28 AM Memorial Day

Artist Nancy Hiss is creating an art work that consists of drawing the names of all dead US and coalition men and women.

The names are threading their way through the fabric of Portland OR.

Only last names are listed to honor the sacrifice of individuals & their families.

As you reflect on these names also remember the hundreds of thousands of nameless Iraqis and others who have been scarred by this war.

Here is how Nancy put it recently:

The most common response is, “Thank you.”

Then people say, “I hope it doesn’t rain”

On Memorial Day of 2007, I knelt down in front of the Edith Green Wendell Wyatt Federal Building and wrote March 21, 2003 in chalk. As I was writing two guards walked out and watched over me. When I finished they asked, “March 21? What is that?” I responded, “That was the first day that a soldier died in the Iraq war.” I handed them a written description of the project and they walked away.

Then I wrote; Aubin, Beaupre, Cecil, Childers, Evans, Gutierrez and on and on. To date, I have written over 4,000 names covering over 14 miles. The Iraq Names Project is a memorial, a demonstration, a personal cleansing; it is an act to honor sacrifice and to recognize interdependence.

The concept is so simple it can be explained by a five -year old. The act is so simple it can be shared by Girl Scouts, eighty year old women, students, friends, neighbors, passersby, draft age boys, survivors of Nazi Germany, veterans, everyone. Over 100 people have knelt down with me on the sidewalk to share in this experience. Some people chalk in one name. Some people come back week after week.

People are drawn to the aesthetic of the beautifully drawn names. Many are amazed that it spans so many miles. Many say that it is powerful. Some are moved to tears. Some stop to tell stories.

One young man asked what I was doing. “I’m writing the names of the U.S. and international coalition forces who have died in Iraq.” He responded “You just wrote my name, Rivers.” There was a long silence while the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. “I’m glad it’s not you.” “Yea, me too.” Names are very powerful. Dates are very powerful.

Only last names are written to acknowledge the loss, not just of individuals, but of families. Oregonians are written in white, all other names are written in colors. It is neutral. It is inclusive. It is a way to share in sacrifice. It is an act of peacemaking.

When it rains the names and dates are washed away, symbolic that these people are gone.

Thank you.

You can contact me (and Nancy) by using the contact form:

13 Responses to “About”

  1. iraqnamesproject Says:
  2. Anonymous Says:

    Nancy, you done good and keep doing it.

  3. A1one Says:

    hey . nice for making big name out of someone

  4. ARW001 Says:

    They sell a chalk paint that can be brushed or rolled on, it gos on fast and coats evenly. Rolled is best, with a little practice you can have full control of the line. You can get the stuff from Wal-Mart or a toy store or a crafts store (but don’t steal from the craft store)

  5. lucy4 Says:

    i see no need to ” honor ” anyone who chose to make war a career . they singed a contract basically accepting a salary in exchange for the possibility of their death . period.

  6. ARW001 Says:

    That blame the troops stance is harsh, what I never get about you people is weather you deliberately over simplify the issue or really believe its as simple as you present it. I guess you could be someone who feels that a standing Army is amoral in the first place, but that still has little to do with individual soldiers. Most of these men and women stepped up for honorable reasons (even if it was just about getting some training and school paid so they could better themselves) and volunteered themselves to a system they believed would do the honorable thing. In our society we generally recognize those who choose as their career a job which requires they risk death or injury, epically if we generally accept that job as necessary to maintain the wellbeing and stability of the rest of our society. Police, Fire, Soldiers, etc… We don’t pay them very much but we show our appreciation for their willingness to sacrifice their very lives for the grater good by honoring their memory when they do. Now weather or not the military or even in many cases the police are actually a force for the grater wellbeing is debatable, but again that has little to do with the individuals and more to do with the society and institutions of which they are a part. Would you say that about a Fireman who died ”eh he knew what he was sighing up for”

    I think this is a great thing that there doing. This war is criminal and we are all accountable for our apathy in the lead up, and our continued failure to act to stop it. This is supposed to be a democracy, this is supposed to be a great nation, we are supposed the Americans. I don’t know what that means now
    But that’s not what I came back for I wanted to ad to my other post,
    if you want to use the chalk paint for stencils youll need to cut them from some plastic or mettle, the stuff is thick enough where youll want to wipe it off the stencil for heavy usage but it will soak into cardboard after a short amount of time.

  7. Floyd Says:

    Lucy 4, it just isn’t that sample. Yes, it is a volunteer army, and, yes, we must assume that at least some of those volunteers knew full well what they were getting into. But the truth is that for many service persons, the military is one of the only ways they have to better their circumstances. Combine that with a recruiting process that deliberately conceals the harsh reality of military life (and death), and the result is an awful lot of very young kids thinking that all they have to do to get a college education is serve a few months in a non-combat position far from the battlefield. Remember Private Benjamin – “I didn’t join this Army; I joined the one with the condos and the hot tubs.” – well, sad to say, that’s not too far from what can really happen.

    But no matter how you view the choices made by those who enlisted, none of them deserve what is happening to them now. The choice you should decry is the choice our Adminstration made to invade Iraq and set off what appears to be these troops’ endless sacrifice.

  8. heather Says:

    Hi, yeah,

    I’d just like to offer my view that writing those names on the sidewalk is to honor those people, not to blame them. One hopes that seeing all those names might function as something of a noggin jogger, as in, “Oh, right, all these kids keep dying. And for what?”

  9. the WIZARD, fkap (Bob Keller) Says:

    This is a remarkable project and effort. Regardless of your political position or your view of the war in Iraq, those who did sacrifice their lives deserve the tribute and rememberance this project creates.

    And thank you for also remembering the countless Iraqi’s who have died, been wounded or displaced by the violence.

    War is horrific, sometimes unavoidable, but always horrific.

    It’s never wrong to make people stop, think and remember.

  10. oregonrose Says:

    The Iraq Names Project was on the news recently, and I’m glad to have found this blog. Listing the family names of those killed is a great idea, one which will perhaps have an impact on those who still believe that our being in Iraq and Afghanistan is a good thing.

    Whenever I see that someone is honoring dead servicemen and women, I am saddened that no one seems to be acknowledging the terrible price which Iraqi and Afghani civilians are paying for our involvement in their countries. On this blog’s “About” page is the sentence, “As you reflect on these names also remember the hundreds of thousands of nameless Iraqis and others who have been scarred by this war.” This is a good first step. But in addition to chalking names on sidewalks, why not also chalk numbers of civilians killed each day? That would make an even greater impact.

  11. bibomedia Says:


  12. kirstenemily Says:

    You, are amazing.
    that is all.

  13. Chalking up the Costs of War – Eugene Weekly Says:

    […] coalition soldiers killed in the Iraq war on sidewalks across the city. Artist Nancy Hiss began the project last May and has drawn more than 4,000 names with the help of passers by. She has about 300 names […]

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