Katie Peterson | Editor-in-chief
âSince my father is in the military, I also think about being a soldier and I try to imagine what it would be like to protect our country. I took a few photos from the perspective of what it might be like to be in combat. “
This is the introduction that 13-year-old Ethan Herbek wrote to accompany his photos in the âBeing at War: A Community Project on Military Lifeâ exhibit at Leavenworth Landing Park.
The exhibit, which opened with a small ceremony on April 22 and will run until June 4, features photos of 23 soldiers and the work of 17 military wives and seven young military men.
âThe aim of the project was to bridge the civil-military divide through first-person storytelling,â said the military’s wife Arin Yoon, project leader. âI feel like the media covers a lot of the issues in the military community through the experiences of soldiers, but this project is really through the perspective of spouses and children on what it is like. to be part of this community.
âThe soldiers (in the photos near the railroad tracks) are the parents and spouses of the workshop participants. The soldiers represent this idea of ââprotecting the border because it is the Kansas-Missouri border, âshe said. “The spaces between families and soldiers represent the constant family separation, and the changing seasons in the background of the soldiers represent the time of a typical deployment, which is nine months to a year.”
Yoon said she began documenting the life of the military family when she became a military wife in 2013, but sponsorships from We, Women; National Association of Military Families; Leavenworth Convention and Tourism Bureau; and Young Sign Company allowed it to expand to include other military members.
âWhen I became a military wife I realized how little I knew about the military and how unique the culture was, so I started taking photos to engage with and document my community. . It has been a personal project for me, âsaid Yoon. âLast year when I got funding from We, Women (and other sponsors), I turned it into a community engagement project with photography workshops for military wives and children. in order to teach them the basics of photography, but also to provide a space to talk about what this military life is all about.
Following the approval of Leavenworth Town Commissioners and the Garrison Command Team in January 2020, Yoon hosted three photography workshops in Spring, Summer and Fall 2020 via Zoom. Now the results are displayed in a public park along the Missouri River for everyone to see.
âIt’s so gratifying,â Yoon said. “I’m so excited because when you have a vision of something in your head and it actually happens, it’s super cool.”
At the opening ceremony, Leavenworth Mayor Nancy Bauder said cultural, social and economic values ââare acquired through public art.
âPublic art is an integral part of our public history and the evolution of culture,â Bauder said.
Several of the pieces include QR codes containing audio and video of the artist, so they can tell their story more.
âEach family member has their own story, and it’s good to ask them what their story is,â Yoon said. “It’s a good time to reflect on serving the military but also on the sacrifices families have made to help support the country’s defense behind the scenes.”
Workshop participant spouse Terri Lichlyter, wife of Major Dan Lichlyter, Combined Arms Center-Training, said she enjoyed the workshops.
âI’ve always loved photography, and I have this camera that I’ve always tried to use, but I just won’t do it; I won’t remember the skills I learned in manual shooting, butâ¦ I wanted to learn more, âsaid Lichlyter. âEvery image doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re not looking for a perfect shot, and what you think is a perfect shot isn’t someone else’s perfect shot.
âOur military lives are more than the images of deployment that people see,â she said. “Our military life is about moving our families every few years and rehabilitating ourselves, and I’m delighted that people can see a different picture of military life.”
Lichlyter has a triptych of black and white images presented in the exhibition.
Army University planner Major Nolan Lasiter is one of the soldiers featured in the exhibit.
Her children, Kylena, 12, and Ethan, 14, were two of the young participants.
âThis past summer, with the pandemic and all the challenges we face, one of the defining factors for (my wife, Cindy and I) was getting our kids active in the community,â¦ so once we saw the youth photography option was available, we jumped on it, âLasiter said. âI think it’s really important that military families are as engaged as possible in the community they are a part ofâ¦ and I think trying to give back to the community is really important.
âService to the community is an important aspect (of military service), but so is the sacrifice and duty that military families put in to serve our country,â he said. âThe defining factor for every member is truly love for their family, love for their community and love for one another. â¦ This is really what it is at the end of the day.
âTo Be At Warâ also received a grant from the National Geographic Society to continue the exhibit as an online component for other military families to share their stories.
For more information, email Yoon at [email protected]