

For the complete story, please see the Sept. 6 print edition of the River Falls Journal.