I made the sculpture War Money to honor my father and all the men and women like him who entered military service to protect American freedom and in doing so came home emotional prisoners of the experience.
My father's life began and ended during the Korean War. Like his father, his uncles, his cousins and his schoolmates he enlisted in the armed services to serve his country, travel the world, and go to college under the G.I. Bill. That's how first generation Polish American men of that era advanced intellectually and economically in the United States. He came home from the war forever changed inside and out.
My father's life was held captive by his time spent in the Navy. Every story he told related to his service, the setting either Hawaii, Guam or on a destroyer in the Pacific. We watched "McHale's Navy", "Hogan's Heros," "M*A*S*H" and "Gilligan's Island" on tv. My father smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish. He often cried out in his sleep and we learned right away never to touch him then as he'd strike out at us.
He couldn't hold a job for very long but was very very smart, could play all the woodwind instruments (his father played first clarinet in the Navy Band, a major point of family pride) and could fix absolutely anything. Thanks to the G.I. Bill my father got an excellent education with undergraduate and graduate degrees, but what he experienced in the Navy haunted him his entire life and left him a broken man.
Christmas was always hard for him as he felt it pointed out what a failure he was as a provider. A couple years before he died, during the usual emotionally fraught gift exchange he ran into his closet, came out with a box and shoved it in my hands. He choked up and left the room. In it was his "war money." Paper and coin currency from all over the world, very old, very worn but very treasured. Someone, I don't know who, took the trouble to preserve the paper money in cellophane, sewn together on a sewing machine. This, and his tools, were my father's most prized possessions. Even though he died years ago, I needed to make this sculpture for him.