Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Easy Valentine Berkiss 2/14/96-7/21/09

September 2, 2009

easy 1Many friends of the Iraq Names Project have met Easy. She was a good dog who occasional accompanied us on the street.

We will miss her.

Iraq Names Project and Nordstroms

July 3, 2008

Ceasar, whose brother is currently deployed in iraq, colors in a name out side of Nordstroms, May 6th 2008.

Caesar helps color in a name out side or Nordstrom, May 6th.

I wanted to write about somethings that happened a few months back. In May Nancy was drawing every morning, first down NE Broadway, then down NE 10th to the Lloyd Center. We met many great people along the away. We got a thank you from soldiers assigned to the Armed Services Recruiting Station on NE Broadway. On 10th we met Caesar, who joined Nancy every weekday morning for a week or 2. Caesar’s brother is deployed in Iraq, and he was thankful for a chance to remember those who had been there.

I was not surprised that when Nancy got to the Lloyd Center she was closely scrutinized by the Lloyd security. In fact they called the police the first day she was on the sidewalk around the center. The officer who came, like all others Nancy has met in the last year, thanked her for her good work. The officers I have talked to are also veterans and supportive of the project. As long as Nancy is on the public sidewalk she has the green light from the City of Portland to continue.

All went fine until Nancy was along side the Nordstrom at the Lloyd Center. Every morning Nancy would draw the names of those who had died. Every night Nordstrom would wash them off. So Nancy went in one morning to let them know what she was doing and ask them not to wash off the names. She was met by security. Security quickly told her they knew who she was and what she was doing. When she asked them about washing off the sidewalk she was told she had to leave the premises.

Nancy was more than a little peeved.

Then we started hearing from the family of PFC Aaron J. Ward.
Aaron was killed in Iraq on May 6th.
He was 19.
His was the 4,385 name Nancy wrote.
His family was bothered that Nordstrom would wash off the names. So they contacted Nordstrom. All a big misunderstanding according to Store Administrator Kryn Scoggins; “I hope you will accept our sincerest apologies for missing the relevance of the project; we would never intentionally insult such a beautiful and important acknowledgement of our national heroes.” By that time we were past Nordstrom and there was nothing more to be done. Last week Aaron’s name was still lightly legible over near Stanfords. Faded by time and weather and traffic. But never forgotten.

On July 4th Nancy will draw on NE Multnomah, by Holladay Park near NE 13th.
She will start at 9am.
Please come join her.

Lloyd Allen In The Mix

October 23, 2007

Back in September, I remember it was the day of the Alberta Street Fair, I came to see Nancy at the end of the day and to take a few photos. When I got there a kind faced man walked up to Nancy and made a little speech. He said he was so moved by Nancy’s art. Moved by the power of the Iraq Names Project. He said he had gone home and read the little flier she hands out. He decided he needed to do something to show his appreciation. He was going to bring her a glass of water, but didn’t think that was much of a thank you. So he brought his guitar to sing her a song he written.

And wow! What a song it was. There were tears in our eyes. Neighbors gathered around and he sang another song and another.

His name is Lloyd Allen, guitarist, songwriter and band leader.

Thank you Lloyd.

Missing Mt Suribachi

August 24, 2007

Matt Stubbs saw Nancy drawing in front of his friend’s house last Sunday. He was so moved that he gave her one of his prints called Missing Mt Suribachi. Trading a piece of his art for her art. His print combines two of the most iconic images from two very different American wars. The raising of the flag at Iwo Jima and prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

5 Marines and a Navy corpsman raised the flag on Mt Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima February 23rd 1945. The following imformation largely comes from the Iwo Jima web site (much of the info is verbatim from the site).

Mike Strank was born in Jarabenia, Czechoslovakia in 1919. He died on Iwo Jima in 1945. He was the leader and Sargent of the flag raisers. Mike explained to the boys that the larger flag had to be raised so that “every Marine on this cruddy island can see it.” It was Mike who gave the orders to find a pole, attach the flag and “put’er up!” He was a witness to the 1936 Johnstown PA flood. He was a leader who was always looking out for his “boys” and always ready to lend a helping hand. Two months before the battle Mike’s Captain tried to promote him but Mike turned it down flat: “I trained those boys and I’m going to be with them in battle,” he said.

Harlon Block was born in Yorktown Texas 1924, he died on Iwo Jima 1945. When Sargent Strank was killed Harlon took over command. He was killed hours later. He excelled at athletics and as a Marine. Strangely the US Government misidentified him when the photo was published. His mother immediately recognized her son, “I know my boy” she said. No one seemed to believe her. It took a congressional investigation 18 months to prove her right.

Franklin Sousley was born in Hilltop Kentucky 1925, he died on Iwo Jima in 1945. A hunter and dancer he was raised by a single mom. In a letter home he wrote “Mother, you said you were sick. I want you to stay in out of that field and look real pretty when I come home. You can grow a crop of tobacco every summer, but I sure as hell can’t grow another mother like you.”

Ira Hayes was born in 1923 in Sacaton Arizona, he died in Arizona in 1955. He may be the most famous of the flag raisers due to the song by Pete LaFarge popularized by Pete Seeger and John Cash.

When Ira learned that President Roosevelt wanted him and the other survivors to come back to the US to raise money on the 7th Bond Tour, he was horrified. To Ira, the heroes of Iwo Jima, those deserving honor, were his “good buddies” who died there. At the White House, President Truman told Ira, “You are an American hero.” But Ira didn’t feel pride. As he later lamented, “How could I feel like a hero when only five men in my platoon of 45 survived, when only 27 men in my company of 250 managed to escape death or injury?”

The Bond Tour was an ordeal for Ira. He couldn’t understand or accept the adulation . . . “It was supposed to be soft duty, but I couldn’t take it. Everywhere we went people shoved drinks in our hands and said ‘You’re a Hero!’ We knew we hadn’t done that much but you couldn’t tell them that.” Ira returned to the reservation but was not able cope with what he had gone through. Today we would say he had post traumatic stress syndrome. He tried to live anonymously but, as he said “…people would drive through the reservation, walk up to me and ask, ‘Are you the Indian who raised the flag on Iwo Jima”. He was 32 when he died.

Rene Gagnon was born Manchester New Hampshire 1925, he died there in 1979. Like Franklin Sousley he was raised by a single mom. He also showed symptoms of PTSD. He was unable to hold a job and died a broken man at age 54.

John Bradley was born in Antigo Wisconsin 1923 and died in 1994. He was a Navy Corpsman who saw the flag raising and joined in to lend a hand. Unlike Ira and Rene he lived a successful life, was married for 47 years and raised 8 Children. Of his service he said “People refer to us as heroes–I personally don’t look at it that way. I just think that I happened to be at a certain place at a certain time and anybody on that island could have been in there–and we certainly weren’t heroes–and I speak for the rest of them as well. That’s the way they thought of themselves also.”

One in three US soldiers was killed or wounded at Iwo Jima. 6,825 American soldiers were killed. Virtually all 22,000 Japanese perished. I recently met a survivor of the battle of Guadalcanal.  I thanked him for his service. He deflected the thanks saying “When I served everyone served”. Not only was the draft universal but those who were too young, too old, too lame or too female also served. They collected scrap metal, worked in defense plants, entertained troops, watched the sky and sea for enemy invasion. Who among us today is serving? Besides the family of those in the military who suffers?


August 19, 2007

Wow! Aundre has made a great video.

Nancy was drawing in front of his house today. Aundre came out to see the project. He was so moved he made a short video, edited it and put it up on

Thank you Aundre. Thanks also to all the good neighbors who stopped and said hello and those who got down on the sidewalk and helped. The names I remember are Nikki, Laura, Nick, Megan, Theo and Dante. Nancy tells me there were a few more neighbors on Prescott who joined in while I wasn’t there and also Garage Sale Guy.

Fort Myers Florida Police Stop Local Names Project

August 3, 2007

Our friend Willie Filkowski in Fort Myers Florida has been writing the names of soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan on the sidewalks of Ft Myers since July 1st. He was inspired by Nancy Hiss’ Iraq Names Project and wanted to do something where he lived. And so he has. Until July 30th.

On Monday he was stopped by the police. They told him what he was doing was graffiti and he would need to get a permit from the city if he wanted to continue. The city manager has already said that if Willie applies for a permit it will be denied.

The News-Press has done a good story on this bold 15 year old and his attempt to get the city council to ok his memorial.

Nancy has also been told by Tri-Met and City of Portland Park Rangers that her work is graffiti. I am here to tell you it is not.

The first amendment to the Constitution Of The United States Of America clearly states that the government shall make no laws abridging the freedom of speech. Graffiti laws are only constitutional to the degree that they prohibit the destruction of property. There is no destruction of property when you write with chalk. It is that simple.

Willie and Nancy are artists creating a public memorial on public property. Their expression of free speech does not destroy property, block the movement of traffic or pedestrians or in any other way cause a disturbance.

The legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Randall Marshall,  said “The city is treading on thin ice,”. 

Sunday July 29th

July 30, 2007

Sunday started with a light mist. The kind of rain that is just perfect for settling the chalk dust and setting the names. Nancy headed East on NE Fargo toward Irving Park.

It was a sleepy kind of day so Nancy was happy to have Lisa, a neighbor, join her and Pete and me.

After more than 2 months, and over 4 miles of drawing, the second anniversary of the war is reached.

By late afternoon we were leaving NE Fargo for Irving Park where things were happening.

Ft Meyers Florida Starts an Iraq Names Project.

July 3, 2007

Our friend Willie in Ft Myers Florida has started a Southeast version of the Iraq Names Project. Willie and friends are writing the names of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan on the sidewalks of Ft Myers.

Willie is hoping that people will take a minute out of their schedules to remember the sacrifice others have made. Thank you Willie! 


June 27, 2007

This project has allowed me to take hundreds of photos. Some of which are very good, I think. Please check my flickr page to see lots more Iraq Names Project and other interesting photos. 




A Rainy Sunday

June 26, 2007

After an amazing Saturday – with friends old and new, Peace Memorial Park, veterans and refugees and milestones – Sunday was very low key and relatively uneventful. Our goal for Sunday was to get to the Convention Center where the Universalist Unitarians where having their National General Assembly. We thought it might be a good mix. Instead the rain slowed things down to a crawl until Nancy decided she could draw no more in these conditions. So today she is still not quite to the East side Max line.

Still there were moments of sunshine and flowers.

Erik stopped by to take some photos. He used to do local news and is now doing photograph and writing a screenplay.

A Fun and Emotional Saturday

June 26, 2007

When I found Nancy Saturday morning Nicky was there helping out. Nicky and her husband had stumbled on the Iraq Names Project a week before and stopped to help. Now she was back for more. Nicky survived Hitler’s Germany. Her brother survived both Hitler and Stalin. Knowing something about the horrors of war she was ready to help.

Our good friend Ned showed up a little later. Ned has military age children.

Here Ned is working on the date March 21st 2004. The first anniversary of the war.

In the background on the left side of the Portland skyline that last pointy building you see is the KOIN Tower which is next to the Federal Building where Nancy Hiss started drawing names back on Memorial Day. She has drawn a continuous line of names 2 miles at this point.

John D Amos II was 22 when he died April 4th 2004. Back in Indiana his mother said he would have loved all the attention he was now getting. In his Letter From Birmingham Jail Martin Luther King quoted the Prophet Amos “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

We had hoped to be at Peace Memorial Park on 4th of July, but we got there on June 23rd instead. Peace Park is maintained by Veterans For Peace Chapter 72.

Some how it seems fitting that Casey Sheenhan’s name landed right there at Peace Memorial Park. Casey’s mom used to work with a great organization called Gold Star Families For Peace.

Philip Rogers or Gresham Oregon was 19 when he died. He loved to draw, not fight. Like many he joined the Army to get money for college.

These folks did not stick around long enough for me to talk to them. Nancy is talking to a member of Veterans For Peace. With him are his wife (I think) and Zahra Hamid Sultan. Ms Sultan is an Iraqi refugee living in Jordan. She speaks internationally on the blight of the nearly 2 million Iraqi refugees.


June 20, 2007

This nice lady stopped to talk. She told me her mom was a founding member of PFLAG. They were living in the middle of Kansas when her brother came out and her mom got together with some parents in NYC she said.

Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays started by accident. “The idea for PFLAG began in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched with her gay son in New York’s Pride Day parade. After many gay and lesbian people ran up to Jeanne during the parade and begged her to talk to their parents, she decided to begin a support group. The first formal meeting took place in March 1973 at a local church. Approximately 20 people attended.”

PFLAG grew slowly. First separate chapters in NYC and LA. Kansas was one of the first Bible Belt states to have a PFLAG chapter.  I’m guessing that our friends mom started the Kansas chapter. I’d love to hear more.

I saw the start of the Gay Pride Parade Sunday. The parade stated with Veterans for Human Rights providing the color guard. Then Veterans For Peace. Then it was time for me to go help Nancy who was chalking all alone.

Their banner has a quote from George Washington, When we assumed the Soldier we did not lay aside the citizen”. We could use more presidents like him.