Traveling along HWY 97 north of Weed in California, one will come across the unusual Living Memorial Sculpture Garden. I first heard of the sculpture garden near the beginning of the year when one of my fellow Desert Storm veterans told me of some sculptures he'd seen along the road near Shasta that he thought were related to Vietnam.
(Although the garden relates to all wars, not just Vietnam, the sculptor, Dennis Smith, is a Vietnam veteran. The story of the garden can be found here)
I filed the information away in my head so that I could research it more deeply once I was in the Shasta area, but didn't pursue it further. Then a few weeks ago another friend also mentioned the statues, saying that he'd seen them along I-5. But it wasn't a until I was driving along HWY 97, north of Weed on my way to Tule Lake to learn more of the internment camp there that I came upon the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden.
When I arrived there was no one else nearby, and I walked the garden in peace, going from sculpture to sculpture, sitting in the provided benches. Each sculpture represents a theme of war (the theme that I noticed was missing was deployment), and the garden is accessible to the casual viewer. But the sensitive viewer who spends time with each sculpture will also be rewarded.
I found the statue entitled "Those Left Behind" engaging because not only is the figure looking down at the American flag, wondering about their loved one, but also at their own shadow. The Jungian symbolism is profound.
The figure laying in the stretcher in "The Nurses" isn't lying there passively, but is contorted in excruciating pain, writhing, as evidenced by the twisting of his head, the lifting of his leg, and the arching of his back. The nurse reaches out with a soothing hand, touching his arm to calm him.
And there is a memorial for only one war, and that's the Korean Conflict, also known as the "Forgotten War". A man sits cradling his head in his hand as if to say 'remember'.
I was also struck by how clean everything was. There was no graffiti, no signs asking people not to graffiti, no vandalism - the area was treated with respect, in marked contrast to a number of memorials that I've seen which are fenced off, or some ranges at Ft. Ord which are covered with graffiti. There's no toilets and no trash cans. This garden was treated well by its visitors.
The Living Memorial Sculpture Garden moved me in such a way that I chose to visit it a second time before leaving the Shasta area.
And I plan to visit each time I'm here.