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Military personnel killed in action honored at Sierra College campus

The number 826 is central to Mel Henderson’s latest installation. That’s how many white crosses the Grass Valley resident will install, beginning 9 a.m. Monday, on the first day of the summer semester at Sierra College’s Nevada County campus.

The number also symbolizes and honors the number of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq since the war began. Expecting the number of deaths to rise by Monday, Henderson will add more crosses to denote any increases.

“This kind of culmination of the crosses is to acknowledge and honor this many American soldiers and military personnel who have died; this imagery is to make the point to realize how many young people have died,” Henderson said. “We hear on the news three died today; five died yesterday. We don’t really understand when it’s a couple today, a couple tomorrow. But when we see the culmination, there’s some kind of message there for us to think about what’s happening and that there may be more sacrifices to come.”



A retired San Francisco State University sculpture professor and World War II veteran, Henderson recently conceived the installation idea after viewing Colma’s military cemeteries.

“Colma made a big impression on me, acres after acres of these white crosses,” Henderson explained. “Then I went home and turned on the news and heard ‘three more today, seven this week.’ The image from Colma – with crosses for those serving in World War I and World War II – stayed with me as I thought, ‘here’s another war.'”




Vietnam Veterans of Foreign Wars members will play taps at about 5 p.m. Monday. Helping Henderson complete the installation, which he estimates will continue until Tuesday morning, are friends, peers and Colfax Arts Council volunteers. The installation was first seen at Colfax’s Lot of the Arts Park during Memorial Day weekend, in conjunction with the Colfax Arts Council.

Henderson hopes the 30 feet by 20 feet installation will promote dialogue.

“The installation will help the viewer think about the current situation and communicate to one another and raise the consciousness within the community,” Henderson said. “I feel the arts is a strong messenger for getting some observations and raising consciousness as to what we’re doing as a people.”

Up through the first few days of July, the installation will overlook the pond.

Call Henderson at 272-3854 for more information.


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