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Red, White, Blue - and Green

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mayor Tony Yarber addresses the crowd
Mayor Tony Yarber addresses the crowd

Memorial Day means many things. It does, in many cases, mean a day off from work, a chance to spend time with loved ones and those within your community, and ubiquitously, it mean ribs, grills, smoke. We participated today in such a gathering, the “We Are Jackson” Family Day on the Green with the City of Jackson, the first in what is planned to be an annual Memorial Day event in The Art Garden at the Mississippi Museum of Art. It was celebration, but more importantly, it was commemoration; remembrance of the sacrifices of men and women who, through their service in the armed forces, protect those very same American traditions of food and fellowship.

Charles and Talamieka Brice with their son, Honor
Charles and Talamieka Brice with their son, Honor

The day is set aside to honor those who have given their lives in service, but it also reminds us to look with gratitude on those who served and survived. In many cases, it is the living who, like portraits preserved, carry forward the legacies and memories of those who are here no more.

As part of today’s Family Day on the Green, the Museum hosted a temporary exhibit from artists Charles and Talamieka Brice. It was an excerpt of a larger body of work, Combat Boots and High Heels, that juxtaposes the time that Charles spent in Afghanistan in 2008 with Talamieka’s experience back at home; a reminder that the absence of those who served sends booming reverberations through the lives of family and friends.

Many veterans are now far removed from the experiences of life in uniform. Here at the Museum, for example, two longtime employees, Chief Preparator L.C. “Tee” Tucker and Chief of Security, James Steverson, conduct their daily duties as museum professionals with nary a mention of time spent in military service. But though their stints in the Army are worlds away, they carry with them, in the shadows of memory, realities and life lessons that they came to know as much younger men.

L.C. "Tee" Tucker greets young visitors
L.C. “Tee” Tucker greets young visitors

L.C. Tucker enlisted in the Army in the summer of 1974 and was stationed near the Panama Canal as a switchboard operator from 1975-77. In 1978 he joined the staff here at the Mississippi Museum of Art, continuing his military service in the National Guard for eight more years where he was trained in artillery. Over three decades later, he’s still on staff, handling and hanging the fine art that comes in and out of the Museum. He does now like he did then, allowing his hard work to speak for itself and leading, like a soldier would, by steadfast example.

James Steverson (right) with MMA staff and security team
James Steverson (right) with MMA staff and security team

James Steverson was drafted into the Army at age eighteen to fight in Vietnam. He graduated high school in the summer of 1964, did his basic training, and by Christmas of 1965, he was fighting in the jungle as part of an artillery unit in the 101st Airborne Division. “I don’t ever talk about it,” he said of his time in war. “Some things I saw over there I hope I never see again. I was drafted, so I didn’t have a choice. But let me tell you, after I got in there, it turned out to be one of the best things that could’ve happened for me. I would never have gone as far as I have without those experiences.”

We join the City of Jackson and our surrounding cultural institutions in salute to all the service men and women who gave and continue to give. Here’s to a meaningful Memorial Day for you and yours.