Rosecrans 5


Journal Entry for Sketch #5
April 12, 2003: Palm Sunday

Slowly the logic of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery reveals itself to me. My first several visits found me wandering through the gravestones looking for those who had died during our wars. There is a truncated language here which reveals itself only slowly to observation, intuition, and logic. Some wars have special logos on the stones, e.g. Spanish American War. Many stones have religious logo e.g. Cross in a circle = Christian, Star of David in a circle = Jewish.

Wives buried with their husbands are listed on the backs of the stones. Usually the branch of service (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, etc.) and rank are given. Almost always the war(s) fought in are listed, although not always as noted for Vietnam.

I keep looking for soldiers who died in action, first scanning birth and death dates on gravestones, later going to the record books at the Visitor Center to try to match dates of death with war dates:

WWI 1919-1920
WWII 1940-1944
Korea 1950-1953
Vietnam 1966-1975
Iraq 2003-?

Finally, I see “KIA” on a stone and realize this means Killed in Action.

Initially, I wander through areas figuring the dead are buried by war. But then I realize that graves are arranged by date of death and therefore there is generally a mixture of soldiers who fought from several wars in each area who all died at the same time. In addition, because the cemetery is now nearly full more recent deaths are having to be squeezed in along the edges of earlier graves in order to honor them. I read in the paper that some of the Iraq War dead are being buried here but I have no idea where or even their names. I suspect they are being squeezed in at dispersed locations around the cemetery, so they will be difficult to locate.

I decide that traditional rational research is not helping me find these graves so I make a decision to use only my intuition to locate them. Initially I drive through the cemetery looking for fresh graves knowing the Iraq dead were recently buried, but I find none. Then I am “lead” to the southwestern corner of the cemetery by my intuition and there right beside the road is a single fresh grave. The dead soldier is Brian Mathew Kennedy KIA Iraq one of the first four soldiers to die on March 20, 2003 only three weeks before. The grave is still fresh with only grass seed covering its surface. I realize he wasn’t here when I first visited the cemetery.

Brian Mathew Kennedy
CPL US Marines
Persian Gulf Iraqi Freedom
KIA Purple Heart
“son and brother”

25 years old at death – one of first four killed in this war

I later find out that he died in an accidental helicopter crash at the Kuwait border before even getting into Iraq and that he was buried in San Diego because this is where his unit came from, although he was from Houston, Texas.

As I sit down to sketch by the grave, two young boys come by and want to know who I am. They say they are putting flowers on the graves. I tell them I am an artist sitting with the dead listening for messages; but I have already decided not to go into details about my project in order to avoid upsetting any relatives. However, the boys keep wanting me to tell them what I am drawing. I tell them I do not know. Gradually they come to understand that it is not for me to say. One calls himself “Lucas” but he prefers to be called “Luke”, perhaps from the Bible.

After I finish the sketch I wander around Brian’s grave. In the same row as Brian I find:

Ronald Lee Reynolds

No war noted but probably died in Vietnam at age 26


Michael Raymond Kiehl

Probably died in Vietnam at age 19
Two rows up I find:

Martin Lee Watkins

Born two days after Nagasaki nuclear bombing, probably died in Vietnam at age 18.

>> Next: Journal Entry for Sketch #6

0 thoughts on “Rosecrans 5

  1. This is so disturbing. “Bearing Your Heart to Evil” “The Indiscriminant Claws of Greed” – the figure on the left seems to be a young boy playing ball, the one on the right a baby wrapped into a crib. “The Seed of Hatred Gives a Lesson in Violence”

  2. “Fearless Heart Catches the Earth”
    It’s difficult to see in the photo, but in person, the “ball” in the mit clearly looks like planet earth.

  3. At the opening of the Rosecrans Series in Santa Cruz, CA we focused on naming this piece. The following new names were offered:

    A Family Matter
    The National Pasttime
    Good Intentions of the Heart
    Heart of the Family of War
    Desperate Life
    The Heart of It
    Digging Into Zion
    Disfigured Innocence
    When the Battle Dust Clears
    Playing With the World
    Peace Still My Heart

  4. These title suggestions were submitted in writing by persons attending the Rosecrans Exhibit at the Louden Community Center in Santa Cruz, CA:

    Sherry: Going Home

    Guy: At Play in War
    At Play in Palestine
    Collateral Damage

    No Name: Didn’t Even Know What Hit Him
    Strike Out!
    Getting to the Heart of the Matter
    The World Caught Up

    Betty: War Has Got to Be Learned
    “like song in musical South Pacific”

  5. The Ijirait has only been able to complete a partial shape shift – to that of a sweet boy wanting to be close to the woman – but with conflicting intentions – mother or lover – regardless it is evil. The woman has been made wise and wary shown by the scars on her own heart. Her ability to learn has given her strength and made her wise. She is always conflicted as she wears her heart on her sleeve and shows chagrin that the old nemesis has come to roost again – to be alone or to find companionship, even if heavily flawed with deceit. How can she find the peace she longs for?

    Note: The Ijirait is an Inuit mythic figure which is akin to Odo on Deep Space 9 -a shape shifter.  The Ijirait always whispers to travelers and the jury is out as to whether it is malicious or not – and while the encounter is very powerful the traveler always passes through a fog after the encounter – a fog which distances the memory of the encounter  leaving a feeling that something happened . . . but can’t quite recall what  it was . .

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