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A tribute to the fallen: 1192nd Transportation Terminal Battalion Soldier uses unique talent to create.

Overcoming challenges have become almost second nature for Staff Sgt. Jamie Jones. After spending 18 months on active duty with SDDC's wartraced 1192nd Transportation Terminal Brigade supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom at four CONUS ports, he returned home to New Orleans to continue toward his goal of completing his education.

Following the deployment, Jones, 36, decided to finish his undergraduate studies, and had completed one of his three remaining semesters at Xavier University when Hurricane Katrina struck the city of New Orleans. Jones was forced to flee his city while four-and-a-half feet of water engulfed his apartment.

Never defeated, he stayed in Houston, Texas for three months, joining many other New Orleans "refugees," and enrolled at Texas Southern University, stoic in his decision to return when able to New Orleans to complete his B.A. in art education.

"I knew that nothing would deter or interfere with my graduation from Xavier University," said Jones. "Following that semester at TSU, I soon returned to New Orleans to complete my last semester at Xavier."

In order to complete his studies, Jones was faced again with yet another tough challenge completing his senior project prior to graduating with his coveted art degree. Not quite sure which direction to go, Jones' feelings as a Soldier who supported OIF began to take hold. Seeing how many Soldiers had fought and died in the effort began to take its toll on him. The idea for his project came to him one night, abruptly awakening him from sleep in the wee hours.

"I did a quick sketch before the idea would leave my mind," said Jones, whose senior project was a showing of 2,436 ceramic dog tags which he created and dedicated to the many brave Soldiers who lost their lives while serving our country in OIF. "'I feel that it had to be the Soldiers talking to me in my dream, and I feel that they were trying to tell the world not to forget about them."

Jones' tedious project development began in April 2006, and with the help of several dedicated fellow Soldiers from the 1192nd as well as his girlfriend Natasha and her seven-year-old son Kobe, they were able to put life to his dream. The emotional piece challenged Jones both physically and mentally as he molded each of the 2000-plus dog tags individually from clay, then fired and painted each one, the colors representing the home states of each Soldier who died for freedom.

"I could not have done it without their help, because the creation and the installation was time consuming," said Jones. "My show was definitely a dream come true."

Upon completion, each dog tag was individually suspended from the ceiling, and the exhibit floor space was covered with sand to replicate a real formation.

Entitled "Formation", it represents the last formation those Soldiers who died in OIF would ever be in.

Jones' show took place on July 2, and was on exhibit for one week at Xavier. While displayed, the moving piece caught the eye of many, including those in the art world as well as the local media, guaranteeing the extended life of the project.

In November, he flew with his exhibit to the West Coast to the California College of the Arts in Oakland at their request. After placing the exhibit on display he was asked to leave it there longer for their symposium titled, "Crafting a Vision for Art, Equity and Civic Engagement."

"They wanted to be sure more people could experience its message," said Jones. "I feel it is very important to pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

Jones has also been approached by the student program manager at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., to provide a verbal presentation on his art work. Also discussed was an exchange of Tufts students to come to New Orleans to do an art workshop for the kids at his school.

"I'm trying really hard to get more eyes on the exhibit," said Jones.

Jones said he will not keep adding more dog tags to the piece even though more Soldiers have died since May when he completed the project.

"To make this a real living piece, it would need to be a permanent exhibit at a gallery," said Jones. "But the exact number of tags is not what's important; the proper sense of enormity of it all comes across as it was designed with the 2,436 tags, and that's the real message. It is time to make sure that all who have served be remembered."

Jones, up for still another challenge, has applied to the Maryland Institute College of Art for next year's enrollment, and he will continue Soldiering in the 1192nd. He currently works for Young Audiences, a non-profit art organization.

by June Pagan

SDDC Headquarters, Fort Eustis
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Author:Pagan, June
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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