Combat Grass

On January 9, 2002, Marine Sergeant Jeannette L. Winters was killed when her plane struck a mountain in southwestern Pakistan. She was 25 years old – and the first U.S. servicewoman to die in the war on terror.

For the first time in the history of our nation’s wars, women are serving, and dying, with combat units in front line positions. To most of us, these women were soldiers serving our nation. To their families and friends, they were something more: real people. They were daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Some died young, just 18 or 19; others were in their 40s or 50s when they were killed.

This installation – called Combat Grass – is inspired by Carl Sandburg’s poem, Grass, and is meant to honor the sacrifices of our fallen servicewomen: the combat boot represents the soldier who was killed overseas; the shoe represents the woman who lived and loved as a wife or a mother or a sister or a daughter.

Each boot/shoe pair represents a real soldier: in the thirteen years since Sergeant Winters’ death, a total of 160 female soldiers have died from gunshot wounds, suicide bombers, roadside bombs, helicopter crashes and the other attacks, accidents, and illnesses that kill soldiers serving in combat zones.

As in Sandburg’s poem, the growth of the grass represents the passage of time, and the tension that exists between healing and forgetting. In other words, does the passage of time allow our wounds to heal, or simply make it easier to forget?

During the exhibition, visitors are invited to be active participants by spreading seed and watering the grass.